In search of the perfect pizza: Pizza Man
While I typically share the history of the pizzerias I visit, Pizza Man's story has been told, told again, and then told some more by every media outlet in Milwaukee. So I'll spare you that segment.
In fact, I try not to blog about pizzerias who get their fair share of press, but I thought this thin crust pizza was worth blogging about.
It is still owned by Mike Amidzich after 40 years, but there is a new chef, Zachary Baker, and a new location, 2597 N. Downer Ave.
I visited Pizza Man twice at the original location, but I never had the pizza. Weird, huh? At that time, it had a reputation for some of the best ribs in Milwaukee, so that was what I ordered on both visits. Its reputation for ribs was well-deserved.
Pizza Man reopened at the end of July, and I decided to wait a couple of months before visiting based on feedback from friends who visited right away.
On my first visit, my friend and I started with the fried eggplant strips with marinara sauce and the garlic bread basket appetizer.
The eggplant strips were lightly breaded, cut to the size of French fries and perfectly cooked.
The garlic bread was cut as wide slices and seemed to be briefly dipped in garlic butter, so the bread wasn't over-saturated and remained crispy on the outside and soft inside. Whatever method they used, I was a fan.
We ordered a large sausage and pepperoni pizza as the main course. When it arrived, I must admit I was impressed at how aesthetically pleasing it was.
The deep reddish hue of the bowl-shaped pepperoni and pizza sauce, as well as the brown and gray shades of the Italian sausage provided a brilliant contrast against the white and golden cheesy canvas.
The edge of the crust had the charred look that I like to see and the cracker crunch I like to bite into.
The sauce was thick with a subtle sweetness and a bit of tang. The pepperoni was crispy and spicy while the large chunks of sausage were tender and had a touch of heat. The meat toppings complemented the sauce and thick layer of cheese to create a delicious flavor combination.
The entire crust maintained its crispy texture, and each square slice held firm when lifted, even the center slices. The cornmeal prevented the pizza from being perfect in my eyes, but I'm sure others consider it perfect as is.
Based on what I look for in a pizza, I thought it was one of the best pizzas that I've had in Milwaukee.
Pizzas come in 12, 14, and 16 inches, all on Pizza Man's thin crust. Cheese pizzas range from $13 to $17, which is a little higher than the majority of pizzerias in the city, but not the most expensive.
Toppings ranging from $1.50 for items such as basil and onion to $5 for Canadian bacon or prosciutto. Prices are the same regardless of pizza size, which is a pricing structure I'm not a fan of. It makes you feel obligated to order the large pizza, or you might feel cheated.
Specialty pizzas start at $16 for a 12-inch pesto pizza – topped with pesto, tomato, artichokes and mushrooms – and cost up to $24 for a sixteen inch White pizza, topped with mozzarella, cream cheese, mushrooms and truffle oil.
On my second visit, I dined with another friend who has a gluten intolerance. She has waited anxiously for Pizza Man to offer a gluten-free crust. Amidzich and Chef Baker spent a lot of time trying different gluten-free crusts from various suppliers until they found the one they were happy with.
We started with the Della Casa antipasto board, featuring cured meats, Wisconsin artisan cheeses, marinated olives and pickled vegetables.
Since I experienced the standard thin crust pizza last week, I decided to try the ribs to see if they were as good as the ribs that I remember from the original location. They were. The ribs were meaty, tender and moist. They're served with garlic bread and fries, which are seasoned well but not crispy.
The meat separated from the bones with ease, and the house-made barbecue sauce was very tangy with a spicy undertone. As far as non-smoked ribs are concerned, Pizza Man still makes my favorite.
My friend let me try a slice of her pizza on the gluten-free crust. She ordered it with sausage, Brussels sprouts and onions.
The half-inch perimeter of the crust had a similar charred appearance and cracker crunch, but the rest of the crust had a soft, if not soggy, texture as if it was soaked in water before it was topped with toppings. I could have rolled my slice up like a sheet of paper.
I wouldn't say the crust was bland. It had a flavor, but I didn't care for it. For the record, I don't have a gluten intolerance, so I haven't had many gluten-free crusts. Maybe most of them have a similar taste and texture as this.
However, I have tried pizzas on gluten-free crusts at a couple of places, and they did have a crispy texture and decent flavor. In my opinion, I think Pizza Man can find a better one, or maybe try a different baking method.
The gluten-free crust comes as a 12-inch only and costs $15 plus toppings, which is a $2 upcharge over the standard 12-inch thin crust.
If you've been waiting for the hype to subside so you don't have to wait too long for a table, I think now is a good time, especially on a Sunday or Monday night. Business is steady, but those nights worked well for me recently.
Pizza Man will also offer call-in carry-out orders very soon, so keep an eye out for that announcement.
If you're a fan of thin crust pizza, Pizza Man is worthy of a visit. If you're not the adventurous type, you should probably stick with the toppings you're comfortable with. A couple of people I've heard from seem to dislike the pizzas with cream cheese, which isn't a common topping.
I definitely plan to go back to try its self-proclaimed "famous" escargot and to find out what makes the French onion soup worthy of an $8 price tag.
I'm also intrigued by the Capricciosa pizza, which is topped with house red sauce, salami, sausage, prosciutto, mushrooms, artichokes and olives. That one sounds like a winner to me!
Their thick crust pizza is fantastic! I NEVER order thin crust pizza--night as well be eating tomatoe paste on cardboard--awful! Their speciality pizza with anchovies is incredible, thick crust, of course! So happy they re-opened. No better pizza anywhere. Bought so many at their former location.
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