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The meat lovers pizza from Brian's.
The meat lovers pizza from Brian's.
The gourmet pizza, which tasted good from what Rick could sample.
The gourmet pizza, which tasted good from what Rick could sample.

In search of the perfect pizza: Brian's

I can’t recall how I heard about Brian’s, located at 924 E. Rawson Ave. in Oak Creek, but I think it came up in a Google search and was highly rated by its customers.

I was told the restaurant has had several names over the years, but it became Brian’s around four years ago when current owner Arian Abazi took over.

Brian’s has a family restaurant feel to it with diner-style counter seating and a dining room filled with booths and tables featuring green vinyl chairs and benches, contrasted by a patterned, burgundy carpet.  

The menu provides something for everyone, including chicken, seafood, pasta, sandwiches, burgers, comfort food, pizza and breakfast – which I found interesting considering they don’t open until 11 a.m. every day.

A white board next to the host stand listed the specials for the day – such as shrimp risotto, barbecue pulled pork, Ole burger, penne porcini, and chicken parmigiana – ranging from $7.50 to $8.95, plus soup and fries or garlic bread.

Brian’s pizzas are available on a "thin and crispy" crust or a "thick and crispy" crust. Crust sizes include 10, 12, 14 and 16 inches, as well as a 16x32 party pizza. Cheese pizzas range from $6.50 to $20.95 for the party pizza, while additional toppings range from $1 to $3 each.

Regular toppings include broccoli, jalapenos and anchovies, in addition to the more common offerings. Specialty toppings include chicken, shrimp, bleu cheese, fresh basil, double crust and double cheese.

Specialty pizzas include the supreme, meat lovers, garden pizza, gourmet pizza, chicken alfredo and the chef’s special, topped with sausage, mushrooms and onions.

We started with a side order of homemade meatballs, and I’m glad we did because we waited almost 40 minutes for our first pizza. The side of meatballs was only $1.49 and included four meatballs around an inch and a half in diameter, sprinkled with parmesan cheese and sitting in a bowl of delicious house-made marinara sauce.

Our server made i…

Rick found a crust with everything he wants at Michaelangelo's.
Rick found a crust with everything he wants at Michaelangelo's.

In search of the perfect pizza: Michaelangelo's

I am one of the many that participates in fantasy football leagues. One year, a league commissioner ordered pizza from Michaelangelo’s, at 8330 W. Puetz Rd in Franklin, for our draft party, and I enjoyed it enough to add it to my list. 

Michaelangelo’s offers carry-out, delivery and dining service, so I decided to dine-in. Coming from the north toward Franklin, the GPS-recommended Hales Corners exit ramp was closed, so I exited at 84th Street from 894. I thought 84th Street would get me through Greendale and into Franklin. It doesn’t. Get to Highway 100 or 92nd Street. You’ve been warned.

When I arrived, I sat in the bar area, which was pretty quiet but had college football playing on a large LED TV. That would do nicely.

The bar looked new, a thought confirmed when I later learned that it was just opened in July. I’ll tell you more on that later.

Owner Dennis Rau started in the pizza business when he was in high school. Morning announcements during homeroom included a job announcement with Steverino’s Pizza on 27th and College. A classmate dared him to apply, so he did and ended up accepting a position as a delivery driver.

Steverino’s also had a Franklin location, and in 1981, Rau and a friend, whom were both invested in the business by this time, decided to trade in their investment for the recipes and equipment. Michaelangelo’s was born.

Rau purchased the former grocery store building housing the current location in 1991 and leased the other half of the building out to a business office and later a barbershop. Last December, he began the process of expanding by converting the barbershop space into a bar area with additional seating. That project was completed in July.

The dining room and bar were both very clean and well kept on my visit. Patrons were starting to arrive for the dinner rush, while others entered for carry-out orders. I don’t think the phone was silent more than 30 seconds at a time, so prime time had definitely arrived.…

This eccentric pizza is called "The Dirty Dirty Welcome to Waukesha, Where the Playaz Play." No, really.
This eccentric pizza is called "The Dirty Dirty Welcome to Waukesha, Where the Playaz Play." No, really.

