By Rick Rodriguez Special to Published Jun 05, 2013 at 12:02 PM

I had driven past Di Stefano’s Pizza Palace, 4630 W. Forest Home Ave., many times when I lived in Greenfield, but I had already established a few go-to’s for pizza and wasn’t in the market for another.

Established in 1972 by Giovanni Di Stefano, the pizzeria is currently owned and operated by his wife Elizabeth and their son John Paul – whom they call "J.P." – after Giovanni passed away in 2006.

All of the recipes originated from Di Stefano’s family in Sicily, and the pasta used in Di Stefano’s dinners is imported from Italy.

At one time, Giovanni Di Stefano hosted a local cooking show, but cooking wasn’t his only talent. He was also a singer. Mrs. Di Stefano told me of a CD of his music that she listens to often.

On my visit, I immediately noticed how well-lit and clean the lobby was, something I haven’t seen at most of the carry-out and delivery-only places I’ve visited.

A wooden bench lined the west wall, while the large and open counter stood across from it with bright and colorful menu boards above and behind it.

Two refrigerators in the lobby also caught my eye. They looked new, but they were clearly classics. One was a thin, blue Pepsi-Cola refrigerator and the one next to it, a thin, red Coca-Cola refrigerator. Each carried its own products.

I placed my order and spent a few minutes getting the story of Di Stefano’s Pizza Palace from Mrs. Di Stefano.

The menu is primarily focused on pizzas, but also includes salads, appetizers, hot super subs and a few pasta dinners, including homemade lasagna.

Pizza crust options include thin crust, double crust, pan-style and stuffed pizzas. Thin crust and double crust sizes come in 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18 inches, while the pan-style and stuffed pizzas come in 10, 12, and 14 inches.

Cheese pizzas on thin crust range from $7.75 to $20.95. The double crust is an additional $1.50 to $3.50 and the pan-style pizza is another $1.75 to $2.50 for the ten inch to the 14-inch crust. Additional toppings range from $1 to $2.50 each.

Di Stefano’s stuffed pizzas range from $14.95 to $20.95 with additional ingredients at $1.25 to $1.75 each.

Unlike other stuffed pizzas I’ve tried, Di Stefano’s finishes off the top of their pie with another layer of crust. Unfortunately I didn’t have the dining help I had last week, so I just ordered the thin crust and pan-style for my friend and myself.

We started with the Special on thin crust, which is topped with cheese, sausage, fresh mushrooms and onions.

The crust had a cracker crunch along the perimeter, which I’m a fan of, and the rest of the crust maintained a lighter crisp texture.

Di Stefano’s sauce is made from scratch starting with sweet tomatoes and their special blend of seasoning. The taste of fresh tomatoes was well-pronounced, which I typically am not a big fan of, but the sweetness helped to balance it out a bit.

The onions were diced into large pieces and the sweetness of the sauce really brought out the flavor of the onions, but again, I’m not a fan of that much onion flavor. I prefer the meat toppings to be the star of the pizzas I order.

Some of you, however, may disagree and prefer the onions and mushrooms to stand out over the Italian sausage.

The sausage was cut small, but had a delicious spicy flavor. I would have liked large chunks of it to keep the onions toned down. Smaller pieces of onion or fewer pieces would have also helped. Overall, this was a good pizza.

The pan-style crust stood almost two inches tall around the edges. The crust was slightly crisp but was also moist and chewy without having a buttery or oily outer texture.

Our pan pizza was topped with meatballs and pepperoni. The pepperoni was sliced paper-thin, but had a spicy flavor. The meatballs were actually clumps of seasoned ground beef.

I really enjoyed the flavor of the seasoning blend in the meatballs, but I would have preferred the pepperoni to be sliced thicker so the spicy flavor would be more noticeable.

Other available toppings include green peppers, black and green olives, marinated artichoke hearts, spinach, chopped garlic, sliced jalapenos, pepperoncini, grilled chicken, ham, pineapple and anchovies.

The list of specialty pizzas is vast and includes the "Packer Pizza" topped with cheese, sausage, fresh garden spinach and chopped garlic and the Sicilian Garden topped with fresh mushrooms, onions, black olives, green peppers, chopped tomatoes and marinated artichoke hearts.

Di Stefano’s also offers a pizza special they call "2 Great Pizzas 1 Great Price!" The special is available for 10-, 12- and 14-inch pizzas and starts at $14.95 for cheese pizzas.

Di Stefano’s has a few remodeling projects in the works, but don’t let that stop you from stopping in. They have a new awning that should be installed within the next month, so maybe you’ll be among the first to see it.

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.