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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…

Carini's is one of the restaurants in town that serves up authentic Neapolitan style pizza
Carini's is one of the restaurants in town that serves up authentic Neapolitan style pizza

In search of the perfect pizza: Carini's La Conca D'Oro

My introduction to Carini’s La Conca D’Oro, 3468 N. Oakland Avenue, occurred a few years ago when I was in the area and saw they were open for lunch. With a lot of help from his brothers and other family members, Peter Carini opened his restaurant in 1996, renovating, updating and adding improvements over the years – including a wood burning pizza oven, imported from Naples, Italy last year.

The name La Conca D’Oro is derived from Palermo, Italy, where Carini’s father was a fisherman. When the fisherman looked toward Palermo from the sea, it looked like a golden shell, a conca d’oro.

Carini moved from Porticello, a fishing village near Palermo, to Milwaukee in 1966 because his grandfather had already been settled here. He didn’t speak any English but learned while working, initially as a paper boy and later in the kitchen of the Milwaukee Athletic Club, where he started as a dishwasher and worked his way up to executive chef after 16 years. Much of that time was spent working with immigrant German cooks and chefs, crediting them with much of what he learned about cooking.

After working as executive chef from 1975 to '84, he left to work at Zorba’s in Brookfield and Nico’s in Franklin until he decided to open his own restaurant, which he currently co-owns with his wife Janice. She runs the front of the house and keeps the books.

A friend suggested that Carini consider adding pizza to the menu because it provided better margins, but Carini wanted his pizza to be authentic and separate the restaurant from the other pizzerias in the area. When he purchased the wood burning oven, he called his son, Gregg, to share the news. Gregg was working in Nashville at the time with a couple of gentlemen from Naples, Italy – not Florida.

Gregg Carini went to work studying Neapolitan pizzas and looking into the VPN (Verace Pizza Napoletana, or "True Neapolitan Pizza") certification process. Gregg Carini attended the culinary program at MATC and worked at th…