How about meat loaf, tartar sauce or Fritos on your pizza?
As often happens, Milwaukee was behind the curve on something – the arrival of pizza-by-the-slice restaurants. I was eating cheese slices in mid-town Manhattan in 1969, long before Sbarro, a national chain, began showing up in local mall food courts offering wedges of thin crust pizza.
At about the same time, overdone, cardboard-tasting, pizza-like food objects began sitting for hours under heat lamps in convenience store gas stations. They are even less appetizing than the dried-up wieners that rotate like logs on those little metal rollers.
It took way too long for pizza slices to break out of the malls and gas stations, and onto the streets of Milwaukee. But we now have Ian's, Classic Slice, Times Square and Brick 3, and we can positively say they have more than made up for the lost time. You can buy simple cheese and tomato sauce slices if you like, but imaginations have gone bonkers at the local slice joints, and we are light years beyond the East Coast in offering exotic and downright wacky toppings.
You can sometimes order a wedge of fish fry pizza at Ian's. It has a tartar sauce base, includes tilapia, lettuce and mozzarella cheese, and is available most often in Lent.
Staying nautical, Times Square Bistro & Pizzeria has done a smoked salmon, cream cheese and capers slice.
Brick 3 sells a wedge topped with sliced baked potato, bacon, scallions, cheddar and mozzarella. Classic Slice has a vegan offering that features a curry sauce with broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, tofu and tomatoes. It's called the Anne Curry.
"It's insane out here," Staten Island native Demetri Itsines says about slice toppings in Milwaukee. He is co-owner and general manager of Brick 3 Pizza. "If you put Fritos on pizza in New York, the customers would throw them back at you," he adds.
Well, Ian's did just that. Chili cheese pizza, topped with Fritos, was a monthly special in April, and managing partner Lexy Frautschy reports it sold well. No Fritos were flung at the staff.
Times Square chef and owner Sean Henninger believes the pizza topping possibilities are nearly endless. "Pizza has all of the elements of a sandwich. It is bread and stuff," he says.
"The crust is just the method of holding everything together." He once offered a peanut butter and jelly pizza – just PB&J plus crust. "It was a dessert pizza," he says with a smile.
Pasta and potatoes are surprisingly popular on slices here. Mac and cheese is Ian's signature slice, and wild mushroom penne alfredo was a weekly special earlier this month. The restaurant regularly tops slices with french fries, and wide lasagna noodles have a following among customers.
It addition to its popular baked potato topping, Brick 3 has a mostaccioli meatball slice, and it also offers lasagna and mac and cheese wedges.
The Classic Slice version of macaroni and cheese pizza adds Panko bread crumbs. "They give it a little extra crunch," co-owner Marisa Lange explains.
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