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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

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A salivating look at Tony Maronni's St. Anthony's pizza.
A salivating look at Tony Maronni's St. Anthony's pizza.
Tony Maronni's opened in September 2006.
Tony Maronni's opened in September 2006.
A sausage and pepperoni pizza on Tony Maronni's unconventional Sicilian deep dish crust.
A sausage and pepperoni pizza on Tony Maronni's unconventional Sicilian deep dish crust.

In search of the perfect pizza: Tony Maronni's

I started working for my current employer six years ago. A few months after I started, one of my team members invited us all over to his Sussex home for a Packers party. Among the popular party foods were pizzas delivered from a nearby pizzeria.

The host told me the pizza came from Tony Maronni’s, N63 W23951 Main St. The pizza was good enough – and the name was catchy enough – for me to remember them both all of these years later.

In September 2006, Tony Lippold and his wife Angelsita opened Tony Maronni’s in a space formerly occupied by a used book store. Lippold, a trained chef with his education coming from a technical college and the Culinary Institute of America, spent much of his career at hotels and country clubs, including the Silver Spring Country Club.

While at the Silver Spring Country Club, Lippold often made pizzas for wedding receptions as a late night snack. Since he was complimented so much for his pizzas and he felt pizzas appealed to the masses, he considered opening his own pizzeria.

Tony Maronni’s started as a take-n-bake shop, but later, Lippold added a small oven for cooking a single pizza. Then he added a second and a third as the demand grew for Lippold to bake the pizzas for customer pick-up.

Eventually, demand called for the installation of a large oven that baked 10 pizzas, then a conveyor, then multiple conveyors. Now, Tony Maronni’s has a commercial oven that bakes up to 300 pizzas in an hour.

Customer demand also led to the addition of a dining room in July 2008. The dining room is filled with wooden chairs and tables topped with red and white checkered vinyl cloths. The walls are adorned with red brick patterns and a mural of Italian fields. Menus are printed on charming wooden boards tied together with thin leather straps, like the type you find in a baseball glove.

Tony Maronni’s menu is larger than most pizzerias so there should be something for all tastes. Appetizers, salads, pasta, calzones, desserts and larg…

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A look at a sausage, pepperoni and mushroom pizza from Capri di Nuovo.
A look at a sausage, pepperoni and mushroom pizza from Capri di Nuovo.
The classic roadside sign, left over by the restaurant's old owners.
The classic roadside sign, left over by the restaurant's old owners.
A Chicago-style stuffed pizza.
A Chicago-style stuffed pizza.

In search of the perfect pizza: Capri di Nuovo

A popular West Allis Italian restaurant closed in December 2012 after being in business for 40 years. I have a friend who would drive from Oconomowoc just to buy lasagna from Capri Restaurant, 8340 W. Beloit Rd.

A year after closing, Chris Paul – along with wife, Abby – acquired the restaurant after a friend living a few blocks from Capri persistently encouraged him to do so.

Paul has worked in the restaurant industry since his teen years, when he started as a delivery driver. Over time, he learned the cooking aspect and has recently been working to perfect the most popular recipes he inherited from the previous owner, as well as developing his own recipes for the menu.

I was pleased with the initial round of remodeling. Wood laminate floors and a light beige paint job really brightened up the dining room. The lower half of the walls had light stained wooden panels supplementing the new clean appearance, and a mural just outside the kitchen contributed a warm and comforting feeling.

Along with the new changes, some of the old furniture remains. Many of Capri’s original regulars are attached to the booths, loose benches and all, so it may take some time to replace them. I think it’s a nice gesture and smart business move to keep the customers of the former restaurant happy.

Outside, the exterior of the building received a fresh coat of clay colored paint in just two days, thanks to the efforts of a couple of employees. Black awnings with Capri di Nuovo printed in white font hang over the large picture windows, but the original Capri sign at the side of the road remains, for now.

Paul told me that future plans include repaving the parking lot, adding a patio, and replacing the roadside sign. He’s also in the process of adding a few specialty pizzas and new entrees to the menu.

The staff at Capri di Nuovo makes its own bread dough and pizza dough from scratch. They also make their own pizza and pasta sauces.

The menu consists of soups, sandwiches – s…

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Mario's Italian Grill opened last June.
Mario's Italian Grill opened last June.
A chicken alfredo pizza - with a peculiarly yellow sauce - on hand-tossed crust from Mario's Italian Grill.
A chicken alfredo pizza - with a peculiarly yellow sauce - on hand-tossed crust from Mario's Italian Grill.
A sausage and pepperoni pizza on thin crust from Mario's.
A sausage and pepperoni pizza on thin crust from Mario's.

