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Patricia (Patty) Kiefer

Oconomowoc’s Patricia Kiefer knows what it’s like to hike among Italy’s fragrant lemon groves, olive trees and vineyards. She has dined in Michelin-starred restaurants in small towns in Portugal. She can find prime spots to picnic in the French countryside and recommend wines from a centuries-old vineyard in South Africa. 

And when she returns home from her travels, Kiefer happily frequents the locally owned, independent restaurants that remind her of the extraordinary experiences she’s had in her travels throughout the world.

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Charcuterie board from Bavette la Boucherie

Hiking Through Provence

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AN Outing at Les Baux-de-Provence in Provence, France

On a National Geographic tour of Provence, Kiefer and a group of friends hiked in Avignon and moved on to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, where they raised glasses of Cotes du Rhone. Two guides provided salad, cheese and French wines for their daily picnic lunches in the countryside. A highlight of the journey, she says, was exploring Saint-Remy-de-Provence, where Vincent Van Gogh was inspired to paint his iconic “Starry Night.” 

One of Kiefer’s most memorable dinners on that trip was served by the owner of La Ferme de Gerbaud, an herb farm in Provence. When the tour group arrived, the farmer was harvesting herbs wearing “a yellow slicker, a beautiful scarf and wellie boots,” Kiefer recalls. “She cooked us a lemon chicken with herbes de Provence, then we could buy herbs at her store after we finished eating. She was just charming.”

Kiefer says Bavette la Boucherie in Milwaukee’s Third Ward, with its tempting array of artisan charcuterie, cheeses and wines, brings back happy memories of her adventures in France. Like La Ferme de Gerbaud, Bavette is both a specialty food shop and a restaurant. Owner Karen Bell’s menu reflects both her love of Milwaukee and her experiences living and working across the U.S. and Caracas, Paris and Madrid, where she owned and operated a successful restaurant.

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“Purpetiello” Alla Luciana (Mediterranean stewed octopus with tomato, olives and capers) from Ristorante Bartolotta

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A central market in Florence, Italy

An Italian Feast

Italy is a favorite destination for Kiefer, and not just for the pasta. Her first taste of Italy was in 2011, when a hiking trip took her to Genoa, Pisa and Florence and she fell head over heels for Italian wines.

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Enoteca Pitti Gola E. Cantina in Florence, Italy

“I’m pretty fussy about wine, but in Italy, I’ve never met a wine I didn’t love — even the table chianti,” she insists. 

Back home, Ristorante Bartolotta in the Wauwatosa Village is one of her top choices for authentic Italian cuisine, especially since Paul Bartolotta added an outdoor patio, La Terrazza, to its seating options. He also added a consecutive series of four-course dinners, each highlighting regional fare from areas such as Tuscany, Sicily and Campania. The food, as well as the dining under-the-stars ambience, take Kiefer back to memories of her Italian holiday.

“I like those smaller, quaint restaurants, and a lot of them have added outdoor dining,” she continues. 

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A cooking class (“Cooking Class Il Falconiere”) in Cortona, Italy

Lago Su Bella on Lac La Belle is another family-owned Italian dining destination that Kiefer recommends. “They have a great eggplant parmigiana and a nice selection of wines,” she notes.

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Sweet Basil, Franklin

Kiefer points to Door County’s Stone’s Throw Winery as a great source for Italian-inspired wines: “The owners, Russell and Lisa Turco, have a villa in Italy and are enmeshed in the Italian scene, especially Florence and Tuscany,” she says. The Turcos import their grapes directly from California and use many of the same processes used by fine Italian wineries, she adds.

Adventures in South Africa

In South Africa’s wine country, Kiefer enjoyed her stay at the historic Lanzerac Hotel in Stellenbosch, near Capetown. “This wine estate was established in 1692,” she explains. “We had an amazing meal with wine pairings.” 

The Manor Kitchen at the Lanzerac features bobotie, South Africa’s national dish. Bobotie is made with ground beef or lamb, seasoned with cinnamon and other spices — much like a meat loaf. She says Zesti restaurant in Hartland, which highlights dishes from around the world, occasionally offers “a nice curry bobotie with fresh fruit on the side.”

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Enoteca Pitti Gola E. Cantina in Florence, Italy

The World on a Plate

For a variety of international dishes, La Merenda in Walker’s Point offers global small plates. You can try a taste of Italy, Spain, or Argentina, for example, “and they have the wines that go with it,” she notes. 

For the flavors of Indonesia, check out the sambal goreng udang, made with gulf shrimp, earthy sambal chili paste, garlic, sesame, coconut milk and coconut mashed potatoes (a vegetarian option is available too). Curry lovers will swoon for the butter chicken, and veg fans can’t resist the Moroccan spiced grilled parsnips. 

