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You might want to skip the pizza at Jimmy's Grotto in favor of the ponza rotta.
You might want to skip the pizza at Jimmy's Grotto in favor of the ponza rotta.

In search of the perfect pizza: Jimmy's Grotto

Around fifteen years ago, I worked in the Brookfield area. I used to explore Waukesha for lunch options after exhausting my options in Brookfield. At the time, a friend asked me if I ever visited Jimmy’s Grotto, 314 E. Main St. in Waukesha. She spoke glowingly about it. I hadn’t heard of it, but I visited soon after, and I hadn’t returned until about two weeks ago.

I was at a party on July 3 that I attend just about every year. Another friend I hadn’t seen in a while was there with her brother and the pizza blog came up. I told them I was closing in on the 100th pizzeria and narrowed my remaining list to two, one of which was Jimmy’s Grotto. Her eyes lit up, and she began to share how she and her brother grew up with the ponza rotta from Jimmy’s Grotto.

A summary of the history of Jimmy’s Grotto can be found on their website, but I found an important piece of the history in a framed article written in 1996 from the Waukesha Freeman that hangs on a wall near the restrooms in the dining room. More on that later.

They seemed to be out of paper menus when we arrived. The five of us shared one and used the new menu boards hanging behind the counter when we ordered. Interestingly enough, the designer of the new menu boards happened to walk in while we were ordering. I met her at a business networking event several years ago. I guess "Smallwaukee" extends to the suburbs, too. Anyway, the menu consists of appetizers and side orders, sandwiches, chicken, shrimp, fish, and spaghetti dinners, pizza, and ponza rottas.

Pizzas are available on thin or hand-tossed crust in 12, 14 or 16 inches, with cheese pizzas ranging $10.30 to $13.30 and extra toppings ranging $1.30 to $1.80. Specialty pizzas include a veggie, taco and deluxe pizzas ranging from $15.30 to $24.10.

When I visited, I went with my friend and her brother who grew up with Jimmy’s Grotto, as well as a couple of other friends, one fairly new to Jimmy’s Grotto and the other who also grew up with it.…

Fixture Pizza Pub opened in July.
Fixture Pizza Pub opened in July.

In search of the perfect pizza: Fixture Pizza Pub

I don’t think I’ve ever written about a pizza place that was as new as Fixture Pizza Pub, which opened to the public on July 5 at 623 S. 2nd St.; but I attended their soft opening as a guest of a friend and was pleased with the food and service on that visit.

Some of the space was left empty for future use, but I walked around to explore a bit and ask questions, being the nosey blogger that I am. My friend introduced me to Jake Taylor, who co-owns Fixture with his brother Josh.

I asked my favorite question, "why pizza?" The answer was simply, "because who doesn’t love pizza?" Fair enough. I guess it’s the same reason OnMilwaukee gave me the green light on this idea for a blog.

Jake Taylor shared some of the ideas they have for the near and distant future, including in indoor bocce court. It likely won’t be regulation size for the available space, but I think it’s a better idea than putting in a video game. We have enough of those around town, don’t we?

I admired the design and décor and heard whispers that the work was done by Milwaukee’s 360 Designs, who were seated at the table behind me, so I walked over, interrupted them from the fun and relaxing time they were enjoying, and introduced myself. I put on my art and interior design expert face and asked what their inspiration was for the design. They totally bought it and actually answered my question.

They wanted to produce a classic look with a bit of industrial mixed in. The exposed brick walls and light fixtures hanging above the bar help with the industrial look, while the reclaimed wood from an old burned church and an impressive painting, by local artist Clive Promhows, combining colors that look faded with black and white images in the background help provide the classic look.

Booths and high top tables provide most of the seating and are supplemented by the stools along the bar. Speaking of the bar, there is a solid line-up of spirits, wine, craft beer and cocktails available, if you…

Shaker's is regularly on lists of the most haunted bars in America.
Shaker's is regularly on lists of the most haunted bars in America.

In search of the perfect pizza: Shaker's Cigar Bar

Searching for the perfect pizza doesn’t limit me to traditional restaurants and pizzerias. I’m not even limited to traditional bars and pubs that serve it. So when friends recommended pizza at Shaker's Cigar Bar, known more for its haunted tours than food or even cigars, I had to give the pie a try.

The website for Shaker's Cigar Bar includes enough articles to provide much of the information I try to learn about a business, including a couple featured right here at OnMilwaukee. Current owner and chef Bob Weiss opened Shakers, 422 S. 2nd St., in 1986.

Weiss inherited a building that came with "guests," leading to stories and testimonies from customers that landed Shaker's on lists for most haunted bars in America. People pay to go on haunted tours, and some will pay to spend the night on the third floor, hoping to have an encounter with a ghost. I think it’s cool that Shaker's brings more publicity to Milwaukee.

Weiss owned several smoke shops, but closed them after cigars seemed to lose popularity. He affiliated cigars with "big-ticket" experiences and sought to provide a premium experience with Shaker's, which explains the visit I had with some of my Yelp friends a few weeks ago on a Monday night.

I reviewed the menu online before I visited to get a feel for what I might want to try and also to give my friends an idea of what to expect.

The menu tends to change monthly and is small, which is wise considering the kitchen is right behind the bar and doesn’t allow for much flexibility. The June menu featured a handful of appetizers, including Moroccan hummus and larb, which I was very surprised to see on the menu. Larb is a staple in Laotian cuisine, typically very spicy, flavorful and made with ground chicken or beef. I don’t even find the dish on most Southeast Asian menus in town, so I’d never expect to see it at a cigar bar. The small list of entrees shared a theme and featured Cajun flavors with andouille etouffee, bayou jambalaya and cajun garlic shr…

Zayna's Pizza has been in business since 1990.
Zayna's Pizza has been in business since 1990.

In search of the perfect pizza: Zayna's

One of the grade schools I attended is near Brady Street. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time patronizing businesses in the area and observing the development that's taken place over the years.

Sciortino’s Bakery is still there. Glorioso’s has moved across the street and expanded. Bosley now occupies the space where Cataldo’s once stood, home of one of my favorite thin crust pizzas. I didn’t even know that Zaffiro’s, which anchors the east end of Brady Street at Farwell Ave., existed back then; but I wish I had.

A couple of other Brady Street area pizzerias have come and gone, but one pizzeria that has held its ground on the west end of Brady Street is Zayna’s, 714 E. Brady St.

Located in a small, unassuming, white building next to Casablanca, Zayna’s offers a large menu and features hand-tossed pizzas on 10-, 12-, 14-, and 16-inch housemade crusts. Cheese pizzas range from $8.99 to $14.99 with additional toppings for $1.49 to $2.49 each.

The rest of the menu includes chicken, ribs, fish and shrimp, all available in buckets for family meals, as well as pasta, lasagna, gyros, sub sandwiches, hot sandwiches, salads, desserts, and a sizable list of appetizers and sides. Zayna’s also offers combo meals pairing pizzas with fried chicken, ribs, or fish. There are always special offers or coupons available; just ask.

Zayna’s Pizza opened on North Avenue in 1990 and moved to the current location around 15 years ago under owner Younis Abdel-Hamid. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to speak with Abdel-Hamid during my visit, and the staff on-site didn’t have much information for me to share with you on the history of the business.

I had driven past Zayna’s dozens of times and thought to give them a try but never had the opportunity. A couple of weeks ago, some friends and I were hanging out at Brenner Brewing and got hungry. I remember a group having pizza delivered to Brenner’s when I was there watching the NCAA basketball tournament. They told…