What was once Trocadero, an East-siders’ go-to place for brunch, is now DiModa Pizza, located at 1758 N. Water Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Known for their variety of pizza’s, DiModa also serves up pasta, gourmet sandwiches, extravagant dinner dishes, and always uses locally sourced aged, cured Italian meats from Underground Meats in Madison, WI.
“We place an order every two to three days, so none of our products are ever frozen, strictly fresh meats and ingredients,” says Anthony Trester, an operating partner at DiModa. “It’s a bit more effort, ordering every few days, but we believe it’s worth it.”
Along with a lunch/dinner menu, DiModa also has a Brunch menu, a gluten free menu and a kids menu. Don’t forget about the puppies! Due to their canine-friendly outdoor patio, DiModa also has a dog menu.
I reached out to DiModa, excited to try their raved-about food. Trester responded and invited me in for two tastings, one for brunch (served only on the weekends from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.) and one for dinner (served every Monday through Friday from open to close and after 3:00 p.m. on the weekends).
On Sunday, I strolled past the outdoor patio, where I observed three tables with customers enjoying their meals. As I walked in at 11:00 a.m., there were already five or more people sitting at the bar. I was greeted with smiles and given my choice of where to eat. Since it was a hot, sticky day, easily 80 degrees and muggy, I chose to sit inside.
On the menu was a section of your customary brunch drinks. Some of the options include Bloody Marys, mimosas and wine. My eyes gravitated toward The Sunrise.
The Sunrise contains both orange and pineapple juice, grenadine, and champagne. The splash of bubbly hit me right away, and the orange and pineapple juice worked well together. I could certainly see myself on the beach watching the rising sun, sipping my fruity, uplifting DiModa Sunrise. The only thing is, I was expecting the drink to be in layers, seeing the different colors of the juice and grenadine – it was pink. That would have matched a true sunrise.
After receiving my drink, I asked my server, Alex, what were some of the most popular brunch dishes. “Well for sure one of our more popular choices is the Belgium Waffles with Nutella. It’s a treat,” says Alex. She continues to say “My personal favorite, also a popular one, would be the Benedict Fried Meatballs.”
That sounded different and interesting, so I ordered that. Sitting on two halves of a lightly toasted English muffin was a juicy meatball topped with thick tomato marinara, an egg poached to perfection, topped with hollandaise sauce and sprinkled with parmesan and herbs. It’s a great combination of egg and meat, neither one over powers the other, and the yolk was perfect, not runny at all, but still melted just to the point that it stayed in the egg once you cut into it.
The two benedicts were served with DiModa’s house potatoes. The cubed potatoes were seasoned well, just the right amount so that you can still get the true potato taste, starchy yet creamy, and just crisp enough to brown the outside. I sip my sunrise and it clears my palate for the next bite.
Next, I ordered the Underground Salami and Cheese board. Served on a wooden board longer than my torso were two cheeses and four types of Italian meat. Three of the meats were pork sausage: Coppa, Finocchiona and Sopressata. The Finocchiona is a pork sausage with fennel seasoning. You can easily taste the distinct spice of the fennel. The Sopressata is considered spicier, but I love heat – I could have easily handled four notches hotter. The last meat was a combination of pork and beef, the Genoa Salami. It was rolled up and certainly tasted far superior to what you would get at your typical grocery store.
The two cheeses were completely opposite from each other. The Pecorino was a hard dry cheese, and had a sharp, prominent and somewhat rich taste. The smoked mozzarella was so soft and creamy that I could mush it in my mouth with my tongue and the roof of my mouth. We’re in the dairy state and I’m a true cheese head; I could have eaten five more sticks of this.
Lastly, to sweeten the deal, I ordered the Belgium Waffles with Nutella. The second it was placed on the table, the aroma of melted Nutella filled my nose. I took in the scent and looked down at the thick Belgium waffle the size of my face. My first bite of the waffle was with the super cold, thick and creamy whipped cream that so nicely complimented the hot Nutella. The bacon pieces on top of the waffle were few and far between, but when I did find a piece, I instantly got the sensation sweet and salty. I really wish there was more bacon on this.
It was a Friday night at 5:30 p.m., and I was walking into DiModa Pizza. It was hot, but I love a good dinner outside, so I chose to eat on the outdoor patio. My server was Grecia, and following her was a trainee. Grecia makes for a good role model of a server – her smile was contagious and her positivity added to my experience.
Once I was greeted by them, I immediately asked what are some of the favorites on the menu. “The Fuggedaboutit pizza is the go-to for most. As far as pastas the Kitchen Bolognese is a top seller, along with the Spaghetti and Meatballs,” said Grecia. She also mentioned that the DiModa Loco Bread tops the list of appetizers while the Cheese Rice Fritter Balls are a close second.
I chose to start with the Loco Bread. On top of the baguette was a hearty mixture of tomato, almost like a warm bruschetta, but saucier. It was filled with garlic, garlic butter, herbs and Italian cheese that stretched an arm’s length once I pulled my first piece away. Once I bit off the top portion of the bread with the tomato mixture, I dunked it in the accompanied dipping sauce, a combination of DiModa juice and marinara. The bread was baked to acquire a light, crispy crust, not at all chewy, and the inside was infused with deliciousness. It certainly kept me wanting more.
While I enjoyed my Loco Bread I glanced over their extensive drink menu. I’m ‘old-fashioned’ – and from Wisconsin – so I ordered the Wisconsin Old Fashion. It’s made with Korbel brandy and Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey which gave it the immediate punch I felt when I took my first sip. It got even sweeter as the three pitted black cherries and the slice of orange marinated in the drink.
Once I received my Old Fashion, I ordered the Fuggedaboutit pizza. It has locally made Italian sausage, buffalo mozzarella cheese, San Marzano tomato paired with caramelized onions and mushrooms, and topped with basil and pecorino. The mozzarella didn’t suffocate the pizza; instead it’s scattered throughout the pizza, melted just slightly, allowing you to experience the taste of the fresh, robust flavor of the cheese. The basil that was incorporated enhanced the flavor of the sausage which wasn’t overpowering or heavy and didn’t weigh the pizza down. The just right size chunks of sausage blended well with the veggies, basil and sauce. These ingredients combine to form a pizza bursting with flavor.
Next, I chose to try the pasta favorite, the Kitchen Bolognese. Served piping hot, the fresh tagliatelle pasta is tossed in short rib Bolognese sauce with tender short rib clusters throughout and accompanied with tomatoes and herbs. The short rib was extremely tender and broken up into strands; it melted in my mouth making it easy to go down, but also left me needing a toothpick afterward. With the pasta came bread that you could tell was put right on the grill with the grilled char marks to prove it.
Finally, for dessert, I sampled the Salted Caramel Bundino. It was a salted caramel flavored Italian custard; I could taste the sweetness of the caramel, while also getting of the hint of saltiness that went with it. Since the custard wasn’t as cold as I expected it to be, it reminded me of a thick, creamy pudding. Placed in four corners of the circular dish it was served in, were cylinder shaped wafers filled with Nutella. The Nutella was soft, airy, almost like a mousse consistency. They were a delightful light treat to offset the heavy, rich custard.
Laid on the wooden board that the dish was served on were more wafers and candied pine nuts. The candied pine nuts looked like chunks of broken up brittle. They were softer than your typical brittle, but I definitely got the toffee sensation as it stuck to my teeth. Within a second, my teeth are clear and I’m anticipating the next bite. The entire dessert was a pleasant mixture of heaviness, lightness, and somewhere in between. The atmosphere of DiModa’s patio easily helped me picture myself sitting on a terrace in Italy eating my Bundino.