RESTAURANT REVIEW Restaurant Review: Clubby Dorsia Brings Approachable Italian & Pasta Flights to Brady St.
Milwaukee Magazine | By Ann Christenson
For decades the beauty of Brady Street has been its melting pot of dining and nightlife, a veritable mecca for people-watching. The winds of change have shaped Brady Street, too, of course, and as places, we may have assumed would always be there (Mimma’s, Cempazuchi, Bosley on Brady) closed up shop, the destinations have changed. This summer, I was intrigued to see the crushing weekend crowds near tea shop Rochambo, Jack’s American Pub, the Nomad, Jo-Cat’s Pub, and its new sibling Dorsia, the spirited Italian place that took over the old Mimma’s. (It was named for a fictional dining spot, mentioned in the film American Psycho, that was so hot you could never get a reservation.) For the stalwart Jo-Cat’s to take over the adjacent building seems like the natural order of things: Back in the day, Mimma’s patrons would head next door to Jo-Cat’s for a drink while waiting for a table.
Dorsia is run by brothers Jeno and Lorenzo Cataldo, sons of Jo-Cat’s owner. They’ve transformed the formerly buttoned-up sit-down pasta-serving neighbor into a lively, youthful place for approachable dishes like calamari, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken Parm sandwiches, and thin-crust pizzas. With additions like burrata with fig mostarda and an artisan cheese board, you could call it elevated Italian comfort food. The centerpiece of the front dining room, with its dark walls and poster art (Madonna, pop-art Debbie Harry) is the large bar, which beckons with its combo of TV stimuli and genial cocktail-slinging tenders anxious to fill your order. Once they do that, your food will appear in short order.
The kitchen is quickly claiming some specialties, notably the pasta flights (three appetizer-size portions chosen from the lineup of “housemade” options). But before you arrive at those plates, the apps deserve attention. The burrata cheese is hard to pass up – either with mostarda, basil and sweet balsamic glaze ($12) or on a toasty bruschetta with pesto, honey and demi-sec (a.k.a., sun-dried) tomatoes ($8). The eggplant chips are soft, seasoned strips ($7) with marinara and fresh lemon – just wish there were more of them on the plate. The tender fried calamari has a mild, crisp breading ($13). And the beef spiedini ($14), with creamy, al dente saffron risotto and a generous sprinkle of Parmesan, is a very decent rendition of the Sicilian skewered beef rolled around seasoned breadcrumbs. The chewy, thin-crust pizzas are topped to full flavor effect; I enjoyed the giardino, a garden of herby pesto and veggies ($14). But the pastas have the advantage. And the flight is the best way to experience them, especially the duck confit carbonara ($10), classico (the most, very flavorful beef-pork meatball takes the lead here, $8) and the gnocchetti (that’s a pasta that looks like gnocchi) mac and cheese ($8). Don’t be surprised to find yourself in a room full of pasta flights in varying stages of consumption. This is just another version of shareable plates, pretty perfect for a street defined by the buzz of a crowd.