Reviewer discovers tapas served on College Avenue

Nicole Capozziello

I went into Sirocco’s Mediterranean Tapas on a Tuesday around lunchtime.
Perhaps it was the fact that my ears were exposed and freezing, or that I was still reveling in the excellence of my last meal at Sirocco’s, but upon entering the restaurant I was content.
I have eaten lunch there twice before and was not surprised to be warmly greeted by each of the three employees I encountered.
I greeted co-owner Nicole Wendt and walked past the 10 or so tables of chatting lunch customers. She led me to the back section of Sirocco’s dining area, which I imagine is often occupied by intimate groups of friends on Friday and Saturday nights.
The restaurant’s classy yet comfortable environment can be sensed all around. The decor is simple and pleasing though still stylish. The music of guitarist Ottmar Liebert on the speakers, as well as the faint smells of Sirocco’s original cuisine, surrounded us.
The name “Sirocco’s” itself is meant to reverberate with this relaxing, tasteful ambiance. The sirocco is the wind that blows off the Sahara desert, enveloping the northern coast of the Mediterranean.
In this same way, as vowed on the front of the menu, “Sirocco’s strives to bring you there .” The restaurant aims to connect its customers with the alluring food and style of eating known in Spain as “tapas.”
As described on the front of the menu, tapas are “small, irresistible plates of exotic savory mouthfuls.” In Greece, this same idea is carried through in “meze,” while in Italian it is referred to as “antipasti.”
No matter the language, tapas are about the appreciation and experience of great company as much as they are about food. “I wanted to bring what I was used to experiencing in Greece to here,” Wendt explained.
Over the next half an hour, perched on a soft armless chair, I learned the interesting story of Wendt’s life and how this little, elegant restaurant at 125 E. College Ave came to be.
After being raised in the area, Wendt went onto college at UW-Eau Claire and eventually transferred the University of Minnesota. After graduating, she moved to Greece where she initially worked as a nanny and then a shipbroker.
During her 17 years in Greece, Wendt married a Greek man and immersed herself in Greek culture and cuisine. She traveled around Europe, trying and appreciating different foods along the way.
Upon returning to Appleton to visit as she did twice a year, Wendt found that there was nowhere to eat that satisfied the kind of dining she had become accustomed to in Europe.
“I wanted somewhere with style that was about the actual experience of eating as well as the food,” said Wendt. She returned to the United States in 2005 with her daughter, unsure of what direction to take her career. She began looking to interview for a job with BP, as she had experience in the oil business, but kept the idea for a restaurant in the back of her mind.
At a grade school reunion in early 2006, she met up with Darnell Suprise, a former classmate. Wendt found herself talking for hours to Suprise and his wife Dawn, who empathized with her frustration at the lack of area restaurants centered on the “dining experience.” And so at the rather unlikely event of an elementary school reunion, an unlikely idea was born.
They began planning to open a tapas bar in January of 2006. In the 10 months leading up to Sirocco’s Oct. 16 opening, Wendt and the Suprises found themselves dizzied with preparations. They redecorated the building into the comfortable setting it is today and hired their four chefs.
With the help of Dawn Suprise’s experience as a gourmet chef and Wendt’s extensive travel background, they developed Sirocco’s menu. Sirocco’s has a lunch and a dinner menu, both of which delicately incorporate dishes from North Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean.
The menu contains a small selection of six “tapitas” (appetizers), two homemade soups, seven entres and, of course, tapas. The menu contains both warm and cold tapas ranging in price from $7.50 to $12.00. There are ample choices for vegetarians and meat eaters alike, including my personal favorite lunch item, the Falafel Pita.
Sirocco’s also offers a large variety of imported beer and fine wine, including homemade sangria.
Off the delicious dessert menu, guest critic and Sirocco’s regular D.J. Brengle enthusiastically recommends the Triple Chocolate Bombe, a rich delight consisting of two layers of chocolate and white chocolate mousse enveloped in a soft chocolate ganache.
In my own experiences at Sirocco’s, there is really no way you can go wrong with whatever you choose. Though more upscale than the average college student’s lunch or dinner date, it is definitely worth saving up for as an occasional treat.
Come spring, Sirocco’s will also have outdoor seating. If you have not at least tried it by then, you will have no choice after passing by such tempting sights and smells. My only regret in writing this review is that Sirocco’s hasn’t been written about earlier, as those who haven’t heard of it before have missed out on several months of great dining.