For the sixth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Concordia University. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2012."
I grew up in the Riverwest neighborhood. I mentioned in my first blog that Aldo's and Roseanne's were the pizzas I grew up on. There haven't been any pizza places in the area since those days.
A few years ago, Abel Hamdan and his wife, Tina Conley, opened NYPD (New York Pizza Delivery) at 231 E. North Ave., surrounded by the Riverwest, Brewers Hill, Harambee and Bronzeville neighborhoods.
Hamdan worked in various East Side pizzerias since he was 15 years old. He decided on this location because it was fairly centralized. It was close to the East Side market, the Downtown market and was very close to the freeway, so he could really expand the delivery area.
NYPD makes its pizza dough and sauce from scratch with recipes that Hamdan experimented with and refers to as "East Coast" style.
I first visited NYPD three months ago. I'd driven past it dozens of times when visiting family on the East Side, and I've seen their billboards and mobile billboards all over the city. They also do a nice job with social media and community partnerships, so I finally stopped in.
A friend of mine who owns a bar in Riverwest is a fan of the NYPD wings, so I gave them a try, but also wanted to try a pizza, since it was primarily a pizza place. I thought the wings were great and the pizza was average.
The pizza crust was thin like a New York-style pizza should be, but was a little too soft for me, and I didn't catch any distinct flavors in the sauce. Maybe the hot sauce on the wings distracted my taste buds and prevented me from tasting the flavors in the pizza sauce.
The pizza was cut into squares, which also threw me for a loop considering this was New York style. I learned later that 90 percent of the customers asked for the pizzas to be cut into squares because the pizzas were so large and the slices were difficult to hold. They'll still cut traditional New York-style triangle slices if you ask.
Again, that was several months ago. Recently a friend of mine asked me if I had tried NYPD and simply raved about how great it was. I told her about the experience from my visit, but I trust her palette, so I decided I should give them another try.
So I went back, this time with my friend and her mother, and we ordered a couple of pies. The first with sausage, mushroom and onion, and the other with pepperoni, mushroom and onion.
As we waited for our order, I looked around the restaurant admiring the neon signs representing food items. I was also impressed by how clean the restaurant was. It was clean the last time I visited, but this time the table tops seemed to shine. In fact, when I pulled up, I noticed the staff was sweeping and mopping the floors.
Our pizzas soon arrived and we admired them before digging in. I could tell just by looking at the crust that it was going to be crispy – not burnt, but crispy. So, I was already optimistic that this visit would be better than my previous visit.
I grabbed a slice and took a bite. Sure enough, it was nice and crispy. This was not a cracker-thin crust, but a thin crust nonetheless. Next I wanted to focus on the sauce, so I removed a few toppings and took another bite.
The sauce was a combination of spicy and a little sweet. I'm going to assume that Hamdan did more experimenting with the sauce since my last visit, because this sauce had a great blend of seasoning and was much improved over my last visit!
The chunks of sausage also had great flavor, but I thought the pepperoni complemented the sauce even better than the sausage. This was the pizza I hoped for on my last visit.
The service was also more attentive on this visit. Lynnette, who was our order taker and cashier, also brought our pizzas out. Then she came to check on us while we dined and proactively cleared clutter from the table. She also returned at just the right time to ask if we were finished and ready to box leftovers.
NYPD has a rather large menu. The pizzas start at $11.99 for a 12-inch with cheese. Besides pizza, which come in 12-, 14-, 16- and 18-inch crusts, NYPD takes pride in its fried chicken and wings. It also offers lasagna, ribs, seafood, sandwiches, salads and Italian and Greek items.
I didn't get the hot wings this time, so my taste buds could focus on the pizza sauce. I think that decision paid off. I really enjoyed the pizza on this visit and plan to return some day to try the popular fried chicken.
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.