By Rick Rodriguez Special to Published Aug 03, 2016 at 7:15 PM

I don’t think I’ve ever written about a pizza place that was as new as Fixture Pizza Pub, which opened to the public on July 5 at 623 S. 2nd St.; but I attended their soft opening as a guest of a friend and was pleased with the food and service on that visit.

Some of the space was left empty for future use, but I walked around to explore a bit and ask questions, being the nosey blogger that I am. My friend introduced me to Jake Taylor, who co-owns Fixture with his brother Josh.

I asked my favorite question, "why pizza?" The answer was simply, "because who doesn’t love pizza?" Fair enough. I guess it’s the same reason OnMilwaukee gave me the green light on this idea for a blog.

Jake Taylor shared some of the ideas they have for the near and distant future, including in indoor bocce court. It likely won’t be regulation size for the available space, but I think it’s a better idea than putting in a video game. We have enough of those around town, don’t we?

I admired the design and décor and heard whispers that the work was done by Milwaukee’s 360 Designs, who were seated at the table behind me, so I walked over, interrupted them from the fun and relaxing time they were enjoying, and introduced myself. I put on my art and interior design expert face and asked what their inspiration was for the design. They totally bought it and actually answered my question.

They wanted to produce a classic look with a bit of industrial mixed in. The exposed brick walls and light fixtures hanging above the bar help with the industrial look, while the reclaimed wood from an old burned church and an impressive painting, by local artist Clive Promhows, combining colors that look faded with black and white images in the background help provide the classic look.

Booths and high top tables provide most of the seating and are supplemented by the stools along the bar. Speaking of the bar, there is a solid line-up of spirits, wine, craft beer and cocktails available, if you’re into that sort of thing.

As far as food goes, we did not experience a bad bite. We started with the garlic cheese bread and eggplant fries. Both were solid! The garlic bread was crisp and soft and topped with perfectly melted mozzarella cheese. The eggplant fries were very lightly dipped in batter, fried, and generously seasoned and served with a tasty marinara dipping sauce and lemon wedge.

After a bit of a wait, our pizzas arrived and were timed to allow us time to enjoy each one fresh out of the oven.

We started with a thin crust topped with sausage, mushroom, and onions, the most popular pizza ordered in Milwaukee, according to many pizzerias I’ve visited. As soon as it arrived, I smiled. The sauce was placed over the cheese, something I’ve only seen done one other time. The Taylors grew up with a similar style pizza and wanted to offer it, while making some minor adjustments to the sauce and dough recipes to make them their own.

The sauce was a nice balance of sweet and spicy, with neither being a prominent taste. If I had to pick one, I think my taste buds would lean a bit toward the sweet side. The important thing to me was that it tasted good and there was plenty of it. Some of you who have been following this blog a while know I like enough sauce on a pizza that when I bite into a slice, it leaves sauce on both sides of my mouth. This pie provided that.

Finely diced onions, fresh mushrooms, and large chunks of slightly tangy and tender Italian sausage, from Chicago’s Greco & Sons, rested on top of the sauce. The pizza was heavy from the sauce and toppings and each slice held up very well, barely flopping, if at all. The crust is made with pizza dough made from scratch in-house. Each rectangular cut slice featured an airy crust that was crisp and still strong enough to hold the toppings and sauce.

Next up was a sausage and pepperoni deep dish pizza. This time the cheese was over the sauce. The crust was at least an inch and a half thick, and the pizza was cut into pie slices. The crust didn’t have buttery texture that some Chicago style deep dishes have, but also wasn’t dry, like a few of the deep dish crusts I’ve had in town.

The pepperoni was slightly spicy, as was the sausage, and the crust was crisp with a softer, chewy center, and each slice held the heavy toppings strong. This was another solid pie, so thumbs up from me for the thin crust and the deep dish, which is pretty rare to find in the greater Milwaukee area.

In addition to pizzas, Fixture’s menu includes snacks, appetizers, charbroiled oysters, soups, salads, sandwiches, and pasta. I’m definitely intrigued by the charbroiled oysters and hope to visit soon to try them.

Pizzas are available in thin crust and deep dish. Thin crust sizes include 10, 12, 14, and 16 inches ranging from $8 to $16 for a cheese pizza. Fixture also offers a 12 inch gluten-free thin crust for $16. The deep dish is available in 6, 12, and 14 inches ranging from $7 to $18 for a cheese pizza. Additional toppings range in price from $.50 to $2.00.

The Taylors selected the name Fixture from a list of possible options because they liked the different ways it could be used, but primarily because they want to be a "fixture" in the neighborhood. Give that a minute to sink in, if you missed it.

An example of the neighborhood affinity can be found in the names of the nine specialty pizzas, which cost $16 to $22 and are named for Walkers Point businesses, with each business providing input on the toppings.

Sabbatic is a bar across the street and is also a pizza at Fixture topped with extra red sauce, pepperoni, and cream cheese. Another bar, Walker’s Pint, has a pizza topped with ground beef, taco sauce, cheddar, diced tomato, lettuce, green onion, sour cream, and crushed tortilla. The WP (Walkers Point) Tattoo pizza is topped with pepperoni, chicken, bacon, and pineapple.

Fixture Pizza Pub makes its food from scratch, and I think the menu is small enough to minimize waste but large enough to provide an option for various tastes, cravings, and dietary restrictions. When Times Square closed a few years back, they left a void in the neighborhood for great pizza made from scratch, and I think Fixture will fill that void just fine.

Rick Rodriguez Special to
I was born and raised in Milwaukee, and I plan to stay in Milwaukee forever. I'm the oldest of three children and grew up in the Riverwest neighborhood. My family still lives in the same Riverwest house since 1971.

I graduated from Rufus King High School and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a business degree.

My true passion for Milwaukee probably started after I joined the Young Professionals of Milwaukee (now called FUEL Milwaukee) which just celebrated its one year anniversary at the time. The events that I attended, and sometimes organized, really opened my eyes to what Milwaukee had to offer, as well as its potential for the future. So for the past, present, and future FUEL Milwaukee corporate sponsors out there, that organization does produce results (editorial)!

I love all of the Milwaukee Sports teams, professional and amateur. I love the Milwaukee arts scene and all of the festivals. I love that you can find a free concert in the summer just about every day of the week. I love the various neighborhoods around the Milwaukee area and the unique characteristics that they offer. I love the people who take the time to tell us about those unique characteristics. I have to hold my breath and count to ten when someone tells me that there is nothing to do in Milwaukee. Then I prove them wrong.

Most of all, I love the Milwaukee dining scene. I love how it continues to evolve with modern dishes and new trends while the classic restaurants continue to remind us that great food doesn't have to be "fancy schmancy." However, I also love the chefs that create the "fancy schmancy" dishes and continue to challenge themselves and Milwaukee diners with dishes we've never seen before.

Our media provides attention to the new restaurants, which is great, but I don't like seeing the older great restaurants close their doors (Don Quijote, African Hut) because they've been forgotten, so I try to do my part to let Milwaukeeans know that they're still out there, too. I do that through social media, online reviews, and a dinner club I run for my friends, where we visit restaurants they haven't heard of before or try ethnic cuisine they haven't had before.

My dream is that one day I can mention a great experience in Milwaukee and not have someone respond with "have you been to Chicago?" I don't like those people very much.