It was somewhere in the middle of our dinner at Ado where we were related the story of co-owner Paulo Cesaro. Somehow, the man ended up in Milwaukee missing a few teeth after beginning the night over some cocktails in New York. I’d just watched this man move a chair across the room for a diner who needed it. I’d seen him crack open a bottle of red wine, and I’d seen him smiling with the waiters as they all spoke Italian. But it was after learning this particular fact that the night, and in fact the entire place made sense. They may look simple, but beneath the wooden floors and the white sparkly teeth, there are many complexities.
They’ve only been open less than a year, but Paulo Cesaro and partner/chef Antonio Mure have found a depth to the menu and to the space that you wouldn’t otherwise expect.
“It’s a simple menu,” said Mure. “Why do I need five salads? What am I, a cow?”
The kitchen is downstairs in this two-story location. It seats 35, and the creaking of the wooden steps and the smells wafting from below remind me of my grandparents’ Italian house. Well, Michigan actually, but the cuisine is Italian. I’m so impressed with this place that I was back again within a week.
It seems their signature dish is the Tagliolini, which is just what pulled me back across town.
”Tagliolini Rossi con Ragu di Quaglia in Fonduta di Taleggio, which is home-made fresh red beet tagliolini pasta in a marsala quail ragu served on a bed of taleggio cheese,” said Cesaro,
Fondue is a strong aphrodisiac, so if you choose our Tagliolini over sex you’ll probably end up with both.
If I had heard those words without having this dish, I’d never have believed them. Quail and beets would never be on my tongue if you asked me for sensual tastes, but here they are. Valentine’s Day is ahead, but I wouldn’t wait that long if I were you.
Here at Ado, they do enjoy a celebrity clientele (not to be confused with the other celeb-heavy Italian eatery, Ago, Agostino Sciandri’s namesake restaurant). But it’s very low-key, and in fact Cesaro has no idea who any of them are. He’ll move tables and find ways to slip people in, whether they’re ordinary residents or A-list talent. Both he and Mure are friendly and inviting, and the dining area and the food are too.
Other favorites include the Carpaccio di Manzo con Rucola e Scaglie di Grana, which is a fantastic beef carpaccio topped with shaved parmesan cheese and arugula in a mustard Dressing. Even though you know there’s an entree on the way, you’ll be trying to finish every last bite of cheese and meat on this wooden platter. A masterfully cooked quail leg and breast served on a bed of porcini mushrooms also graces the menu, as does a pan sauteed beef filet mignon served with a truffle butter sauce (Filetto di Bue al Barolo tartufato, if you’d like to impress your date).
It’s a one-page menu, and a simple wooden restaurant that you could easily drive past (much easier to spot are the Dogtown Station lofts next door). But beneath the yellow paint, there’s a history to this building that stretches back to 1908. There’s also complexity to your hosts, and to the food they serve.
Follow our lead to that Tagliolini, and you’ll find lust, envy and gluttony in this Westside gem.