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 years at the New Berlin location, Mike Falk partnered with Lenny Vandenboom to acquire the butcher shop in Franklin in 1999 and convert it into a second Crossroads II location.
Vandenboom remains the sole owner of the New Berlin location, while he and Falk co-own the Franklin location. The same menu and recipes are used at both locations.
Other similarities between the New Berlin and Franklin locations include a cobblestone exterior, large coolers keeping beer and soda cold, and both locations offer carry-out and delivery. Only the Franklin location provides a couple of tables in its much larger lobby for dining in. Neither location accepts credit cards. Cash or check are the accepted payment options, and both locations have an ATM for customer convenience.
Aside from hot ham and rolls, the Crossroads II menu includes 3-, 6-, and 12-inch subs, salads, appetizers, a chicken or baked cod dinner, and pizza.
Pizzas are available in 10-, 12-, 14-, and 16-inch crust sizes. Cheese pizzas range from $6.59 to $12.99 with toppings ranging from $.75 to $1.75 each. Gluten free pizzas are also available on an 11-inch crust for $7.99 plus $1.25 per topping.
Specialty pizzas are available on 12-, 14-, or 16-inch crusts ranging from $11.89 to $21.75 and include chicken ranch, buffalo chicken, BBQ chicken, veggie, Hawaiian, and a taco pizza.
While the gluten free crust is purchased from a distributor, the other pizza crusts are made in house from fresh dough.
Crossroads II offers two pizza crusts: thin and hand-tossed. My friend and I decided on a sausage, pepperoni and fresh mushroom pizza on thin crust, as well as a taco pizza on the hand-tossed house crust.
The thin crust pizza arrived first. Cut into squares, the generous amount of cheese was moved around a bit, making the pizza look a little messier to eat than it actually turned out to be. The crust was crispy around the perimeter with a cracker crunch and had the charred look that I like to see on the edge of a thin crust.
The rest of the crust was not charred. It was baked perfectly, although it may be worth experimenting with longer baking times so that the center of the crust doesn’t get too soft from the grease of the sausage and pepperoni. This is common with very thin crusts, but a few pizzerias have found a way to maintain the integrity of the crust’s center.
I picked off the toppings individually, as I always do, to taste them and feel their texture. The pepperoni was crisp and mild with a slightly salty, savory flavor. I enjoyed it, but I prefer spicy pepperoni on my pizza.
The chunks of Italian sausage on this pie were among the largest I’ve seen on a pizza. They were very generously applied and delicious, with a tender, juicy texture and slightly spicy flavor. The sausage recipe was provided to Prize Steak Products in Milwaukee and made for Crossroads per their specifications.
Customers can choose from canned or fresh mushrooms. Fresh mushrooms are always my preference. Sometimes mushrooms have a flavor that overpowers the meat toppings. Here the fresh mushrooms allow the sausage and pepperoni to be the stars, while complementing them nicely.
There was a very subtle kick to the sauce, which starts from a can as most do, but then receives Romano cheese and Crossroads II’s spice blend. The sauce was a bit on the thicker side, likely from the cheese and since they start with sauce as opposed to a paste.
Next up was the taco pizza. The first thing we noticed was the large mound of fresh shredded lettuce covering almost the entire pizza.
We searched for the best place to pick up the slices by lifting from the bottom and pulling the pie cut slices apart. The slices were large and heavy from the generous amounts of toppings, so I used a knife and fork to start before getting the slice to a manageable size.
The crust was crisp and slightly chewy. Each slice was strong enough to hold the toppings without flopping over.
The sauce was flavorful with a slight kick to it from the taco seasoning added to it. Layers of cheese, seasoned ground beef, corn chips, diced tomatoes, onions and black olives are added before the pie is baked. The crisp shredded lettuce is piled on just before serving.
A little salty, a little sweet, a little spicy, a little crunchy, a little chewy and a lot of flavor. I was impressed and will place this taco pizza as my second favorite behind Ricardo’s and Ricardo’s Riverfront taco pizza.
I suggested they apply the tomatoes and black olives on top of the lettuce for a better presentation. That would mean adding them last instead of baking them with the other toppings, but I think it would work well for them.
Crossroads II lived up to the expectations I had based on what I read in online reviews, which isn’t always the case. If you live in or near the southwest suburbs and haven’t tried pizza from Crossroads II yet, I recommend that you do.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Rick Rodriguez
Published Sept. 3, 2014
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.
Published Aug. 6, 2014
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 pizza was good enough - and the name was catchy enough - for me to remember them both all of these years later.
Published July 2, 2014
Rick's quest for the perfect pizza brings him to Capri di Nuovo, the revamped and renovated rendition of a recently closed popular West Allis Italian restaurant.
Published June 4, 2014
Rick's search for the city's finest pizza offerings takes him over to Mario's Italian Grill, a remodeled George Webb's near the airport.
Published April 2, 2014
I've been hearing about Tenuta's, 2995 S. Clement Ave., in Bay View from a few friends over the past few years, so I thought I'd finally pay a visit.
Published March 5, 2014
Palermo's updated its cafe at Pizzeria 3301 with a wood-burning oven made in Italy using ashes from Mount Vesuvius and by sending its executive chef to Washington to become a certified pizzaiolo. But does the pizza live up to these lofty measures?
Published Feb. 5, 2014
Maybe I should have started with the Caradaro Club, but better late than never.
Published Jan. 1, 2014
Nine years ago, an office discussion turned to favorite pizzas, and a co-worker announced that his favorite pizza was Lalli's Pizza, 8826 W. North Ave. A couple of weeks later, I tried Lalli's pizza, and I really liked it. I recently visited Lalli's Pizza again, and I enjoyed the pizza as much as I did on my first visit, which speaks to their consistency.
Published Dec. 4, 2013
In my last job, I spent some time on Milwaukee's Northwest Side and drove past a few businesses that looked to have some history. One of them was Mama's Pizza and Italian Cuisine.
Published Nov. 27, 2013
When I started writing these blogs, my focus was on finding family owned and operated pizzerias, using recipes passed down over multiple generations. Pulo's Pizza certainly fits that mold.