It’s been almost four months since Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel opened its doors at 139 E. Kilbourn Ave.
And if you haven’t paid a visit to peruse the galleries and art installations overseen by curator Maureen Ragalie, enjoy a business meeting in the well appointed lobby bar or attend a performance at the Black Box Theater, it’s high time you put any one of those things on your to do list.
That includes at trip to Proof Pizza, the Arts Hotel’s casual counter service pizza shop, which offers up a menu of affordable pizzas and salads for lunch and dinner.
Although the venue is part of Saint Kate, Proof features a walk-up entrance of its own, allowing easy access for neighborhood guests picking up pre-ordered pies or stopping in for carry-out.
"We wanted a restaurant on the ground level," notes Brent Hockenberry, Director of Food & Beverage for Marcus Hotels & Resorts. "And we wanted it to be a place where folks could stop by for a quick bite after a concert or theater performance at one of the surrounding theaters."
Inside, Proof Pizza is a petite space featuring a service counter and open kitchen where pizzas, salads and antipasti are made in plain sight.
There's seating for about 23 at a number of small tables and bar style seating along the Northern wall. But part of the brilliance of Proof is that the menu is available beyond the boundaries of the restaurant itself.
Guests can enjoy their pizza in the art-filled lobby area, which features soft seating and low tables or at The Bar, where there is a combination of bar seating, communal workstations or modern couches with low tables for larger groups.
Pizza can also be delivered up to Giggly, the second floor champagne and wine bar, where guests can enjoy sparkling cocktails, glasses of bubbly and a small menu of snacks along with plush seating at tables or along the elegantly curved bar.
The proof is in the pizza
Behind Proof Pizza is the expertise of Saint Kate Executive Chef Paul Funk, whose experience includes months of work in Italy as well as posts at numerous area restaurants including Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub, Like Minds Brewing and more recently Grand Geneva Resort.
Proof pizzas are made with a nod to the Neapolitan style featuring a soft chewy crust with a crisp exterior and a crust dappled with char. The dough itself is made with imported Caputo 00 flour, a finely milled Italian wheat flour which is considered to be the gold standard in the pizza world. After an initial rise, the dough is allowed to ferment (proof) for 72 hours before being shaped and baked. The long fermentation process contributes to the crust’s light, airy structure and complex flavor.
Pies at Proof are baked in an imported gas-fired oven with a rotating stone that uses 900 degree heat to cook the pizzas in about 2 minutes.
Signature pizzas include options like the Proof Special with mozzarella, red peppers, sausage, cipollini onions and roasted garlic; lasagne with Willow Creek Berkshire meatballs, ricotta, romano, basil and parsley; and Garden Style with white sauce, spinach, wild mushrooms, roasted peppers, mozzarella, romano, basil and garlic oil.
Guests can also customize their pizzas with a long list of assorted sauces (from tomato and white sauces to pesto, balsamic glaze and ranch), cheeses, meats and vegetables.
Alternatively, there are pizza pockets. They are made with the same dough, which is prebaked and "stuffed" with either signature or custom toppings.
Proof also features an assortment of fresh salads including house and chopped salads, a tri-color kale salad and Tuscan tuna and bean salad (all are entree-sized and priced $8-10).
After 4 p.m., Proof rolls out a selection of hot and cold antipasti including Wisconsin burrata with tomato jam and Tuscan bread drizzled with olive oil (or an upgraded plate with prosciutto).
There’s rosemary hummus served with flatbread; meatballs served with San Marzano marinara and ricotta salata, roasted Brussels sprouts and mushroom and scamorza pizzette.
Meanwhile, snackable salumi plates include prosciutto, soppressata, asiago and marinated olives.
Antipasti plates are priced $8-10 and would make the perfect accompaniment to a glass of Italian red wine from The Bar or some sparkling wine from Bubbly, located just upstairs.
Happy hour + pizza = awesome
Stop by Saint Kate Monday through Friday between 4 and 7 p.m. and you can enjoy a variety of happy hour specials at both Giggly or The Bar.
Giggly features Faire La Fête splits (375 ml bottles) for just $10 along with special nibbles like $5 deviled eggs or popcorn trio.
Meanwhile at The Bar, there’s $5 draft beer, Arena wine and rail cocktails plus $8 margherita or pepperoni pizza and select antipasti for $6.
Sundays from 6 p.m. to close, hospitality industry employees can enjoy those same happy hour specials, plus any Proof pizza alongside a PBR for just $10.
Proof Pizza is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.