There aren’t a lot of original businesses left in the Greenbush Neighborhood just south of the UW-Madison campus, but one of the last remnants of the ethnic neighborhood is a hidden gem. Greenbush Bar is in the basement of what looks like an abandoned building…but it’s actually the old Italian Workman’s Club building on Regent Street.
When you walk in it looks a little rundown and the odd stairwell down to the basement is a little suspect, but the dark, quaint, simple dining room makes up for it. The eatery and bar is lit mostly with lights strung from the ceiling and the tight basement quarters makes it feel hidden and exclusive.
We started with garlic cheese bread and pizza sauce. They cover their homemade bread in garlic butter and top it with cheese. The pieces are just thick enough to manage the heavy cheese, but not too thick so the bread isn’t overwhelming. It was a good appetizer, but a little unnecessary because we also got a basket of their homemade bread. Their antipatso platters have some great traditional ingredients listed…I’d like to give those a try some time.
I knew pasta was the only option for an entree because I don’t love pizza, but I do love pasta. I decided to go traditional and got the pasta carbonara with pancetta, parmesan and romano cheeses, and cream and egg over spaghetti. I don’t think the pasta was homemade, but it was perfectly cooked — aldente, not mushy. The sauce was rich and cooked into the pasta the way it’s supposed to be. I wanted a little more of the saltiness from the pancetta to cut through the heavy sauce, but it was still very good.
For dessert I had to try one of their homemade cannolis. The cannoli was an interesting twist on what I expect a cannoli to taste like. It looked exactly like a traditional cannoli, but the filling had a strong flavor of cinnamon that was unexpected, and not in a good way. The cinnamon was so overpowering that I could barely taste the sweetness of the marscapone.
FOOD NOTES: There are still hidden gems from the old Greenbush Neighborhood thriving amongst the students and new businesses on Regent Street. Greenbush Bar may look like it’s in an abandoned building, but the atmosphere in the basement is lively and welcoming. The menu features classic Italian appetizers, pastas and pizzas. The antipasto platters look promising, but avoid the cannoli if you don’t love the flavor of cinnamon.