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A fish specialty restaurant in Lisbon, Portugal

Although the pandemic interfered with travel plans in 2020 and 2021, Kiefer plans to visit Russia, Paris and Provence next year. In the meantime, she’ll be reminiscing about her travels via Wisconsin’s own unique bistros, sidewalk cafes and wineries. MKE


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Moroccan spiced grilled parsnips and seared trout with a side of white rice from La Merenda.

Around the World in 80 Bites

Milwaukee’s ethnic diversity has led to a wealth of flavorful authentic international food. Below are 80 additional recommended restaurants for adventurous palates to savor.

Got some favorites you’d like to suggest? We’re following these social media hashtags: #MKEin80bites, #MKE80bites, #Aroundtheworldin80bites, #worldlycuisine or your cuisine of choice (e.g. #ethiopian, #africancuisine)


Caribbean

Island Jam, South Milwaukee

La Caribeña, Milwaukee

Pepperpot, Milwaukee

Sabor, Milwaukee

Uppa Yard, Milwaukee


Mexican, Cuban, Latin American, Puerto Rican

Cubanitas, Milwaukee and Oak Creek

Guadalajara, Milwaukee

Guanajuato, Milwaukee

Mara’s Grill, Milwaukee

El Salvador, Milwaukee

La Borincana, Milwaukee

La Caribena, Milwaukee

Shalom, Milwaukee

Spanish Traveler, Pewaukee


South American

Tricicolo Peru, Milwaukee

Chef Paz, West Allis

C-Viche, Milwaukee

Tavo’s, Milwaukee


Polish, German

A&J Polish Deli, Milwaukee

Polonez, St. Francis

Kegel’s Inn, Milwaukee

Mader’s, Milwaukee


Irish, Scottish

County Clare, Milwaukee

McBob’s, Milwaukee

Mo’s Irish Pub, Wauwatosa

Thistle & Shamrock, Milwaukee


Italian

Balistreri’s, Milwaukee and Wauwatosa

Baribiere’s, Milwaukee and South Milwaukee

Carrabba’s, Brookfield and Greenfield

Onesto, Milwaukee

Pasta Tree, Milwaukee

SALA, Milwaukee

Tavolino, Milwaukee

Tenuta’s, Milwaukee


French

Bartolotta’s Lake Park Bistro, Milwaukee

Le Rêve Patisserie & Café, Wauwatosa

Pastiche Bistro, Brown Deer


Mediterranean, Greek, Portuguese, Balkan, Serbian, Scandinavian

Amilinda, Milwaukee

Apollo Cafe, Milwaukee

Eldr + Rime, Wauwatosa

Mistral, Milwaukee

Oakland Gyros, Milwaukee

Old Town Serbian Gourmet House, Milwaukee

Ouzo Café, Milwaukee

Pita Palace, Milwaukee


African, South African, Ethiopian

Alem Ethiopian Village, Milwaukee

Blue Star Café, Milwaukee

Ethiopian Cottage Restaurant, Milwaukee

Immy’s African Cuisine, Milwaukee


Middle Eastern: Arabian, Pakistani, Indian, Persian, Iranian, Turkish

Anmol, MilwaukeeCasablanca, Milwaukee

Damascus Gate, Milwaukee

Maharajah, Milwaukee

Ramallah, Milwaukee

Shah Jee’s, Milwaukee

Shahrazad, Milwaukee

Shawarma House, Milwaukee and Brookfield


Asian: Vietnamese, Hmong, Thai, Korean

EE-Sane Thai-Lao Cuisine, Milwaukee

Hue, Milwaukee and Wauwatosa

Mekong Café, Milwaukee

Momo Mee, Milwaukee

Odd Duck, Milwaukee

Phan’s Garden Restaurant, Milwaukee

Pho Saigon, West Allis

Seoul Korean, Milwaukee

Stone Bowl Grill, Milwaukee

Thai A Kitchen, Milwaukee

Thai Bangkok Restaurant, Milwaukee

Vientiane Noodle Shop, Milwaukee


Chinese, Szechuan

Cheng Wong, Milwaukee

Golden Gate, Waukesha

Huan Xi, Milwaukee

Jing’s, Milwaukee

RuYi, Milwaukee

Sze Chuan, West Allis


Japanese

Ginza, Milwaukee

Kawa Japanese, Milwaukee

Koi Japanese Cuisine, Milwaukee

Maki Yaki, Milwaukee

Red Light Ramen, Milwaukee