In search of the perfect pizza: Magellan's

For the eighth straight year, October is Dining Month on, presented by Locavore, the newest restaurant at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2014."

I recently met with Tom Graber, the man behind, for coffee to talk about food and blogging. He recommended that I add Magellan’s, 370 W. Main St., in Waukesha to my list. 

I googled the place and learned it offered the self-proclaimed "best pizza in Waukesha." I haven’t had great experiences with Waukesha pizza, so I figured I’d give this place a visit.

Located in downtown Waukesha, the building had been home to various bars for over 60 years. Dan Italiano, Jr., eventually took over the space and opened Magellan’s seven years ago after a cooking stint at The 5 O’Clock Club in Pewaukee.

The bar had an old school, cozy feel to it. Customers ranged in age from early 20s to into their 70s. There was a large, casual dining room next to the bar, but we chose to sit at the bar, since the front of the building was open for the great weather.

Our bartender was friendly and knew the regular customers, as well as some of the history of the bar – impressive considering he only worked there on Saturday.

Magellan’s menu consists of appetizers, hot sandwiches, dinners, salads and pizzas. The garlic bread and cheese bread are listed under hot sandwiches instead of the appetizer section where they are more commonly found.

Pizzas come in a personal size (8-10 inches), a "10-inch" (10-12 inches) and a "16-inch" (16-18 inches). The personal sized cheese pizza starts at $9.50, and additional toppings range from $1 to $2 each. A 10-inch gluten-free crust is also available for a $2 upcharge.

I enjoyed reading the names of some of the specialty pizzas on the menu. A few actually made me laugh out loud.

There are 12 other s…

The Palermo pizza on a thin crust. Rick, however, recommends a thicker crust for this pizza.
The Palermo pizza on a thin crust. Rick, however, recommends a thicker crust for this pizza.
There was a significant amount of buzz when Palermo Villa transformed into the current Divino Wine and Dine.
There was a significant amount of buzz when Palermo Villa transformed into the current Divino Wine and Dine.
The garden pizza on thick crust.
The garden pizza on thick crust.

In search of the perfect pizza: Divino Wine and Dine

Early last year, there was quite a bit of buzz over the transformation of Palermo Villa into Divino Wine and Dine, 2315 N. Murray Ave., and equal buzz about Dean Cannestra taking over the space after closing his previous venture, Libiamo.

Cannestra grew up in a family of cooks and attended Brown Deer High School, which offered a culinary program at the time. After high school, he studied restaurant management and continued his culinary education.

In December 2012, Cannestra -- who worked for years at Palermo Villa when it was owned by his sister Kathy Mirenda -- his wife Mary Howard and his niece Tina Conley opened Divino with the goal of maintaining the quality and tradition that Palermo Villa stood for, while modernizing the space and upgrading equipment where appropriate.

Minor changes were also made to the menu, including the addition of small plates and half portions of the pasta dishes.

Divino’s entrance leads you into the bar, which features cream city brick and matching floor tiles stamped with the names of various wines. The dining room offers booth or table seating, warm colors, paintings and a large mural of wine barrels. The paintings were transferred from Libiamo.

The menu is broken down into six main sections: mezza piatta (small plate), entrees, sandwiches, pasta, pasta al forno (baked pasta) and pizza. The pasta and sauces are made from scratch.

Grilled octopus, arancini (rice balls filled with cheese and meat or spinach) and cipolla – a ciabatta bread topped with ricotta cheese, charred onions and fresh rosemary – were small plate items that caught my eye. I plan to order them on a future visit.

Pasta comes in 12 preparations, and half orders are available, allowing diners to explore more of the menu or simply enjoy a lighter meal.

Divino also offers a Friday fish fry. Diners can choose from beer-battered cod, breaded walleye or baked cod. The baked cod is served with a side of pasta, while the fried fish is served with seasoned waffle…