For the sixth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Concordia University. 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 2012."
I remember house-sitting for an aunt in St. Francis around 20 years ago. I ordered pizza from a location on Howell Avenue. I enjoyed it very much and vowed to return some day. I thought it was Pepi's Pizza, 3929 S. Howell Ave., but I learned that Pepi's has only been in this location for about five to six years.
I've driven past many times over the years thinking, "Wow! That's great that they're still in business," but the reality is "Wow, I have a bad memory." I clearly don't remember who I ordered pizza from all those years ago. It's OK. I'm over it.
Anyway, I own one of those Entertainment Books that expires next week, so I thought this would be a good time to start using it. Yup, I'm that guy. Maybe you can relate.
As I paged through the pseudo pizzeria section, I noticed Pepi's Pizza had a coupon in there. It seemed like as good a time as any to try them out. I placed my order by phone and was on my way.
Pepi's Pizza was actually on South 16th Street (near Scott Street) for over 50 years before a fire forced it to close and move to the current location. It was family-owned and eventually sold to a friend of the family. Current owner Ricky Maine bought the business almost two years ago from that owner.
The lobby at Pepi's Pizza features a long windowsill that doubles as a bench for you to sit on while you wait. Menu boards are on the walls to the right of the pick-up window. As I peered through, I noticed their kitchen was huge! They must push a lot of food through here.
Besides pizza, the menu includes appetizers, lasagna and buckets of ribs, fish, shrimp and chicken. The kitchen also serves to help them produce their own pizza dough and bread.
In fact, one of the cooks told me they sell their bread to other businesses. It's a good thing I added a little garlic bread to my order.
The garlic bread was pretty good. You could tell from the texture of the bread that it was homemade. The bread was crispy with a soft center. However, I thought $3.75 was a bit high for six small slices. Most orders this size are typically $2.95 or less.
The pizzas are made with a very thin crispy crust, which I prefer (as you know if you've been following my blogs). You can order a double crust, but I think it would still be a thin crust.
Pizza sizes are 10, 14 and 16 inches. A 10-inch cheese pizza is $8.50 with $1 per topping. The 10-inch double-crust cheese pizza is $10.
My sausage and pepperoni pizza was good. I'm not really a fan of cornmeal on my pizza crusts, but the dusting seemed to help add to the crisp texture. I did like how the entire pizza was covered with cheese. Wide areas of neglected crust make me sad.
Pepi's Pizza also makes its own sauce, but there wasn't much sauce on the pizza, just enough to complement the cheese and toppings. I prefer a little more sauce on my pizzas, so I can really savor it. From what I could taste, I think this sauce is a good one.
What stood out the most for me was the flavor of the sausage. I was told that this sausage recipe is made especially for Pepi's Pizza; at least they were pretty sure the sausage was exclusive to them.
I thought the combination of seasoning in the sausage was unique. The chunks of sausage were a little spicy and had a very bold flavor that stayed on my taste buds for several seconds after finishing each slice. They just didn't want to let go, I guess.
The cook also told me that Maine would like to expand the business even more some day, such as moving to a location where Pepi's could be a restaurant complete with a dining room and a bar. Maine wants to stay very close to their current location, however.
He must appreciate the support Pepi's Pizza has received from the neighborhood and other loyal customers over the years. With recipes passed down over the course of 50-plus years in business, I'll bet the customers appreciate Pepi's Pizza, too.
Rick you need to get out more. I've been to Pepi's twice. Both times with a coupon and both times the pizza was sub-par.
Interestingly, both times as I sat waiting for my food, I saw a stream of people coming in - - every single person had a coupon. To me, that's very telling. If the only way to get people through your door is with a coupon, that says people aren't back because the offerings are so good that they're willing to pay full price.
I wouldn't go back - even with a coupon. For better southside pizza, try Tenuta's in Bay View or Transfer on Mitchell off of KK. Egad! Even Ned's on 27th is better than Pepi's!
2 comments about 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 Nov. 4, 2015
Rick Rodriguez discovered Matteo's Italian Ristorante after seeing it in his entertainment book, so he drove to Waukesha to check out this classic spot, which serves up pizza along with numerous other specials.
Published Oct. 25, 2015
Rick Rodriguez spills the beans on his top picks for Milwaukee pizza.
Published Oct. 7, 2015
Rick Rodriguez has been waiting to go to this Sheboygan Neopolitan pizza spot for 10 years.
Published Sept. 2, 2015
Zarletti Downtown is one of Rick Rodriguez's favorite restaurants, so when a new location opened in Mequon - and featured Neapolitan style pizza - he put it on his list to visit.
Published Aug. 5, 2015
Rick Rodriguez visits Coach's Pub & Grill, where he samples their pepperoni and cowboy pizzas.
Published July 1, 2015
Rick Rodridguez first learned about Paisano's in South Milwaukee from a Google search for South Side pizzerias, but recently a co-worker recommended them, so he decided to pay a visit.
Published June 3, 2015
Rick Rodriguez's constant search for Milwaukee's best pizza takes him to West Allis, where he samples some slices at Bari Pizzeria.
Published May 6, 2015
Mangia Wine Bar received a major remodel a little over a year ago and features a wood burning pizza oven behind the bar, where patrons can enjoy a glass of wine or cocktail while pasta and pizza dough are being made just a few feet away. The combination of Executive Chef Jason Gorman and a wood burning pizza oven warranted a drive south to Kenosha for pizza.
Published April 2, 2015
Bay View has become a popular part of town to eat and drink over the past few years. It's also a place where one can find a pizzeria in the back of a small tavern with a completely different name and a completely different owner. Such is the case with Vinchi's Pizza, which has been located inside The Bubbler at 3158 S. Howell Ave. for the past three years.
Published March 4, 2015
My first experience with Cranky Al's, 6901 W. North Ave., was during the Chili'n on the Ave event in Wauwatosa a few years back. Since then, I've been hearing about their pizza and their doughnuts - the crullers in particular.