I discovered Sofia’s, 7030 W. Lincoln Ave., while exploring Lincoln Avenue in West Allis. I mentioned in a prior blog that this stretch of road had its fair share of pizzerias, and I intend to visit them all eventually. I also discovered that Sofia’s was in the Entertainment Book – bonus!
Most of the history of Sofia’s can be found on their website. To summarize, the current owner, Selman "Sal" Ismaili, Sr., was a baker in Europe during his high school years. When he moved to the states, he wanted to stay in the food industry, so he started with the Pizza Chef in 1982.
In 1983, he and his wife had their first daughter, Sofia, and the restaurant name was changed. In 1986, Sofia’s was expanded to add a full bar and double the seating.
Both of Ismaili’s children went off to college and chose not to work in the restaurant business.
I had the opportunity to meet with Ismaili to learn about the information not covered on the website. He was very friendly and had a big smile while telling me about his story.
The website doesn’t tell you that Ismaili moved here from Europe in 1973. Between 1973 and 1982, he worked in machine shops and restaurants until he bought Pizza Chef in 1982, the same year he got married. Due to his passion for food, he created and developed his own recipes, via trial and error, until he was happy with the results.
Sofia’s has a cozy atmosphere. The entrance brings you into the bar area with the dining room to the left, and the staff is friendly and attentive.
The menu is pretty standard for an Italian restaurant, but also includes a fairly extensive section titled "From the Butcher" which lists various preparations of steak, veal, chicken, pork chops, and ribs.
Sofia’s also offers three to four nightly specials starting as low as $6.95. Specials include pastas, sandwiches, steaks, and a Friday Fish Fry with your choice of fried cod, baked cod, or breaded fried perch.
Sunday night’s specials include an Italian Cheese Steak Pizza. Unfortunately I didn’t visit on a Sunday so I missed that special, but I do hope to return one day to try it.
On my first visit, I ordered a thin crust pizza with sausage, mushroom, pepperoni, and green peppers.
I asked my server if the mushrooms were fresh or canned, and she told me I could choose. Naturally, I chose fresh mushrooms. I know there are some that prefer canned mushrooms, but I prefer the texture, flavor and appearance of fresh mushrooms.
Ismaili takes pride in his recipes, especially the pizza sauce. He tried several combinations of seasoning until he achieved the desired result. The sauce was thick with a bold flavor, one of the better sauces I’ve tasted.
The thin crust had a cracker-like crunch on the slices around the perimeter. The grease from the toppings had their way with the center of the crust and softened it up as expected.
Sofia’s spicy and flavorful sausage and pepperoni have been procured by the same local suppliers for over thirty years. I could really taste the fennel in the sausage, which I typically have not noticed in sausage on a pizza.
The green peppers were cut thicker than I typically find, so if you like green peppers on your pizza, you’ll like these. Personally, I prefer green peppers to be diced finely so that they provide a subtle flavor, as opposed to a dominant flavor which can take away from the sauce and other toppings.
The thick crust pizza on my second visit was hand-tossed, crispy and chewy like a New York Style crust. I was impressed that even the center slices on the 12-inch pie remained crispy.
The sauce seemed to stand out even more on this pie, perhaps because I only ordered my favorite two toppings, sausage and pepperoni.
Ismaili asked his server to bring me a bottle of garlic and chili-flavored olive oil. I poured a little over a pizza slice and loved the added flavor! I also poured some oil on my plate to dip the pizza crust in.
When I asked him where I could find the oil, he suggested the internet but also advised me to mix hot giardiniera with extra virgin olive oil and let it sit for a week to create my own version. That sounded like a great idea. I’ll get on that!
Sofia’s pizzas come on eight, 12, 14, and 16-inch crusts, and you can choose thin crust or thick crust at no extra charge. The eight inch cheese pizza starts at $5.75 and the 16-inch cheese pizza starts at $13.75.
The menu lists a pizza pricing grid for one to four toppings and all four crust sizes, while also listing additional toppings for the 16-inch pie only, such as sliced tomato, ham, shrimp, steak, and anchovies ranging from $4.00 to $7.00 each.
The vegetarian pizza is topped with cheese, mushrooms, onions, green peppers and black olives. Sofia’s Supreme pizza is topped with cheese, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, and black olives.
Sofia’s offers a private dining room that accommodates 12, but they’re also willing to make the main dining room available for larger parties.
I struggle to understand how so many Italian restaurants and pizzerias have survived for more than 30 years in this section of West Allis. Perhaps each has its own loyal customer base or perhaps they share the customers.
I only know that I will continue exploring until I’ve tried them all.
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 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.
Published Feb. 4, 2015
This month's installment of Rick's quest for the perfect pizza takes him to ... the lower level of a Best Western?
Published Jan. 7, 2015
Rick's pizza journey takes him to SALA, where he talks sauce and tries one of the best pizzas he's ever had.
Published Dec. 3, 2014
Rick's constant search for perfect pizza in Milwaukee took him to Brian's in Oak Creek, where things didn't quite go as planned.
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.