As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in Riverwest, and my parents always ordered pizza from two pizzerias within a block of our house. I never knew Lisa’s Fine Foods, 2961 N. Oakland Ave., existed until I got to high school.
Joseph Bongiorno opened Lisa’s in 1960. It continues to be owned and operated by the Bongiorno family led by Joseph’s son, Gary Bongiorno, Sr., who has been in the family business for the past 50 years!
Lisa’s is located a few buildings south of Linnwood Avenue, so it blends in as a white multi-story home with a storefront. It might be missed by those who don’t know of its reputation for delicious thin crust pizza. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be an issue on the East Side.
I can’t remember the first time I experienced Lisa’s pizza, but I never forgot it.
Visitors will have a few stairs to navigate before entering the open dining room. During the early dining hours, the light coming in from the large picture windows almost prevents the need for indoor lighting.
The walls are painted in shades of maroon and beige. Dark-colored wooden beams add to the warm feel of the dining room, and antique clocks and lamps are displayed on a wooden shelf surrounding the room.
Between the arriving diners and the constant phone ringing for carry-out orders, the two servers on duty hustled to keep up yet maintained a friendly and welcoming demeanor.
The menu features items you’d expect at an Italian restaurant and a few that you might not expect, such as southern fried chicken, ribs and cod or perch fish dinners.
Appetizers, sandwiches, and Italian dinners fill the rest of the menu. Spiedini is an item I don’t come across very often on Italian menus. Lisa’s spiedini is stuffed eye of round rolled with a special Italian seasoning blend and bread crumbs and served with fries and a side of pasta.
You’ll also find spumoni and cannoli included in the dessert section, and those who enjoy a drink with dinner will find a selection of wine and beer available to them.
After surveying the menu for a few minutes, I was ready to order. "One Super, please."
The Super is one of four specialty pizzas listed on the menu. It includes sausage, mushrooms, pepperoni and green peppers.
The other specialty pizzas include the Special with sausage and mushrooms, the Veggie with mushrooms, green peppers and black olives, and the Super Deluxe with sausage, mushroom, pepperoni, green peppers, onions and black olives.
Pizzas come in three sizes, a 12-inch small, a 14-inch large, and a 16-inch extra large. The 12-inch cheese pizza starts at $11.25. Additional toppings range from $.75 to $3.50 depending on the size of the pizza and topping selected, of course.
Pizza sauce lovers can also order extra sauce starting at $.50, and crust lovers can order thick crust, which is essentially a double crust.
By the way, if you go to their website, you’ll find a $2-off coupon for the large and extra large pizza.
When my pizza arrived, I thought it was a thing of beauty. It reminded me a little of the pizzas that I grew up with.
The crust was thin and had a bit of a charred look on parts of the edges. It sure looked like it would be crispy. The diced green peppers and pepperoni provided a nice color contrast to the sausage and mushrooms. I was in my happy place.
As I suspected, my first bite had a nice crunch to it. Not exactly like a cracker, but satisfying nonetheless. The crust did get a little softer toward the center as is common when the grease from the meat toppings concentrate there, but I didn’t mind.
The large chunks of Italian sausage were spicy, but not too spicy. They added a great flavor to the pie. Bongiorno told me that Lisa’s grinds its own meat and makes the Italian sausage in house. I’m definitely a fan. Lisa’s also uses fresh mushrooms which provided another bonus.
The pepperoni slices were a little smaller than average but also provided a delicious and somewhat spicy flavor. I’m still searching for the small pepperoni slices that curl up into "bowls" when they cook and have slightly crispy edges. Anyone? Bueller?
Lisa’s pizza sauce is neither sweet nor spicy, in my opinion, but did have a good flavor to it and was applied heavy enough for me to taste it, but I think I’ll order extra sauce when I visit again.
I didn’t get a chance to ask Bongiorno what the plan was to keep Lisa’s open when he retires some day. It didn’t sound like a third-generation family member was heavily involved with the restaurant, but I could be wrong.
Either way, I’ll have to make it a point to visit again soon. If you like thin crust pizza, then you should visit soon, too. Lisa’s pizza is on my list of favorites and probably will be for as long as it’s open.
For those who are wondering who Lisa is, Joseph Bongiorno wanted to keep the name of his restaurant short and sweet, so he selected the name of one of Gary’s cousins, who currently resides in California.
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. 5, 2014
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.
Published Oct. 1, 2014
I googled Magellan's upon getting a recommendation 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.
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 May 7, 2014
This month, Rick Rodriguez's endless pursuit for the perfect pizza took him to Crossroads II, home of pizza, subs and ... hot ham and rolls?
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.