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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, July 25, 2014

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Frank Ebert opened Big Ebe's Pizza 35 years ago.
Frank Ebert opened Big Ebe's Pizza 35 years ago. (Photo: Rick Rodriguez)
Black olives usually ruin a pizza for me, but Big Ebe's sauce was just strong enough.
Black olives usually ruin a pizza for me, but Big Ebe's sauce was just strong enough. (Photo: Rick Rodriguez)
Sausage, pepperoni and mushrooms on thin crust pizza.
Sausage, pepperoni and mushrooms on thin crust pizza. (Photo: Rick Rodriguez)
The meat thin crust.
The meat thin crust. (Photo: Rick Rodriguez)

In search of the perfect pizza: Big Ebe's

In 1978 Frank Ebert, aka "Big Ebe," grew tired of the construction business and decided to get into the restaurant business. He opened Big Ebe’s Pizza, 9125 W. Lincoln Ave., and 35 years later, business is still going strong.

The recipes remain the same as established by Ebert, but the business is now owned and operated by his son Mike and Mike’s daughter Rachel.

Big Ebe’s Pizza seems to be very popular. I visited on a Saturday night and a Sunday afternoon, and the delivery guys and kitchen staff were busy both times.

The waiting area featured a bench, which I appreciated. The walls were covered with dark paneling and an old menu board. The take-out window was large and faced the massive pizza ovens.

Pizza and broasted chicken are the most popular items on the menu, which also includes baked pasta, seafood, ribs, salads, sandwiches and appetizers such as cheese or apple-filled Bosco Sticks.

The pizza is available on 8, 11, 14 or 16-inch crusts. An 8-inch cheese pizza starts at $4.90 with additional toppings ranging from $.60 to $1.25. The 16-inch cheese pizza starts at $15.75 with additional toppings ranging from $2.00 to $2.50.

Pizza crusts are thin, but a deep dish crust is available for a small up-charge. The deep dish is really more of a double crust. It isn’t baked in a pan with smooth edges, as is typically the case with a deep dish crust.

The pricing grid listed variations of cheese and a topping or two, but you can obviously build your own pie. Some of the special toppings available included shrimp, jalapeno, Canadian bacon and anchovies.

I keep telling myself that I should try anchovies some day. I almost tried them on one of the 8-inch pizzas, but I chickened out. I’ll step up to the challenge and try them eventually. Some people love the flavor and describe it as salty and fishy.

I read somewhere that a pizza maker wears gloves when he puts anchovies on a pizza to prevent the next four or five pizzas he makes from tasting like anchovies…

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The second and current location of Maria's Pizza.
The second and current location of Maria's Pizza.
Large sausage and pepperoni pizza.
Large sausage and pepperoni pizza.
Large supreme pizza.
Large supreme pizza.

In search of the perfect pizza: Maria's Pizza

I used to live in Greenfield, and during rush hour or major construction I would take Forest Home Avenue to and from the East Side. I’ve driven past Maria’s Pizza, 5025 W. Forest Home Ave., dozens of times but never made it in.

It wasn’t until the past couple of years that I’ve heard people raving about their pizza, and started feeling embarrassed that I haven’t been there. It feels good to cross it off my list and stop feeling ashamed when people ask me if I’ve been to Maria’s.

You can find the history of Maria’s Pizza on the menu. It begins in 1957 when Maria Traxel bought an old building on 7th and Greenfield and opened Maria’s Pizza with her three children, Ronnie, Mickey and Bonnie.

I didn’t know this, but the story states that back then, pizza was not that well-known in Milwaukee. I can’t imagine living without pizza. What would be the point?

As the story goes, Maria painted the inside walls red and covered the cracks in the walls with religious paint-by-number pictures painted by the family – very resourceful.

The second, and current, location was opened in June 1971. The family covered both locations with Maria staying at the 7th and Greenfield location until she passed away Jan. 9, 1993.

Her wish was for the 7th and Greenfield store to be closed and for the family to work together again at the 50th and Forest Home location.

Today, Maria’s Pizza is owned and operated by Maria’s daughter Bonnie Crivello and Maria’s two granddaughters, Maria Story and Mickey Story, named after Maria and Maria’s daughter Mickey.

The building has an old look and feel to it, both inside and out. The ceiling is painted red and the walls are covered in wood panelling, religious pictures, and holiday decorations. In this case Valentine’s Day decorations adorned the walls and hung from the ceiling.

