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Tanino's uses homemade sauce with Roma and San Marzano tomatoes.

In search of the perfect pizza: Tanino's

I used to live in Greenfield. That was when I first discovered Tanino's, 3525 S. 76th St., but I haven't been there in years.

The story of how Tanino's came to be is a great example of why I write these blogs. I mean, besides the fact that I love pizza – a lot!

Frank Laffranchini immigrated to New York from Italy in 1973. He knew very little, if any, English. He wanted to find work, so he applied at a pizzeria where they spoke Italian.

After several years learning the pizza and restaurant business, he had an opportunity to move to Milwaukee or Houston to help open a restaurant for a friend that had restaurants scattered across the U.S.

After living in New York, he felt most comfortable with Milwaukee, so the move was on. The pizzeria was located at the Capitol Court mall area and 12 years ago, he moved to the current location on South 76th Street.

Frank co-owns Tanino's with his wife Janine and his brother John, who also moved to Milwaukee from New York.

When I arrived at Tanino's, I noticed two entrances, one for carry-out orders and one for the bar and dining room. I entered through the carry-out door to place my order, but was able to enter the bar and dining area through a connecting doorway.

The bar had an "old-school" 1970s vibe to it which I liked in this setting. The lights were dim and the walls were covered in dark panels. The bartender wore a vest and a tie like a real pro.

The dining room had the feel of an old supper club, also featuring dark wood work on the tables, chairs, and lower half of the walls. The upper half of the walls had a lighter beige color with wallpaper in some areas and paint in others.

The carry-out area was a long rectangular room. A Miller Lite sign hung next to the take- out window with the menu and business licenses posted along side.

I placed my order with a young man who told me he started working three weeks ago as one of the delivery drivers.

I chose the Meat Lovers Deluxe on thin crust and an order of hot wings, my preferred football game viewing cuisine.

While I waited, a man entered to pick up his order and called out to one of the employees, a friend of his I presume. Their banter was in Spanish and included the old "I haven't heard from you in a while" and led to a discussion about a recipe for Coquito (Puerto Rican egg nog). That definitely got my attention.

I made a mental note of the secret ingredient that the cook used in his recipe. Can't wait to use it! We really only drink it around the holidays. Is it November yet?

OK, so the menu at Tanino's includes your standard Italian dishes but also ribs, chicken, steaks, breaded pork chops, and seafood. Sandwiches, calzones, salads and appetizers round out the menu.

Pizzas are the popular item here. Specialty pizzas include Tanino's Special Deluxe with cheese, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, onion, black olives and green peppers.

They also have a Hawaiian pizza and a BBQ'd Hen featuring a homemade barbecue sauce, grilled chicken breast, cheese and onions.

All of the pizza sauce at Tanino's is homemade from scratch using a mix of Roma and San Marzano tomatoes, and the crusts are also made daily with pizza dough made there from scratch.

My Meat Lovers Deluxe was full of sausage, pepperoni, diced Canadian Bacon and ground beef. Tanino's also curiously adds onions to their Meat Lovers, but it worked well with the ground beef, so no complaints here.

The sausage is made for Tanino's by a butcher on South 27th Street. The flavor was good, but it was mild. I prefer a spicy sausage on pizza.

The sauce had a really nice spicy flavor to it which I generally have not encountered with sauces made from scratch. Usually the tomato flavor over powers whatever seasoning has been added. I thought this sauce was a winner.

The crust was crispy around the edges, but soft in the center, likely from the grease of the meats that were piled on. Overall, I was pleased with my choice.

The funny thing is that I almost missed out on my choice. When I drove home and opened the pizza box, I found the Tanino's Special Deluxe in it.

I called the restaurant back thinking they gave me someone else's pizza, but it turned out the delivery guy just made a mistake with my order.

I ordered the Meat Lovers Deluxe. He just wrote "deluxe." Then the kitchen assumed it was the Tanino's Special Deluxe. The menu has lists a Vegetable Deluxe. Three pizzas with the word "deluxe" in it and something like this is bound to happen.

Anyway, Tanino's apologized for the mistake and corrected the error. The good news is that I had another pizza to photograph.

Pizzas come in two sizes, 12 and 14 inches. You have the option of thin crust, hand-tossed or thick crust. The 12-inch cheese pizza starts at $9.50. Additional toppings start at $1.50 each and there is a small up-charge for thick crust starting at $.85.

If you're wondering about the hot wings, they sat for a bit while I drove back to pick up the right pizza. However, they were still crispy and the heat was created with a spice rub in the breading and a thin layer of sauce. I really liked the wings and would get them again.

More importantly, I enjoyed the pizza and discovered another good story of a man coming to the land of opportunity and now living the American Dream as a successful business owner for over thirty years.


brewerfan13 | Feb. 15, 2013 at 12:36 p.m. (report)

Love Tanino's! One of those places you drive by all the time and never realize it's there. However, I have to call out the fact checking on this one - it's been located on south 76th for much, much longer than 12 years. I've been going here since grade school and sadly that was longer than 12 years ago.

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