By Cari Taylor-Carlson
| Photography By Dan Bishop
Via Downer exudes a vibe that says, “Come on in, this restaurant will be around for a while.”
It’s a start-up by the owners of Transfer Pizzeria, a popular spot on Mitchell Street where pizza stars on the menu. At Via, there’s a more extensive menu. But first, the ambience. It’s a combination of cream city brick walls, hardwoods, black-and-red accents, and a fascinating mix of art by Evan Crain. Our server was extra patient as we spent more time admiring the art than studying the menu.
We loved the abstract look of the double bar and the two levels — the lunch counterstyle stools just right for kids and the rest designed for their parents. Bring the family and order from the menu just for kids, amptly named “What’s for Dinner.”
Kiddie meals are no more than $5, making Via resoundingly family friendly.
We sampled a wrap, Smoked Salmon and Avocado, and a panini, the Margherita. Instead of the usual mushy tortilla of a wrap, it was lightly toasted, giving it a crisp and pleasing texture. The flavors of the salmon, avocado and goat cheese stood out, each enhanced by the balsamic dipping sauce. The panini, made with fresh mozzarella, included lightly sautéed spinach, a delicious addition to the basic cheese, tomato and basil margherita.
We passed on the pizza, but from sampling the pies at Transfer I’d already tasted the exceptional crust of chef Vasyl Lemberskyy. Via lists 23 choices, from the Vasyl Special — garlic sauce and shredded mozzarella — to the Leonardo with red sauce, zucchini, eggplant, red pepper and Gouda cheese. The restaurant offers one size, 12 inches; a good size to split along with an appetizer or salad.
It’s hard to ignore the crostini options, especially the mango and gorgonzola. Or, one could simply order an entrée, Tuscan Chicken with mushrooms and walnuts in a wine reduction or Chicken Manicotti, a breast breaded and stuffed with shredded cheese, garlic, oregano and red onion.
Looks like we’ll have to come back for seconds.
» Via Downer
2625 N. Downer Ave., Milwaukee