While I love nothing more than trying new restaurants, there is always a handful of places that I keep returning to whenever I want a quality meal. They include local favorite The Chancery, Shorewood’s Harry’s Bar and Grill, the Third Ward’s Wicked Hop, Hectors in Wauwatosa, and Waukesha’s La Estacion. Another staple is Louise’s in Milwaukee and Brookfield.
Louise’s serves California-style Italian cuisine (like the phenomenal Zin in Delafield, but not as upscale or expensive) and they do an admirable job at it. Whenever we cannot decide where to go my wife or I will usually thrown out Louise’s as an idea and almost every time we go there we leave satisfied.
Dinners at Louise’s begin with complementary foccacia bread with an awesome vinegar and oil dipping sauce speckled with crushed red pepper. Beware! The bread is addictive and they give you a lot of it. Don’t east so much that you have no room for your appetizers, salads, or entrees. Another bonus is that Louise’s is owned by the same group that owns the Water Street Brewery, so they offer some excellent Water Street Beers brewed by brew master George Bluvas III.
I rarely order appetizers here because I am so enamored by their salads. That being said, I really enjoy the fried calamari with the tangy tomato dipping sauce. The mozzarella caprese was pretty weak and I would avoid it. For $7.95 you get a few slices of pretty mediocre fresh mozzarella (of questionable origin and age) and depending on the time of year, some weak tomatoes. It’s not terrible, but save your 8 bucks for something better on the menu like their awesome salads.
If you are going to get a salad for 2 people to split you may be enticed to order the large, which would easily feed 2-4 people. To be honest my wife and I usually just get a small salad and split it. It is still pretty large and if you are eating the free bread, ordering a entree, and even considering dessert, it will be plenty. The star of the show is the Organic Baby Lettuces with Gorgonzola. The salad is perfectly dressed with Balsamic vinaigrette. The gorgonzola is creamy with an excellent tangy taste and the toasted walnuts add a nice crunch. The Goat cheese salad with pine nuts (pictured above), sun dried tomatoes, and sherry vinaigrette (pictured above) is also a solid choice.
I have tried numerous entrees and while there are some good choices and some so-so choices, you simply cannot go wrong ordering the house made Tortelloni Vegetali ($10.95), which features handmade Tortelloni stuffed with fresh seasonal veggies, three kinds of cheese and a light parmesan sauce. The bite sized pastas encircle a mound of excellent sautéed spinach, which tastes even better if you drag each fork full through the parmesan sauce. Another solid hit is the Chicken Ravioli alla Romana ($12.95) which features ravioli stuffed with chicken, tarragon, and cheese. The ravioli are tossed with a slightly spicy sauce and some shitake mushrooms. Other standout dishes are the Artichoke Ravioli (actually all of their handmade pastas are excellent choices), Chicken Piccata with garlic mashed potatoes, and the Veggie Lasagna. Friends also rave about the Stromboli. The only dishes that I have not been enamored with are the Cioppino and the Taglioni alla Pescatora (mussels, fish, clams, and shrimp with pasta). These are two dishes that I wish were good because I love shellfish, but for some reason both of them were pretty mediocre. Another complaint about Louise’s is that they rarely add items or change their menu.
Louise’s usually offers a special or two each evening. If they are offering any seafood specials (typically on Friday) I would strongly suggest trying them out. They are experts at preparing perfectly cooked salmon and paring it with pasta and a light and flavorful sauce or garlic mashed potatoes (also offered with other entrees) and some sautéed vegetables. Shrimp and scallop specials have also been very impressive.
I recently took some relatives to Louise’s in Brookfield for a Saturday morning brunch and just like at dinner, we received the normal attentive service and good food. The Frittata Margherita is baked with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and fresh basil and is pretty good, though it was quite under seasoned. A little salt would have really brought out the taste of the tomatoes and eggs. The smoked salmon Benedict fared much better. Smoked salmon (lox) and eggs are placed atop two English muffins and covered (not smothered, thank god) with a great tasting lemon caper hollandaise sauce. They also offer two takes on French Toast, a traditional one and a bananas foster version with bananas flambéed with rum, butter, and brown sugar. While I didn’t have it, the Portobello mushroom eggs Benedict looked impressive. Instead of a English muffin a couple of Portobello mushroom caps serve as the base and they are topped with caramelized onions, poached eggs, asparagus spears and a roasted tomato vinaigrette. Each entree is served with excellent crispy Potatoes Louise and fresh fruit. The coffee was good and the server made sure no mug ever got below half full. Oh and that excellent foccacia bread I raved about is also served at breakfast.
So if you want a great meal at an impressive price, Louise’s is deserving of a visit. There is truly something for everyone here. People who aren’t pasta fans can find comfort in pizzas, chicken, and seafood dishes and there are some great options for the vegetarians in your group. Both locations are excellent (though the dining rooms are loud because frankly, people are having a lot of fun here) and both have outdoor seating. Though the patio in Brookfield is facing the heavily traveled nightmare that is Bluemound Road, a tall row of hedges coupled with Louise’s setting on a hill provides enough screening that you can easily forget that you are overlooking suburbia.
Here is Getto’s review: http://www.onwisconsin.com/dining/dining.asp?id=3140