By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jan 09, 2006 at 5:38 AM

Who makes Milwaukee's best pizza? It's a question we've debated in our office for years. And for this latest Milwaukee Challenge, we struggled with narrowing it down to just two for a head-to-head taste off. That's when it hit us like a stick of pepperoni: we'll compare the top two vote getters in the 2005 OMC Best Of Milwaukee reader's poll: winner Pizza Man and runner up Zaffiro's. Surely, there are dozens of great pizzerias out there, but this was the only fair way to narrow our challenge down to two.

The other obstacle, of course, was topping selections. Again, to keep the competition on an even keel, we ordered two cheese pizzas. That way, we could evaluate each pie on its own merits, even though we each would order different toppings in the restaurant.

When the votes were tallied, all five members of our editorial staff picked Pizza Man as the better slice. We expect you to have different opinions -- please share them using the talkback feature below.

Julie Lawrence
Staff Writer
Pick: Pizza Man

Right off the bat, the Zaffiro's pizza looked rather sloppy and unevenly cut, making it difficult to eat without a fork and knife. Though definitely better than any frozen 12-inch, there wasn't anything too distinguishing about its components.

Pizza Man's pizza was hotter on arrival, much cheesier and the crust was extremely thin, yet somehow more durable than Zaffiro's -- tasting as if it had more of a wheat-like texture to it. Personally, I appreciate it when restaurants err on the side of too much sauce, rather than not enough, and Pizza Man, while not overdoing it, supplied a perfect amount of flavorful, slightly spiced sauce. Although Zaffiro's impressed me with their speed and cheaper price, I think I'll opt to dish out the extra $3 for a Pizza Man pie.

Scott Lucey
Pick: Pizza Man

My impression of Zaffiro's definitely did not stand up to the overall quality of Pizza Man. Zaffiro’s wasn't too bad, and I would have no complaints if it was sent to my door, but next to a Pizza Man pizza, the choice was obvious.

Just by the look of the two pizzas, Pizza Man’s had better and a more even distribution of cheese, and even though the grease factor was not too different between the two, what grease there was hung out on top of the Zaffiro’s pizza, taking away from any aesthetic value. Crust was also an aspect that I found most different between the two. Although they were both thin, Pizza Man’s had more life to it, seemed fresher, and was nice and crispy. The Zaffiro’s pie seemed to soak up the contents, making it a bit soggy.

All in all, neither pizzas were bad, but my choice went to Pizza Man. If pizzas had the ability, it would have shined.

Molly Snyder Edler
Staff Writer
Pick: Pizza Man

I have always enjoyed dining at both Pizza Man and Zaffiro's, but eating the two pies at the same time proved I was in love with Pizza Man. (Call me Pizza Woman if you must.) Why? Pizza Man's crust is soft on top and crispy on the bottom, as opposed to Zaffiro's which just seemed like a piece of cardboard in comparison. Pizza Man slathers on more sauce, which makes their pie moister, and their sauce is rich, thick and flecked with fresh herbs. Both of the pizzas had a fair share of grease, but the Zaffiro's was greasier. It also wasn't cooked as evenly. On my first piece, the cheese was gooey and good, but on the second, it was congealed and hard. I will still eat at Zaffiro's because it's been a favorite since childhood and there's something mom-and-pop charming about the atmosphere, but I definitely think Pizza Man tosses a tastier pie.

Bobby Tanzilo
Managing Editor
Pick: Pizza Man

Although the two pizzas were extremely similar in size and crusts, there was no real battle here. Both crusts were extremely thin and lacked a ridge for the cheese to latch onto. The Zaffiro's crust was soft and the Pizza Man crust crunchy and more flavorful, perhaps because it tasted as if it stayed in the oven longer, giving a nice color around the edges and some tasty brown bits.

Both had similar amounts of sauce -- and the Pizza Man edged Zaffiro's in cheese content -- but in both cases the Pizza Man pie won out in flavor. Both were a bit greasy, but Zaffiro's a little more so.

Zaffiro's, however, wins out in price (more than $3 cheaper) and in speed, having dished up its pizza in 15 minutes as compared to double that for Pizza Man.

If you ask me, though, they both fail on the cutting of the pizza, opting for the Milwauke-style squares, as opposed to the pie-cut triangles that most of the rest of the country favors for thin crust (aka Neapolitan) pizza. The result is four basically useless corner pieces and a bunch of center pieces that are incapable of holding on to their cheese.

Andy Tarnoff
Pick: Pizza Man

I'm a little surprised to say that it wasn't even a contest between the two pizzas, since when I'm not comparing head-to-head, they're both great. But in this taste test, I liked every quality of the Pizza Man pizza better.

The biggest difference I sensed was the greasiness level. I found the Zaffiro's pizza quite greasy, while the Pizza Man slices were just about right. The Pizza Man sauce was spicier and zestier, whereas the Zaffiro's sauce tasted tomatoey, but a little thin.

I liked the cheese of the Zaffiro's pizza, but it was a bit unevenly spread across the pizza. The Pizza Man cheese was noticeably smokier.

Finally, the crusts were quite similar, but Pizza Man's was a little crisper and darker. Though I appreciated the lightning fast turnaround (and the $3 price difference) of Zaffiro's, I also found this plain cheese pizza a bit pedestrian and not too flavorful. I know both taste better with more toppings, but in my book, the Pizza Man pizza was much better.