Before we dive into the blog, I want to let you all know that starting in December, these blogs will post once per month, on the first Wednesday of the month. I hope you’ll set your calendar reminders. Although as long as you keep up with all of the other great content on OnMilwaukee.com, you won’t miss a beat.
This week’s pizza blog took me to Pulo’s Pizza. I’d never heard of Pulo’s Pizza, 1567 W. Oklahoma Ave., until this year. A friend who owns a bar near 13th and Oklahoma had brought in Pulo’s Pizza for various parties. A few pizza blog readers also mentioned it on Facebook, so I added it to the list of pizzerias to try.
I called during a Packers game to ask about the game day specials mentioned on its website before my visit. I was put on hold a couple of times because a lot of call-in orders were coming in. I thought that was a good sign.
The pizzeria has four tables with four chairs for customers choosing to dine in. An additional set of three chairs sat in front of the service counter for customers picking up their orders.
The tables were covered with the familiar red and white checkered, vinyl table cloths. The light beige walls looked freshly painted, even though the venue has been open a few years.
The friendly young lady behind the counter was owner Katie Rodriguez (no relation), great grand-daughter of Greek immigrant Thomas Pulos, Sr., who opened Pulo’s Pizza in 1959. By the way, the apostrophe was moved before the S for marketing reasons.
The original location was on 11th and Mitchell. Then in 1984, the restaurant was moved to 14th and Lincoln by Clarence "Ken" Pulos, one of Thomas Pulos, Sr.’s sons. Ken Pulos’ sons Thomas Jr. and Peter would eventually manage the restaurant, and later, Thomas Jr. opened two pizzerias in Sheboygan.
All locations were closed by the mid-1990s, but Thomas Pulos, Jr. and his brother Peter decided to bring Pulo’s Pizza back in 2010 at the current location. It would be managed by Thomas Jr., his daughter Alexandria, and his niece, Katie Rodriguez.
Rodriguez has been sole owner of Pulo’s Pizza since June 2012 after the untimely passing of her cousin from health complications and, later, her uncle.
Their memories live on in the restaurant with framed photos and menu items named for them, such as Tom’s Original Special pizza and Alexandria’s Pasta.
Aside from pizza and pasta, Pulo’s menu includes appetizers, salads, broasted chicken and hoagies, such as a newly added Chicago-style Italian beef.
Pulo’s thin crust pizza comes is available in a 14-inch small, 16-inch medium, and an 18-inch large. Cheese pizzas range from $12 to $15. Additional toppings range from $1.25 to $2.25. Get a thick crust or add extra sauce for 75 cents to $1.50.
Specialty pizzas range from $14.50 to $22.50 and include Chicago pizza on thick crust – not pan style – with extra virgin olive oil, sweet basil, marinara sauce, sausage and mozzarella, and a taco pizza topped with a sour cream and mild picante sauce base, seasoned ground beef, cheddar and mozzarella. Then fresh lettuce and diced tomatoes are added after the pizza comes out of the oven.
Other specialty pizzas include Tom’s Original, deluxe, Meat Market, Happy Farmer, Sheboygan and a Hawaiian pizza.
The Happy Farmer is the veggie pizza, and the Sheboygan is topped with sausage, pepperoni and extra cheese. Tom’s Original is topped with sausage, canned mushrooms and onions.
I started with the taco pizza. The menu listed taco chips as one of the toppings. However, most of the taco pizzas are ordered for delivery, so they were becoming a bit soggy and customers didn’t care for them. As a result, Pulo's decided to stop adding the chips to the pizza.
I liked the flavor of the sour cream and picante base. I think a little more ground beef, and a little less sour cream and picante would have balanced out the texture. The crisp lettuce and diced tomatoes added a nice layer of freshness, and the crust maintained a crisp texture throughout.
One of the game day specials was a one topping 16-inch pizza for $9.99, so I ordered a cheese and sausage pizza, and added pepperoni. This pizza was baked longer than the taco pizza, so the crust was extra crispy, which I really like.
The cheese was also cooked through more than other pizzas I’ve had, so there weren’t the long strands of stretched cheese when I picked up the slices. The sausage and pepperoni were both spicy and savory. Rodriguez told me that the Pulos family has procured them from the same local butcher for decades.
The sauce starts as a canned base, and Pulo’s secret seasoning blend is added. The sauce was applied very lightly to merely coat the crust, so I would recommend ordering extra sauce, unless sauce isn’t that important to you. I might also ask that my pizza be baked a couple of minutes less, since I prefer the cheese to be softer.
Rodriguez told me that their pastas and Italian beef are very popular, so I’d like to return some day to give them a try.
When I started writing these blogs, my focus was on finding family owned and operated pizzerias, using recipes passed down over multiple generations. Pulo’s Pizza certainly fits that mold.
Rodriguez manages all aspects of the restaurant, and on my visit, her daughter – representing the fifth generation of Pulos – was in the kitchen cooking while Rodriguez’s husband was on delivery runs.
When I think about the story Rodriguez shared with me about the history of Pulo’s Pizza and wanting to honor her late cousin and uncle by keeping Pulo’s Pizza going, all while balancing her role as a wife and mother, it makes me want to support this business even more. I hope you’ll also give it your support.
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.