There's something other than a chilly wind blowing up today from Chicago.
This afternoon, Chicago deep dish pizza restaurant Pizano's Pizza & Pasta announced that it will open its first Wisconsin location on the first floor of the MSOE Tower Apartments, 1150 N. Water St., across the street from McGillicuddy's and BarNone.
"It was time for us to branch out," said Rudy Malnati Jr., owner of Pizano's. "We think that Milwaukee is ready for deep dish pizza. The cry out for having original deep dish pizza has been over the website, with a lot of questions coming to us over Facebook and everything else. We thought this would be a good fit with the school, the community, the area where there's bars and restaurants, so that's why we picked this location."
Pizano's arrives in Wisconsin with quite a pedigree. The pizza's origins go back to 1943, when Rudy Malnati Sr. opened the first Pizzeria Uno in Chicago, helping found the culinary concept of the deep dish pizza. Decades later, Malnati Jr. opened the first Pizano's in 1991, gaining national recognition from USA Today and "The Today Show," a number four ranking on The Daily Meal's list of America's 35 best pizzas and a number one vote from Oprah Winfrey for the restaurant's thin crust pizza.
Pizano's is bringing up its full menu from its Chicago locations, featuring multiple deep dish and thin crust pizzas, salads, soups, sandwiches, appetizers and a selection of classic Italian pasta, risotto and chicken dishes.
The new Water Street location is expected to seat approximately 260 guests, with a full-service U-shaped bar as a focal point, TVs for watching sporting events and an outdoor seating area for the warming months. Pizano's will also offer a separate takeout area adjacent to the nearby entrance to the MSOE apartments above the restaurant, as well as a delivery service. Malnati Jr. noted that at Pizano's Chicago restaurants, delivery goes as late as 5 a.m., something that's a "very good possibility" for weekends at the new location.
The 8,500 square foot restaurant will go into the vacant retail space on the first floor of the 14-story, long vacant MSOE Tower Apartments. Construction halted in 2008 when the recession sent the project into bankruptcy and left the building incomplete and almost empty – save for a Qdoba – for years.
MSOE bought the building in October last year, and now, according to MSOE president Dr. Hermann Viets, the tower is now up and running. The first phase of construction is complete, with almost 200 students now living in 102 finished studio and one and two bedroom apartments. The second phase of construction – finishing the upper floors – building will be completed next spring.
As for the Pizano's on the ground floor, the restaurant is expected to open in late spring or early summer of 2015.
"The Tower Apartments add more life to downtown Milwaukee," Viets said. "We've turned a blighted property into a vibrant location, and we are pleased to have Pizano's Pizza on campus. Not only will it be popular among our students, downtown visitors are looking forward to authentic Italian cuisine in the heart of the city."