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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • November 2017
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Bortolotti’s Cin Cin

One of the most fun aspects of traveling for me — whether near or far — is undoubtedly finding and researching restaurants. About 2.5 hours north of Green Bay, Eagle River is a great getaway spot during every season. During our recent visit, my friend and I couldn’t help but exclaim how serene and picturesque the changing autumn leaves were at every turn, and pointed out the cross-country skiing areas and beautiful wildlife that surrounded us on our drive.

We stopped for a late lunch at Bortolotti’s Cin Cin, a new wine bar and bistro. We knew it was an Italian restaurant but didn’t know exactly what to expect. Walking into the establishment, we wouldn’t have guessed that it had just opened in June. It was beautifully and elegantly decorated with a quaint lounge area to the right and comfortably laid out tables to the left. Our server, Keith, was friendly and attentive, and knowledgeable about both the food and extensive wine selections. (His favorite dish is the Jambalaya!)

My guest and I were fortunate to speak extensively with the owner, Jessica, who after having much success with her growing catering company, Jessica’s Cucina, opened the kitchen area for a more spacious work area. Bortolotti’s Cin Cin naturally followed, and we’re so glad it did! While there, we discovered “Cin Cin” means “A toast to life” in Italian, and now having spoken with Jessica, heard her philosophy and tasted her food, can’t imagine a more fitting name.

When you spend time at Bortolotti’s Cin Cin, you know it’s different — in the best sense of the word. Jessica believes in using organic produce from local farms as much as possible, and has banned two things from her kitchen: a deep fryer and a microwave. Instead, there’s a focus on fresh ingredients and partnering with other area businesses to create a truly unique and authentic menu that’s far from the typical Italian American eatery. She also encourages guests to savor their time eating in her dining room, spending hours laughing and connecting over food and wine just as is customary in Italy.

We began our meal with Patatine Avocado (Avocado Crisps), fresh cut avocado sautéed in coconut oil and dipped in garlic bread crumbs. As avocado enthusiasts, my guest and I were curious about how this technique would affect the taste of one of our favorite foods. It was delicious! The dish was very light and crispy, and the familiar smooth texture of the avocado was perfectly intact.

Our second appetizer, the Bistecca Crostini (Steak Crostini), was crostini topped with cherry tomatoes, Italian parsley, cream cheese and chive spread, and marinated steak. The steak was incredibly tender and was complemented perfectly by the smooth and slightly sweet spread. The tomatoes were fresh, and the components together created a very satisfying dish. The Insalate Di Giardino (Garden Salad with shrimp) was colorful, fresh and delicious! Jessica chose their homemade Honey Balsamic dressing to accompany it, which brought the ideal amount of sweet to pair with vegetables like cucumber, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and more.

We then enjoyed the Coure Interrottore (Heart Breaker), which Jessica let us know won the 2017 People’s Choice award in the “Taste of the North” café/grill category. We can see why! This vegetarian dish combines artichokes, hearts of palm, roasted chickpeas, cilantro and onion in a creamy house dressing stuffed in pita bread. Flavorful but not overwhelming, the mixture in the toasted pita bread was just the right texture and lunch choice. Kettle chips were on the side and added great crunch and a salt component.

When the Panino Uovo (Egg Sandwich) — two farm fresh eggs, sautéed peppers, onions, tomatoes, arugula and cheddar — came out we were beginning to get full, but we stopped to ooh and ahh over how attractive it was (the presentation of all of the dishes was impeccable!). The sandwich was simple but done so well that we felt like we were eating something made exclusively for us.

I’m still thinking about our last entrée, the Basil and Sundried Tomato Chicken Breast, marinated in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, baked with a basil and sundried tomato rub. I’ve never had a more tender or melt-in-your-mouth chicken, and the flavor of the sundried tomato elevated it to a level that I can only describe as delectable. It came with roasted cauliflower, one of my favorite side dishes done just right.

My guest and I tried a lot of different items on the Bortolotti’s Cin Cin menu, but at the end, we realized we weren’t overly full, but delightfully so in a way that made us feel satisfied because we had eaten quality, thoughtful food. We were struck by the amount of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free items on the menu. In fact, four of the six dishes we enjoyed fit into those categories, and we both remarked about how special it was to find such a restaurant in the area. We can’t wait to go back! 

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