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SALA Brings Modern Sicilian Flavor to UWM Neighborhood

Mar. 14, 2017
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With local art adorning the walls and Otis Redding crooning from the speakers, SALA has a warm and comforting atmosphere that cuts nicely against the hustle and bustle of the workweek. It’s a quiet space, excellent for intimate conversation or a solo meal. As a grad student at UW-Milwaukee, I find it to be a great place to sneak away from campus (and its gnarly food) while still being only a few minutes away from my next meeting or class.

SALA

2613 E. Hampshire St. | Map It
Phone: 414-964-2611
Price: $-$$$
Website: SALAitalianrestaurant.com
Handicapped access: Yes
CC, FB, RS, GF
Hours: Tu-Th 11 a.m.-9 p.m., F 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sa 5 p.m.-10 p.m.

SALA’s focus on modern Sicilian cuisine means their menu features a lot of ostensibly simple dishes made well and with great care, in some cases with recipes that date back generations. Their sugo ($12)—named for the sauce—consists of angel hair pasta tossed in their own tomato basil sauce, and it is delightful: The sauce itself smells like a garden in early August, mixing the scent of ripe tomatoes with the lush greenness of basil. Flavor-wise, it’s an august Italian sauce: acidic and sweet from the tomatoes, herbaceous from the basil, with an echo of onion, a bit of garlic and just a touch of salt to round it out. The pasta—though cooked to a perfect firm consistency—could be considered an afterthought because the sauce itself is so dang good, but then you’d just have a big bowl of sauce, and it’s fun to twirl up the angel hair, making a volcano of noodles with sauce burbling out of the top.

Of course, their sugo is used in other dishes as well—they’d be remiss if it weren’t. At lunch time, among many other fine paninis and Italian subs, SALA offers a chicken Parmesan sub ($10) that features a surprisingly thick and well-breaded chicken breast with fresh mozzarella and sugo sauce on a springy hoagie bun. The chicken retains the crunch of its breading even with the sauce spread across it, and it’s one of those sandwiches that just feel good to lift for the first time—there’s a heft to it that’s pleasing, especially when you’re famished. Sandwiches come with a choice of soup or salad at lunch; the salad is pleasantly dressed in a house vinaigrette and comes with the usual suspects of house salad ingredients, but the soup, of which there are du jour options and minestrone, is the winner. It’s hearty and satisfying.

Of course, every time we go out to eat we may not be looking to put down a big bad chicken Parmesan sandwich or a heaping helping of pasta. SALA’s got light eaters covered, too. Their caprese panini ($8), featuring fresh mozzarella, basil, tomato and the aforementioned house vinaigrette, is enjoyably light while still featuring a similar flavor interplay to their sugo offers. Likewise, the portabella panini ($8) combines a lightly marinated portabella with gorgonzola and vinaigrette for a breezy sandwich that will fill you up but won’t push your waistline. 

SALA is a gem of a spot just east of UWM’s campus, one where you could eat light or heavy, alone or with friends, in celebration or in confidence. Between the atmosphere and the food, it’s an East Side treasure.

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