By Rick Rodriguez Special to Published Aug 06, 2014 at 3:36 PM

I started working for my current employer six years ago. A few months after I started, one of my team members invited us all over to his Sussex home for a Packers party. Among the popular party foods were pizzas delivered from a nearby pizzeria.

The host told me the pizza came from Tony Maronni’s, N63 W23951 Main St. The pizza was good enough – and the name was catchy enough – for me to remember them both all of these years later.

In September 2006, Tony Lippold and his wife Angelsita opened Tony Maronni’s in a space formerly occupied by a used book store. Lippold, a trained chef with his education coming from a technical college and the Culinary Institute of America, spent much of his career at hotels and country clubs, including the Silver Spring Country Club.

While at the Silver Spring Country Club, Lippold often made pizzas for wedding receptions as a late night snack. Since he was complimented so much for his pizzas and he felt pizzas appealed to the masses, he considered opening his own pizzeria.

Tony Maronni’s started as a take-n-bake shop, but later, Lippold added a small oven for cooking a single pizza. Then he added a second and a third as the demand grew for Lippold to bake the pizzas for customer pick-up.

Eventually, demand called for the installation of a large oven that baked 10 pizzas, then a conveyor, then multiple conveyors. Now, Tony Maronni’s has a commercial oven that bakes up to 300 pizzas in an hour.

Customer demand also led to the addition of a dining room in July 2008. The dining room is filled with wooden chairs and tables topped with red and white checkered vinyl cloths. The walls are adorned with red brick patterns and a mural of Italian fields. Menus are printed on charming wooden boards tied together with thin leather straps, like the type you find in a baseball glove.

Tony Maronni’s menu is larger than most pizzerias so there should be something for all tastes. Appetizers, salads, pasta, calzones, desserts and large sandwiches – called grinders – round out a menu of artisan and create-your-own pizza options.

The grinders seem worthy of another trip with options such as the Al Capone, filled with Italian sausage, Italian beef, mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and garlic all topped with melted mozzarella, drizzled with balsamic truffle aioli and served on garlic bread.

Pizza crust options include a thin and crispy Napoletana, the hand-tossed New York and the deep dish Sicilian. Pies may be ordered baked or par-baked to be finished at home and served hot from the oven. Tony Maronni’s also offers a gluten free crust, available in a 10-inch crust starting at $10.99.

Crust sizes range from a 12-inch small to an 18-inch extra large, with cheese pizzas starting at $9.99 and extra toppings ranging from $1.50 to $4.75.

Artisan pizzas may be ordered in any of the four sizes and on any of the three crust options. Artisan pizzas start at $12.99 and include signature pies, such as the Polpetta Bella – with meatballs, fire roasted red peppers, mushrooms and caramelized onions – and the St. Anthony, topped with Italian sausage, Calabrese salami, sopressata, roasted garlic, roasted red peppers and ricotta.

Each month, Tony Maronni’s features a pizza of the month. On my visit, the featured pizza was the Greek Supreme topped with feta, banana peppers, Roma tomatoes, black olives, spinach and lamb gyro meat.

My friend and I started with the deep dish crust, topped with sausage and pepperoni. I was expecting a pan-style deep dish pizza. What arrived was a thick hand-tossed crust. The pie was cut into squares with crispy edges around the perimeter.

The slices were strong enough to hold the toppings without flopping over, and the dough was soft and chewy.

The sauce was slightly spicy with a fairly distinct tomato flavor. Tony Maronni’s sauce starts with Stanislaus crushed and fresh packed California-grown tomatoes, mixed with a puree with their proprietary seasoning blend added.

The pizza dough is made fresh daily with Lippold’s recipe at Sciortino’s bakery and has a three-day fermentation period. The dough uses a biga, a dough starter.

Lippold says a biga, "is a living thing made from flour and water and naturally occurring wild yeast, which must be fed flour and water on a regular basis to stay alive. The older the biga gets, the more flavor it imparts into the dough. Our biga is over 64 years old and has a distinct flavor of Naples, Italy, because of the wild yeast in Naples."

The large chunks of Italian sausage were slightly spicy and delicious. The pepperoni, sourced from Patrick Cudahy, was also flavorful and had a little spice. It was nice to find the rare combination of spicy pepperoni and sausage. You would think it would be more common, but it’s been a rare find for me so far. 

Tony Maronni’s sausage is made with another of Lippold’s recipes by his cousin Vinny, a butcher in Germantown and namesake of the artisan pizza Cousin Vinny’s Favorite, which is topped with double sausage, double mushrooms and pepperoni. Lippold told me that one of the key ingredients in the sausage is the meat of the pig’s neck, which provides "a good fat."

We also ordered the artisan St. Anthony pizza on the thin Napoletana crust. The hand-tossed crust was crispy at the perimeter, but the pie slices were soft due to the weight of the toppings and the grease from the delicious sausage, Calabrese salami and spicy sopressata. That’s a trade I’m willing to make.

The garlic, roasted red peppers and ricotta added a savory supplement to the already flavor-packed pie.

The color contrast of the red peppers against the bright white ricotta cheese made this pizza visually pleasing. Thankfully, this pizza tasted as good as it looked. It was definitely a flavor combination I’ll start looking for at other future pizzerias.

All of the cheese used at Tony Maronni’s is made from Wisconsin’s own Grande Cheese Company. In fact, Lippold takes pride in using the freshest local ingredients that he can find.

With 19 different artisan pizzas and more than 30 toppings to choose from when building your own pie, I think Tony Maronni’s is worth a visit. I think Cousin Vinny’s Favorite will be next when I return.

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.