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Tutto’s Family Tradition

Italian Sports

Dec. 13, 2007
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A little more than a year ago, Giovanni’s closed its doors. The Italian restaurant, owned by John Safina, had been in business nearly 30 years. Those who miss Giovanni’s spiedini, veal and seafood will be pleased to know that the Safina family recently re-entered the restaurant business. The new place, Tutto, is in a renovated building on Old World Third Street between Mader’s and the Spice House. This time John’s sons Sal, David and Joe are running the show.

The new format is quite a bit different. Upon first entering, Tutto looks like a sports bar. All booths have a small, flat-panel TV screen. The glazed concrete floor has chocolate swirls and the walls have canvases of sports celebrities. An upper level functions more as a lounge and restaurant, while the main level has the bar, five booths and a few tables. It’s not a large place, but it’s inviting.

The menu is not a carbon copy of Giovanni’s. Though the appetizers still include calamari and eggplant strips, there are now crab cakes and even chicken potstickers. Sandwiches and burgers are more numerous, but pastas and some of Giovanni’s more popular entrees still remain. Everyone should try the melazana fritte ($8), fried eggplant strips. The Safinas were the first to introduce this to Milwaukee and they still make the best. The strips are perfectly fried with no oily residue. Just add a bit of lemon juice and enjoy. Note that if you order a sandwich, the eggplant may be substituted for fries for just a dollar extra.

The entrees do not include soup or salad. The French onion soup, soup of the day and house salad are $5 ordered alone or $3 with an entre. The salad has not changed; leaf lettuces with cherry tomatoes and a topping of carrot threads. The preferred dressing is the red wine vinaigrette. The lettuce is tossed, not drowning in liquid. The soup of the day is quite likely to be minestrone. Again this is a time-tested recipe full of the appropriate assorted vegetables.

The Sicilian steaks are as good as ever. There is a New York strip ($25) and a more inexpensive sandwich ($13). The meat is coated in seasoned bread crumbs and even the sandwich has a good cut of beef, naturally tender and not pounded into submission. This sets a high standard. Then there are the spiedini ($19), three beef roll-ups battered in bread crumbs and just a bit of melted cheese. This is fine comfort food.

It’s unfortunate that the veal entrees are limited to one: veal parmesan ($19). The serving is generous, with two breaded pieces of veal served over spaghetti in tomato sauce. The veal is topped with melted mozzarella for a very rich entre. The simpler veal cocoletta, a classic from the Giovanni’s menu, would be a welcome addition.

Vegetarians have a few options. Pasta sarafina ($11) is whole-wheat pasta cooked in olive oil with garlic, cherry tomatoes and artichoke hearts. The cherry tomatoes provide more sweetness than their larger cousins.

Though Tutto may lack some of the amenities of Giovanni’s, it’s refreshing to see that the kitchen remains in fine form. As the bulk of the menu is geared toward lower-priced items, it will make a good stop for those attending Bradley Center events. The next generation of the Safina family has everything running very well

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