New Italian restaurant downtown

Tonight I was driving home from work down Second Street, and as I passed the light at Madison I noticed an “OPEN” sign in the Italian restaurant, Conte’s, in the space that used to be The Cupboard Too (on Madison between Second and Third, a couple of doors down from King of Wings). So I parked the car and walked over for take-out.

I ordered lasagna and a house salad. It was excellent! I could tell the lasagna itself, and the sauce on top of it, were homemade. You may assume that would be the case with all restaurants, but I’ve been told that several restaurants in town heat up a serving of Stouffer’s, or the Sysco equivalent, when someone orders lasagna. Not Conte’s – they did it right. Really fresh and really good.

Their menu is reasonably priced. You can get one of several pastas with your choice of marinara, gravy, or olio (garlic and oil) for $7, and you can add meatballs and/or sausage for $2.50 more. They also have several varieties of ravioli for $8, same sauce and add-meat options. And, they have Italian favorites like lasagna, fettucini alfredo, and chicken parmesan. Vegetarians will have lots of options here – they have some eggplant dishes, cheese manicotti, spinach ravioli, and sun-dried tomato ravioli among the choices.

They also have hero sandwiches – will give those a try and report back. In particular, I want to try the chicken cutlet parmesan ($7) and the hot Italian beef ($6) sandwiches.

For dessert they have cheesecake, chocolate cake, tiramisu, and something called “xanga” (not sure what that is). I had the chocolate cake – huge piece, too big to finish, complemented by a couple of miniature cream puffs. The menu price is $3.50, not bad at all for what you get.

They’re open Monday-Thursday until 6, so it’s a good place to stop by after work and pick up dinner. Friday and Saturday they’re open until 9. Seems like it would be a good spot to take a date, where you could both have a fine dinner and escape for under 30 bucks. On the downside, it doesn’t appear they serve alcohol, but there are plenty of places nearby you can walk to for an after-dinner drink.

Highly recommended. We need to support downtown eateries that stay open into the dinner hour, and this is quality Italian cuisine.