By Rick Rodriguez Special to Published Oct 30, 2013 at 12:36 PM

For the seventh straight year, October is Dining Month on, presented by the restaurants of Potawatomi. 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 2013."

I’ve heard great things about the pizza at the Calderone Club, and I’ve read great things about the pizza at the Calderone Club. Now, I get to write about my great experience at the Calderone Club.

My visit started with a friendly greeting from the hostess standing near the full bar, and an even friendlier greeting from my server when I was seated. She was attentive and accommodating with a very pleasant demeanor.

The tables were covered with white linen and white butcher block paper, which is replaced after the table is turned. The chairs were colored in a dark wood stain, and the walls displayed a warm amber color.  

I picked up the menu and found familiar standard Italian fare in the form of appetizers, salads, soups, panini, pizzas, entrees and pastas. The pasta is made fresh each day using imported durum wheat semolina.

Via, I learned that durum wheat is a hard grain which is high in protein. Dough that is made with it is less elastic than bread dough which makes it easier to roll into pasta shapes. The durum wheat is milled to remove the bran and germ, leaving granules called semolina, which are then ground into flour to make pasta. These same granules are used for cereal and couscous. Thank you, Google.

The pizza dough and sauce are also made fresh using recipes that date back to 1947 at the Third Ward Caradaro Club (the first pizzeria in Milwaukee, which opened in 1945). As I understand it, Antonio Fazzari and his wife, Maria Rosa, bought the Caradaro in 1968 and inherited the pizza recipes, which were eventually passed down to their sons.

The Caradaro name was sold by the original owners to Antonio Fazzari’s brothers, so he decided on Calderone, which sounded similar. The literal translation for Calderone is cauldron, but a website describes a person with the Calderone name as being friendly and cheerful, among a long list of other characteristics. I think that works.

Gino Fazzari owns and operates the downtown Milwaukee location (842 N. Old World Third St.), originally opened by Antonio and his wife Maria Rosa around 1979, and Carmelo Fazzari owns the Fox Point location (8001 N. Port Washington Rd.), which was opened around 1993 and is managed by Carmelo and his brother, Frank.

Carmelo Fazzari also opened the Al Calderone Club in Shorewood (4475 N. Oakland Ave.) with a focus on carry-out and delivery of New York style pizza and Calabrese style pizza based on his mother’s recipes.

I found it interesting that the origin of the pizza recipe for Balistreri’s also originates with the Caradaro, but the Balistreri pizza tasted different from the Calderone Club pizza. Part of me wishes I was around in the early '60s to try the pizza at the original Caradaro. There is at least one other pizzeria with ties to the Caradaro Club, but I’ll focus on my most recent visits for now.

The Calderone Club sauce had a sweet taste of fresh tomatoes, while Balistreri’s sauce had a pronounced spicy flavor, although the texture of the sauce and amount applied was very similar.

The flavor of the Italian sausage was similar between the two, but the sausage at the Calderone Club seemed a tad more firm and also had a stronger flavor of fennel.

I’d say the pizza crusts were closely alike, but I thought the Calderone Club pizza crust was a little crispier throughout, and I do prefer a crispy crust.

You may be interested to know that I finally tried anchovies. I’ve avoided them my entire life, well, at least on pizza anyway. I’d done a little research to determine what I should be looking for and how to eat them on a pizza.

The anchovy proponents suggested I order cheese and anchovies on a red pizza sauce with no other toppings. It was also recommended that I look for anchovies out of a glass jar, as opposed to a tin can or other tin container because the quality should be better. Others argue that the salt-packed anchovies in tin are more flavorful and authentic. I chose to trust the source preferring anchovies in a jar.

I was warned that they would be salty … very salty. How salty? Well, let’s say you picked up a slice of cheese pizza, poured a heaping teaspoon on a corner of the slice and then bit off that corner with the salt. That’s how salty the flavor was. Some have suggested rinsing them first to remove some of the salty flavor. I wasn’t going to ask a chef to rinse anchovies for me.

To be honest, the experience wasn’t horrifying at all. I managed to eat a few slices with no ill effects. Luckily, I was at a restaurant that carried anchovies in a jar and also made great pizza. I doubt I would order anchovies on a pizza again, unless I wanted to impress a date (or end it early). It felt good to cross that item off of my bucket list.

If you decide to try anchovies, watch for the possibility of oil from the anchovies pouring off of the slice and maybe onto your clothing. Don’t worry, it didn’t happen to me. I caught it in time.

It amazes me the number of restaurants in this town that I’ve never been to before, especially when I consider the very large number of restaurants that I have been to in Milwaukee. I love pizza, and I’ve been missing out on this one. I can understand why Jeff Sherman calls this pizza his favorite. I’m not ready to anoint it my favorite, but Calderone Club has certainly taken a spot very high on my list.

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.