The main floor is essentially split in two. As you enter, the dining room is on the left and small, but tables are arranged to allow seating for …

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Le Cakery may have the sound of a French bakery, but it has the culinary chops of an Italian pizzeria.
Le Cakery may have the sound of a French bakery, but it has the culinary chops of an Italian pizzeria. (Photo: Rick Rodriguez)
The seafood pizza.
The seafood pizza. (Photo: Rick Rodriguez)
The Carnivore.
The Carnivore. (Photo: Rick Rodriguez)

In search of the perfect pizza: Le Cakery Cafe & Pizzeria

Le Cakery? That sounds like the name of a bakery. Well, it is, but it’s also a café with a unique menu.

Owner Hakan Hare bought Le Cakery, 13320 Watertown Plank Rd., four-and-a-half years ago when it was exclusively a bakery and coffee shop. He and his kitchen staff developed a café menu soon after the acquisition and two years ago they added pizzas, which have become really popular among their customers.

Hare studied Hotel and Tourism in Turkey from 1988 to 1991. His career started on a cruise ship where he made some contacts that led to an opportunity in Milwaukee. After several years of managing restaurants in Milwaukee and Chicago, he felt he was ready to become a business owner.

Le Cakery opens for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and features a breakfast panini, quiche, a breakfast pizza baked with egg, parmesan, rosemary and choice of prosciutto, bacon or pesto chicken and even a Turkish breakfast with two warm Pogca served with tomato and olive salad and yogurt topped with honey.

What is a Pogca (pronounced POE-cha)? I could make you go find out for yourself, but I think you’ll want to try one after I tell you anyway. Pogca’s are fresh baked brioche rolls stuffed with feta cheese and parsley.

The lunch and dinner menu includes appetizers such as a fig and olive tapenade and a bruschetta topped with roasted red pepper and feta, as well as homemade soups, salads, paninis, sandwiches and pizzas.

One of the popular lunch items is a 6-inch personal pizza with a small house or Caesar salad for only $8.00.

The pizzas come in two sizes, 10 and 14 inches, both served on Le Cakery’s house-made, hand-tossed parmesan crust.

Specialty pizzas start at $13.00 and include the Chicken Artichoke topped with chicken, artichoke hearts and spinach on a creamy parmesan sauce and the Mediterranean topped with roasted garlic, caramelized onions, figs and arugula.

You can also build your own pizza with up to three toppings. The 10-inch is $13.00 and the 14-inch is $17.00.

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Tanino's uses homemade sauce with Roma and San Marzano tomatoes.
Tanino's uses homemade sauce with Roma and San Marzano tomatoes.

In search of the perfect pizza: Tanino's

I used to live in Greenfield. That was when I first discovered Tanino’s, 3525 S. 76th St., but I haven’t been there in years.

The story of how Tanino’s came to be is a great example of why I write these blogs. I mean, besides the fact that I love pizza – a lot!

Frank Laffranchini immigrated to New York from Italy in 1973. He knew very little, if any, English. He wanted to find work, so he applied at a pizzeria where they spoke Italian.

After several years learning the pizza and restaurant business, he had an opportunity to move to Milwaukee or Houston to help open a restaurant for a friend that had restaurants scattered across the U.S.

After living in New York, he felt most comfortable with Milwaukee, so the move was on. The pizzeria was located at the Capitol Court mall area and 12 years ago, he moved to the current location on South 76th Street.

Frank co-owns Tanino’s with his wife Janine and his brother John, who also moved to Milwaukee from New York.

When I arrived at Tanino’s, I noticed two entrances, one for carry-out orders and one for the bar and dining room. I entered through the carry-out door to place my order, but was able to enter the bar and dining area through a connecting doorway.

The bar had an "old-school" 1970s vibe to it which I liked in this setting. The lights were dim and the walls were covered in dark panels. The bartender wore a vest and a tie like a real pro.

The dining room had the feel of an old supper club, also featuring dark wood work on the tables, chairs, and lower half of the walls. The upper half of the walls had a lighter beige color with wallpaper in some areas and paint in others.

The carry-out area was a long rectangular room. A Miller Lite sign hung next to the take- out window with the menu and business licenses posted along side.

I placed my order with a young man who told me he started working three weeks ago as one of the delivery drivers.

I chose the Meat Lovers Deluxe on thin crust and an order of …

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