By Rick Rodriguez Special to Published Dec 20, 2012 at 11:39 AM

The first time I tried Ned's Pizza was around 20 years ago during a fantasy football draft party. I was a fan instantly, but I didn't live anywhere near their location so over time I forgot about Ned's.

I was re-introduced when I bought my house and drove past it on my way to a friend's house. I remembered how much I enjoyed their thin crust and pizza sauce.

Ned's was started by Ned Hewitt in the late '50s at a North Side location. Over the next few years the family opened another five locations.

In 1969, friends Bob Mayer and Don Strack were seeking a business opportunity and opened a Ned's franchise at 3246 S. 27th St. Eventually the locations owned by the Hewitt family closed after Hewitt became ill.

The recipes for the pizzas remain the same as those established by Hewitt, and they seem to be very popular. Whenever I drive past, the parking lot is full of cars for diners and take-out orders.

My visit was no exception. Three customers were in the lobby waiting for orders and several tables were filled with families enjoying pizzas.

The dining room is cozy, featuring a combination of booths and tables. There is also a TV on the wall above the picture window for those seeking more entertainment than their dining mates provide.

Ned's menu has 13 appetizers to choose from including garlic bread, a pesto tomato cheese bread and chicken wings. Pizzas, salads and sandwiches round out the rest of the menu.

Pizzas are all thin crust and come in 11, 14 and 16 inches for delivery and carry-out. The restaurant menu also offers an 8-inch personal pizza for those dining in. The 11-inch cheese pizza starts at $11.15, with additional toppings starting at $1.35.

Specialty pizzas include the "Hawaiian;" the "Triple P" with pepperoni, pepperoncini and pickles; and the "Spicy PLT" with pepperoni, lettuce, tomato and spices.

I decided to start by trying another specialty, the "Margarita." This one is made without sauce, just cheese, fresh basil, sliced fresh tomatoes, spices and olive oil.

The olive oil seemed to make up for the lack of sauce and helped prevent the pizza from having a dry texture.

The basil and tomatoes added fresh flavors to the pizza, and the spices added a little "zing." This was the first time I didn't feel guilty eating pizza. It seemed so healthy to me.

It's been a while since I had my favorite combo of sausage and pepperoni, so I ordered one of those, too. The pepperoni was crispy and delicious, but mild. The spicy flavors I hoped for were more clearly present in the chunks of Italian sausage.

The crust was thin and crispy, just how I like it, but the true star was the sauce. The sauce had a subtle sweetness to it and was a bit thicker than many sauces I've had before at other pizzerias.

Ned's is another pizzeria that must really be proud of its sauce since it is listed separately on the menu. The menu states that you can order "heavy" – meaning more – sauce under the toppings on your pizza at no extra charge.

However, if you order "extra" sauce, Ned's will also drizzle more sauce over the top of the pizza for a small additional charge.

Next time, I plan to go "heavy" and "extra" with the sauce!

I've been to a few pizzerias around the southeast side of Milwaukee, but some have closed over the years.

Ned's Pizza has become one of my favorite pizzerias to visit. Since this location is entering its 44th year, I don't think I'm alone in feeling that way.

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.