Maggio’s Wood Fired Pizza, 7212 W. North Ave., is heating up its ovens. In fact, the new East Tosa counter service pizza spot will officially open its doors to the public at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8, just a day ahead of National Pizza Day.
Behind the concept is Jeremy Maggio, a University of Wisconsin graduate who began experimenting with making pizza after falling in love with Neapolitan pies he ate during a trip to Italy in 2008.
What began as a curiosity soon became an obsession. By 2015 he'd built a pizza trailer and launched a side business catering wood-fired pizzas with his wife Emily. They sold the trailer in 2017 when they decided to make a cross-country move to Seattle. But Maggio says he continued to hone his skills.
“I never stopped making pizzas,” he says. “In fact, I made Emily promise me that if we ever moved back to Milwaukee that she would support me in opening a restaurant.”
She followed through with her promise. When the Maggios moved back to the Cream City in November of 2021, they wasted little time. With the help of a real estate broker, Maggio found and secured the former Bowl & Bun space, which he began renovating in September of 2022.
Maggio will run the restaurant with the help of co-owner and general manager Andy Fries, a friend and fellow Arrowhead High School graduate who has spent the past 15 years working in and managing restaurants.
“When Jeremy approached me to partner with him for the restaurant, I asked him a ton of questions,” notes Fries. “He had good answers to all of them, including the most important one. When I asked him what the most important thing about the restaurant would be, he answered: ‘The quality of the pizza.’”
Take a peek
Step into Maggio’s and you’ll find a bright, sleek space designed with the help of Maggio’s sister, Corine, owner of well-regarded CM Natural Designs.
Large front windows and simple lines come together in a space that merges a modern industrial look with classic European elements like geometric floor tiles and vintage hairpin chairs which Jeremy Maggio painstakingly collected and refurbished.
An open kitchen features marble-look countertops on blue wooden bases built by Maggio and Fries, along with a wood-fired oven which Maggio built and decorated with the tops of tomato cans he saved from his two years of catering.
Maggio is also in the process of building a miniature replica of the full-sized oven, which will be part of a children’s play area located in the southwestern corner of the restaurant.
Meanwhile, walls in the dining area pay homage to the Maggio family through photographs and art, including a photograph of Jeremy’s Nonno Stefano who came to the U.S. from Sicily in 1954. Among the things he brought with him to the U.S. was a love for gardening and an avid appreciation for fig trees, which he grew in barrels, taking care to roll them into the garage each winter to ensure their survival.
You’ll also find an homage to Nonno in the Maggio’s logo and branding, which incorporates the image of a fig leaf, along with a beautiful ficus tree (a non-fruiting plant in the fig family) in the corner of the restaurant which serves as a reminder of both Nonno and the country that inspired Maggio’s passion.
On the menu
“I’m not a chef, but I love to cook,” says Maggio. “And I’ve made over 100 kinds of pizza leading up to this. What’s on the menu right now are the things I’ve worked really hard on over time.”
That includes a menu of well-priced starters, priced in the $8-12 range. Offerings include housemade garlic bites (bread knots with garlic butter and parsley); meatballs with house tomato sauce and romano cheese; cheese bread; pastina (Italian chicken soup); Pecorino Toscano cheese served with a drizzle of honey.
The Pecorino Toscano is inspired by a dish Maggio experienced in Italy during a wine tasting. “It was so simple and delicious,” he says. “It blew me away.”
Maggio’s also features fresh whole navel oranges (a favorite of Nonno Stefano; look for the photo on the wall that shows his recommended way of peeling an orange).
There are also house salads, including Caesar and caprese, along with a meatball sandwich (meatballs, tomato sauce, mozzarella and romano cheese) or eggplant sandwich (eggplant, tomato sauce, mozzarella and romano cheese). Both sandwiches feature housemade bread made to order in the wood-fired oven.
And yes, there are housemade pizzas made in Maggio’s wood-fired oven (priced $11-$15).
Each 10” pie is baked to order and includes choices like a classic Margherita (house tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, evoo and fresh basil); The Good Land (house tomato sauce, mozzarella, sausage, mushrooms, onions and evoo); Carbonara (mozzarella, pancetta, soft-baked egg, black pepper, evoo and romano cheese); and jerk chicken (house-made dairy free ranch, house-marinated jerk chicken, mozzarella, onion, jalapeno, pineapple, green pepper and cilantro).
Additional choices include the Spicy Italian (house tomato sauce, mozzarella pepperoni, Calabrian peppers and honey); Fig & Prosciutto (house tomato sauce, mozzarella, fig spread, proscuitto and arugula); Raclette (potatoes, locally made Raclette, roasted garlic creme fraiche, green onion, evoo); or the Veggie (house tomato sauce, mozzarella, onion, black olives, green peppers and mushrooms.
Guests can also choose to build their own pizza. Each custom pie comes with a base of house tomato sauce and mozzarella with a limit of up to three additional toppings.
On the beverage side, Maggio’s features espresso, cappuccino, coffee and soda along with a shortlist of domestic and craft brews, including selections from Gathering Place (and eventually Vennture Brew Co.), plus a small selection of red, white, rose and sparkling wines.
As for sweets, Maggio’s offers four flavors of gelato: vanilla, chocolate, pistachio and strawberry, along with affogatos (espresso poured over guest’s choice of gelato).
Maggio says he’s been truly fortunate to have been able to open his own restaurant, largely thanks to the the support of his wife, Emily, his family and friends like Fries.
“I’ve been dreaming about this for almost a decade,” he says. “It’s been a ton of work, but I’m so excited to share my pizza with everyone.”
Beginning Wednesday, Feb. 8, Maggio’s will be open seven days a week with hours Monday through Thursday 4 to 9 p.m., Friday from 4 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.