Libiamo – Milwaukee

Short Take: OK Italian food in an old German tavern. Spotty service.

Long Take: On the last day of the Downtown Dining promotion, Higgins decided to try and wring some last culinary crumbs out of the vast array of downtown restaurants offering pris fix specials. Unfortunately, word of mouth had increased the popularity of the event and participation was very high. Most of the restaurants were full up, no seats or reservations available. Finally, Higgins found room for lunch and dinner at Libiamo. Higgins ate lunch with a co-worker. Willamina joined him at the same place for dinner.

Finding the restaurant proved to be somewhat difficult. It is located on an alley off of a one way street which is under construction and is on the other side of the river from the downtown. This could explain why it had availability while the other restaurants were full. The location used to be a german tavern/inn in the basement of a brewery. The old European style, with dark wood panels, a marble topped bar, and antler chandeliers still dominates the decor. The new Italian style shows up on the paintings on the walls of the small dining room. The effect is a little odd, but relaxing.

Libiamo was very busy for lunch, and the service reflected it. Both diners ordered only water–and the refills were slow to come and infrequent at best. The server was always moving quickly and didn’t seem attentive or friendly. At dinner, the room was busy again, though the host (owner?) was very friendly and attentive. The small room was extremely loud, but that was because of the large group of fifteen who thought everyone should be graced with their voices and laughter. The service was friendlier at dinner but again, was rather slow. It looked like they had only one or two people working the small room and perhaps more would be helpful.

On to the food–

Bruchetta Medley – Three bread triangles with three different spreads: kalamata olive tapenade, sun dried tomatoe, and basil pesto. Garnished with lightly dressed greens. The three spreads were very flavorful. An excellent starter for the meal.

Antipasto Salad – Kalamata olives, marinated artichokes, spicy salami, tomatoes, provolone cubes, lightly dressed in a vinagrette and garnished with greens and a slice of grilled peasant bread. Again, a very nice mix of tastes.

Toasted Ravioli – Toasted cheese filled ravioli covered with a marinara sauce. Nothing special. Not bad, but we’ve had better.

Spedini Panini – Thinly sliced steak rolled with seasoned breadcrumbs and cheeses. Three small meat rolls served on a large bun with mufaletta and spiced salsa. This was not what we expected. While the bun was lightly grilled, we were under the impression that a panini was grilled and pressed. Perhaps a misconception. No matter, the meat roll-ups were very tasty and they made for a very good sandwhich. The sandwhich was served with waffle cut fries which were less crispy than they should have been.

Scillian Meatloaf – Standard meatloaf with a capicola ham and provolone cheese center. Sounded like a good idea, but was a little too spicy for Willamina and Higgins. (This is a recurring problem for them.) Neither of them was able to finish it and they were still tasting it hours later. Served with green beans and mashed potatoes which were prepared well, but not spectacularly.

Parmesan-Crusted Salmon – Pan seared salmon served with asparagus on (you guessed it) mixed greens. The salmon was very tasty, but it was undercooked slightly. The asparagus was cooked correctly.

Tirimasu – The serving was quite small, though that could have been due to the pris fix menu. Higgin’s guest ate it but wasn’t impressed.

Amarreto Cake – This was just odd. It came in a small dish. It appeared to be a cream-custard with an ammarreto-soaked madeline soaking in the custard. Other than the alcohol being a little strong, it tasted all right. It was over before began.

Opera Cake – A layer of white chocolate mouse and a layer of chocolate mouse separated by white cake and covered with a layer of chocolate ganache. These piece of cake were large enough and were appealing to both eye and tongue. A delightful way to finish the meal (though the lingering spices from the meatloaf did overwhelm it a little.)

Higgins and Willamina did peruse the regular menu and were underwhelmed.
They may or may not return.


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