In search of the perfect pizza: Mario's Italian Grill

I stumbled upon Mario’s Italian Grill, 2012 W. Layton Ave., on a Google search last fall. Owner Ari Panariti opened the restaurant last June as his first in Milwaukee but owned another restaurant in the past.

Panariti has worked in pizzerias since he was a teenager, so this restaurant concept made sense for him. The space is a former George Webb restaurant that has been remodeled. 

Panariti created his own recipes and takes pride in making the components of his dishes from scratch.

On my visit, the phone rang often, the delivery driver returned for his next order and a few customers arrived to pick up their carry-out orders, but I was the only customer dining in. Not too bad for an early Sunday afternoon.

There were a handful of tables and booths, as well as counter seating along the front window, left over from the diner days.

The menu at Mario’s Italian Grill includes standard appetizers, salads, burgers, sandwiches, ribs, chicken, shrimp dinners, pizza and pastas such as spaghetti, lasagna and gnocchi – which was recently added to the menu. Friday nights also feature a fish fry. Choose from a perch fry at $8.95 or Icelandic cod for $9.95. You read that right.

Pizza crust options are listed on the in-store menu but neither online nor on the carry-out menu, so be aware that thin crust, hand-tossed and thick crust options are available in 10, 12, 14, and 16 inches.

Pies range from $6.95 to $12.95 for a cheese pizza. Additional toppings range from $1.25 to $2 each, and there is a $2 upcharge for the thick crust, which is essentially a double hand-tossed crust.

Specialty pizzas start at $9.95 and include the meat lovers with cheese, sausage, pepperoni, ham and bacon; the chicken alfredo with cheese, chicken, mushrooms and tomatoes; and the barbecue pizza with cheese, chicken BBQ sauce, onions and bacon.

I decided to start with my common denominator, a sausage and pepperoni pizza on a thin crust. I compare smoked barbecue joints with brisket, and I com…

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A sausage, pepperoni and mushroom pizza from Crossroads II.
A sausage, pepperoni and mushroom pizza from Crossroads II.
Crossroads II has two locations, this one in Franklin and another in New Berlin.
Crossroads II has two locations, this one in Franklin and another in New Berlin.
Crossroads II's taco pizza lands high on Rick's list of favorite taco pizzas in Milwaukee.
Crossroads II's taco pizza lands high on Rick's list of favorite taco pizzas in Milwaukee.

In search of the perfect pizza: Crossroads II

Shortly after I started writing these blogs, I decided to use Google to find pizzerias in various suburbs or areas of Milwaukee that I didn’t visit often. One of the names that popped up was Crossroads II Pizza and Subs. Several locations appeared. One of the links had a high Yelp rating, so I decided to add this pizzeria to my list of places to visit.

A friend and I recently paid a visit to the Franklin location, 11357 W. St. Martins Rd., because the Yelp reviews indicated there was seating available. That didn’t seem to be the case in New Berlin, 13976 W. Beloit Rd., and I didn’t want my pizza to lose its "fresh from the oven" taste and texture by taking it home.

Upon entering, we saw two high-top tables with four stools each. A few other customers were picking up carry-out orders. Two large coolers filled with beer and soda stood along two walls, and a large menu board hung above the tables. Behind the counter were two young ladies hustling to answer the phone, make new pies, get finished pizzas out of the oven and pack them up along with ... hot ham and rolls? At a pizzeria?

Jenna Rozek, the Franklin restaurant manager, later explained that the building previously housed a butcher shop that sold hot ham and rolls on Sundays. It was a very popular item so Crossroads II kept the Sunday tradition going, and it sells out of it early every Sunday.

Rozek has worked for Crossroads II for nine years and has managed the Franklin location for the past three and a half. I asked about the store's name, and she shared some history.

Just over 30 years ago, brothers Lenny and Gary Vandenboom opened Crossroads Pizza and Subs in Big Bend as a hobby. As I understand it, the New Berlin store was opened a few years later, and the Vandenboom brothers chose to split the businesses into separate entities.

Lenny Vandenboom kept the New Berlin location and named it Crossroads II Pizza and Subs to help distinguish it from Crossroads in Big Bend. An employee of more than 10 y…

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