By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jun 07, 2008 at 5:30 AM

While visiting history buffs have long been able to learn about Milwaukee via guided tours, Theresa Nemetz now offers the same peek into Brew City to food-loving tourists.

Nemetz -- who works in Marquette University's alumni office and is also the passion and organization behind Milwaukee's Mini Cooper Car Club -- recently launched the first Milwaukee Food Tour.

The 2.5-hour walking tour starts at Zaffiro's Pizza on Farwell Avenue and ends at Mader's Restaurant on Old World 3rd Street, taking in the Brady Street neighborhood and the treats near Mader's.

Although she had planned to begin offering the tours in June, advance buzz was so good that she launched on May 10 instead. Nemetz currently offers tours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

"I've had a passion for food, passion and Milwaukee," says Nemetz. "I love Milwaukee. For a couple years I've done this just with friends, where someone would have someone coming into town and they'd ask if I'd join them for the day and taken them to a couple places to show off the city.

Then, when friends had employers or clients come to town, they'd ask me to do the same thing. So, I realized that this is a passion, this is something I really enjoy doing and people really see me as being able to do this as a guide."

That Nemetz's first walking tour is heavily focused on Brady Street is no coincidence, she admits.

"I chose this area because I'm Sicilian and my great-grandparents emigrated from Sicily and they settled in this area," says Nemetz. "I grew up in the Riverwest area. I've gone to all these places on Brady Street since I was an infant. So for me this was the obvious, most comfortable thing to start with."

Tours meet outside Zaffiro's, where Nemetz offers an overview of the history of the neighborhood. Then it's inside for a sample of Zaffiro's beloved thin crust pizza.

The tour makes 10 stops, at places like Peter Sciortino's Bakery, Wisconsin Cheese Mart, Usinger's and Mader's. At each stop, tour guests get a sample of a signature dish. For example, Sciortino's dishes up sumptuous mini cannoli.

On the way toward 3rd Street, Nemetz likes to detour down Knapp Street, because the guests love to take snapshots in front of the row houses there that recall the house where television's "Laverne & Shirley" lived.

Although the history is important, Nemetz says the tour can help time-strapped visitors sample the city's tasty delights.

"Food really brings people together and everybody loves food. When people travel they want to have that culinary element but Milwaukee doesn't have anything like this. There are walking tours but not culinary walking tours. So this is a great chance to taste the city. Where someone might come to town and only have time for one lunch, well now they get to sample 10 different kinds of food and learn a little bit of history along the way."

You, like Nemetz, might be surprised to learn, however, that most of her tour guests so far, haven't come very far ... yet.

"So far the people taking the tours have been local folks," says Nemetz. "Tomorrow is a group of teachers celebrating the end of year and they're doing this as a cultural diversity thing.

"But (now) people have been finding out about us through Google and I've had people booking from New York, Seattle, Chicago, L.A., Florida."

Nemetz says that local businesses, once they understand what Milwaukee Food Tours is doing, are eager to be involved. And the response from the public has been so good that Nemetz expects to add another tour guide -- she currently leads them all herself -- by late summer and at least one more tour -- perhaps Bronzeville or the Third Ward -- by next year.

"The timing is really good," says Nemetz, "and people have been really excited about it."

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.