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Drive and dine


January 6, 2012

Grand Geneva Resort’s Ristorante Brissago is a decadent rest stop while traveling near Lake Geneva.

Sometimes the best road trips are those with a savory reward at the end: an unforgettable restaurant meal. Fortunately, within an hour of downtown Milwaukee are several decadent options, from a throwback steakhouse with Lake Michigan views to a pizzeria with pies that rival those baked in Italy. Here’s a look at some of the best:

Lake Geneva: Toss your car keys to the valet driver at Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva — away from the tacky tourist shops along the downtown strip — and then sashay inside to Ristorante Brissago, which serves dinner nightly except for Sunday and Monday. About 80 percent of the menu’s ingredients — including olive oil, mozzarella, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, black truffle and prosciutto — are sourced from Italy. White tablecloths and dim lighting cultivate a romantic ambiance yet there’s a playful sibling: out back, on warm nights, is a fire pit for roasting s’mores, complete with a roving bartender carrying a martini menu.

Racine: Hob Nob, on the east side of Sheridan Road in Racine, hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1954 — which is a good thing. Cream-colored U-shaped booths, purple-patterned wallpaper and a crystal chandelier greet you in the bar area. Start with an ice-cream drink, like a Golden Cadillac, to ease into the mid-part of last century, and move into a juicy Filet Mignon or Lobster, or a Surf and Turf if you want to splurge. One of the best reasons to drive here is to catch the lakefront views while dining.

Elkhart Lake: Lynn Shovan, owner of Lake Street Café in Elkhart Lake, doesn’t believe in the typical 200 percent markup on wines; instead, most bottles on their wine list cost $35 and under. Bypass the front room’s casual, relaxed vibe where dozens of pizzas are pulled out of the oven on summer afternoons, and head straight for the café’s back room. Serving dinner only, and every night but Sunday and Monday, the menu includes escargot cassoulet, prawns tossed over linguini with pesto cream, and a piece de la resistance: pan-seared duck breast, duck leg confit, duck-fat fried potatoes and sun-dried cherry sauce.

Sheboygan: You probably are questioning why one would drive to Sheboygan for pizza, but that’s because you haven’t tried Stefano Viglietti’s pizza. At Il Ritrovo in downtown Sheboygan, the pizzas — for lunch and dinner daily except for Sunday — are certified as Neopolitan-style by the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association, and baked inside a brick oven shipped over from Italy. Cozy up in a booth or grab a table, and take your palate on a trip to Italy. Viglietti is the real deal: he’s spent a lot of time on Italy’s Amalfi coast studying the preparation of pizzas in that region, and returns often for more inspiration.


This story ran in the December 2011 issue of: