I‚Äôve driven past Pietro‚Äôs dozens of times and never really noticed it. One of my friends¬†suggested that I pay a visit, and I‚Äôm glad she did.
The story of Pietro‚Äôs, 2912 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., starts with Filippo Tarantino who worked as a baker in Sicily and¬†moved to the United States in 1959. He found his way to Milwaukee and worked for¬†Grebe‚Äôs Bakery until 1973 when he accumulated enough savings to open Pietro‚Äôs Pizza,¬†named after one of his sons.
Pietro Tarantino owns the business now, which is still very much a family operation. I¬†was told Pietro‚Äôs son is involved in the business and Pietro‚Äôs nephew, Fabio Tarantino,¬†took my order and made all of the pizzas on my visit. He also filled me in on the history¬†of the pizzeria.
After I placed my order, I sat at a small table in the large lobby. The table held a¬†cookbook and a basket of Dum Dum lollipops. I grabbed a watermelon sucker for dessert.
A whiteboard next to the take-out window listed the specials for the night. A 16-inch, one-topping pizza for $9.99, two lasagna dinners with salad and garlic bread for¬†$14.95, and choice of two sandwiches from meatball, Italian sausage, and a hot submarine¬†with fries for $11.95. The last two specials are available every night.
Other specials feature an 18-inch, two-topping pizza, onion rings and garlic bread¬†with cheese for $22.99 on Wednesdays, two chicken dinners with fries, side salad and¬†garlic bread for $13.99 on Thursdays, and one 16-inch, one-topping pizza with an¬†order of jumbo wings for $17.99 on Sundays.
Also in the lobby were a soda machine, a large freezer, a flat-screen TV and¬†several large, framed photos leaning against a wall, including an autographed photo of a young Cindy Crawford. I would put that one up on a wall.
I reviewed the rest of the menu, which listed a lengthy list of appetizers and shorter lists¬†of dinners, pasta, and sandwiches.
Dinners include chicken, shrimp, cod, and Chicken Cacciatora, all for less than $9.¬†Pasta dishes included lasagna or your choice of spaghetti or mostaccioli with meatballs,¬†Italian sausage, mushroom sauce or butter also less than $9.¬†
The pizzas are made to 12-, 14-, 16- and 18-inch crusts. Cheese pizzas range from $7.50¬†to $14.55 with additional toppings ranging from $1.35 to $2.45.¬†Pietro‚Äôs pizza crusts are a traditional hand-tossed crust, but the menu lists options for an¬†"extra thick" crust for an upcharge of $1.45 to $3.25 and a Double Decker pizza from¬†$4.25 to $7.25.
The Double Decker was described to me as one pizza on top of another. I had to see this,¬†so I ordered one with sausage, pepperoni, and mushrooms.¬†I was expecting to see layers, a crust topped with sauce, cheese and toppings, then¬†another crust, cheese and toppings. What I received was a very thick hand-tossed crust,¬†likely two full crusts stacked on one another, but then one layer of sauce, sausage, cheese,¬†pepperoni and mushrooms.
I liked it, but the cheese, sauce and toppings to crust ratio was too low around the edge of¬†the pizza. When a round pizza is cut into square slices, the "corner" slices are triangular.
These slices were pretty much just pizza crust. I think one of the four corner slices had a¬†pepperoni slice.
The other perimeter slices were topped a little more and the center slices were perfectly¬†topped, as expected.
I would recommend cutting the Double Decker into large triangular slices rather than¬†squares, so that each slice has more toppings.
The pizza sauce stood out more than anything for me. I loved it! It was on the spicy side¬†and provided a bold and delicious flavor. Pietro‚Äôs adds their special spice recipe to a¬†canned base and creates one of the better sauces I‚Äôve tasted.
The sausage chunks and pepperoni were somewhat spicy and flavorful, and the¬†mushrooms on Pietro‚Äôs pizzas are fresh, not canned.
The other pizza was a thin crust topped with ham and pineapple. The sauce and cheese¬†reached the edges better on this crust, so the square slices worked out well. The pineapple¬†was sweet and the ham was tender and delicious.
The crust was really crisp along the perimeter and then a little softer toward the center.¬†The spicy sauce provided a flavorful contrast to the sweetness of the pineapple. My¬†friend and I enjoyed this pizza a little more than the other due primarily to the topping to¬†crust ratio.
Pietro‚Äôs lists a few specialty pizzas on the menu. Pietro‚Äôs Special is topped with cheese,¬†sausage, mushroom and onion. The Super Special adds pepperoni, black olives and¬†green peppers.
There is also a veggie pizza with cheese, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, and sliced¬†tomatoes.
A customer was picking up a Super Special on the traditional hand-tossed crust minus¬†the pepperoni, so I was able to get a couple of photos for your viewing pleasure. You‚Äôre¬†welcome.
I try to visit the pizzerias on traditionally slow nights, hoping I may get a chance to chat¬†with the owner. Some have no slow nights.
Fabio Tarantino was hustling when I visited,¬†taking phone orders, making pizzas and working the register until help arrived.¬†All the while, he maintained a friendly demeanor and a smile on his face. He seemed to¬†love what he did and took pride in it. Pietro‚Äôs will be added to my future visit list.
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