The concept for the new Times Square Bistro & Pizzeria in Walker's Point started out simple: offer quick and delicious pizza by the slice.
But once owner, operator, cook and all-around foodie Sean Henninger began developing the menu for the new restaurant at 605 S. 1st St., he realized that stopping at slices would be selling himself -- and his customers -- short.
Upon opening on April 9, the $3.25 pizza slices -- served with a garlic roll -- were the tempting stepping stone to full 12- and 16-inch hand-tossed pies. The create-your-owns start at $11.50 and offer the usual variety of toppings alongside a few rarities, such as BBQ pork and garlic roasted chicken.
The specialty pizzas -- the olive oil based margherita, prosciutto crudo and white pizza, two BBQ sauce based pizzas and a supreme donning the works -- range between $11-$16.50 for the small and $12.50-$21.50 for the large.
From the bistro comes a smattering of reasonably sandwiches ($6), calzones ($6), pasta entrees ($6-7), salads ($6-9) and appetizers ($5-7).
"I cook and I do all the baking," says Henninger, a self-taught chef who spent a fair number of his early years living in Europe, discovering that the best Italian restaurants -- in his opinion -- were not actually in Italy, but in Germany, operated by Italian immigrants. "Every recipe we use here is my own."
Henninger is calling Times Square Bistro & Pizzeria a counter-service restaurant -- the speediness of pizza slices make it ideal for the on-the-go lunch crowd -- but sees it becoming more of a relaxing dinner destination with the addition of his wine license and outdoor seating.
"I don't like to rush good food," he says, mentioning that an in-house pizza or calzone order takes about 15 minutes. "I'm going to start doing wine tastings and staying open later in the summer. I'd like people to just come here and relax."
And then, of course, there's the chocolate -- something the menu has yet to fully address, but that Henninger is more than happy to discuss.
"I'm a chocolateur. I've owned a chocolate business -- Atomic Chocolate Company -- on the side for three years and now I'm trying to incorporate it into the menu here. I'm taking it slow, because I needed to get the bread and butter going first."
So while you're not going to find a long list of dessert options on the menu just yet, what you do have access to is a limited number of extraordinary sweets. Henninger uses single origin chocolates from places like Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador to create - among other things -- his own brand of truffles featuring champagne and raspberry flavors.
His current point of pride, however, is his flourless chipotle cake -- which he confidently describes as a "phenomenal experience."
"I know, it sounds strange, but if you do it right, it's a roller coaster on your taste buds. Just when you start to get a hint of smoke and spice, the chocolate fights back and leaves you with a smooth, mellow finish."
As a brand new business, the Times Square Bistro is basing its hours on the neighborhood's demand, though Henninger says once summer -- and Summerfest -- hits town, he plans to stay open late.
Times Square Bistro & Pizzeria is located in the same strip mall that houses a Mobile gas station, Gyro Palace and Martha's Vineyard liquor store, and does delivery with a $15 minimum order.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”