Keeping it Fresh

Lombardino’s Italian Restaurant & Bar stays up with the times in its kitchen and its causes.

Lombardino’s Italian Restaurant & Bar
2500 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53705 (608) 238-1922

Parking: In the lot beside the restaurant

Executive Chef/Owners: Patrick and Marcia O’Halloran

Sous Chefs: Chris Ketarkus and Brian Dracy
Pastry Chef: Angie Derr

Hours: Tues through Thursday and Sunday – 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday – 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Monday – reserved for periodic special wining and dining events
Reservations: Encouraged for Friday – Sunday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

To review the menu or check on special events: lombardinos.com

Lombardino’s is the natural child of the parlor of the nonna Siciliana, who taught me to make lump-free polenta, and the foodie movie, “Big Night.” Lombardino’s opened as a meatball and red-gravy joint on April 1, 1954. I can still picture my mother in a full-skirted cocktail dress and my father in a short, loud tie heading there for a night out. When Patrick and Marcia O’Halloran bought and re-opened Lombardino’s in September 2000, they kept the irreplaceable kitsch – iridescent tile murals of hot babes from Italy’s major cities and an imposing Capidimonte-style lamp with a shade that screams to be worn as a drunk’s head gear. But, like the inventive chef in “Big Night,” they decided to present genuine, regional Italian food, using local ingredients including herbs from their street-side garden.

Lombardino’s has been praised by national food critics and selected to feed presidential candidates. Don’t worry that this is a snooty “only on your anniversary” dining experience; single diners can have a great time dining at the bar. The menu offers approachable signature dishes—Pizza Lombardino or Pasta Bolognese—with the seasonal specialties that set it apart from other Italian restaurants in central Wisconsin—tender octopus or lamb lasagna made with a labor-intensive, Sardinian pastry, rather than the standard wide, wavy noodles. All pastry and desserts are made at the restaurant. If you drink and, like many of Lombardino’s regulars, can walk home, don’t miss the grappa and home-infused liquors. Manager Michael Banas said, when asked why the LGBT community should dine at Lombardino’s, “In hard times, when distant corporations withdraw from supporting local concerns, it is the local businesses that step up. We sponsor the AIDS Ride, support the Red Ribbon Affair and donate to many other groups that are important to our staff and neighbors.”