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Schneider's pizza drew me in with its thick, spicy sauce and pleasing blend of flavors, but all was not as it seemed when it came to the crust.
Schneider's pizza drew me in with its thick, spicy sauce and pleasing blend of flavors, but all was not as it seemed when it came to the crust.

In search of the perfect pizza: Schneider's

The first time I drove past Schneider's, 3717 N. 76th St., I thought it was a supper club. It had that look about it, with the older sign and older design. The building is half house and half restaurant.

It was the word "pizza" that got my attention and convinced me to pay them a visit.

When I walked in, I was met by the bar area. The hostess station was off to my left. The bar was pretty full on this Saturday afternoon.

I was told that Schneider's was originally called the Colonial Inn prior to 1994. In 1994, an ownership change made it Schneider's Colonial Inn. Then it just became known as Schneider's.

Current owner, Leung Chu, bought Schneider's nine years ago. He was at his other restaurant, China Town on North Avenue., so I didn't get to meet him.

When I reviewed the menu, I was impressed by the low prices and decent selection, but I also remembered that you get what you pay for.

Appetizers ranged from $2.00 for garlic bread to $7.95 for the combo plate with breaded mushrooms, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, and chicken tenders.

Ribs, chicken, sandwiches, salads and soups filled another section of the menu. I asked my server if the soups were homemade, and she told me that the chili and clam chowder are made from scratch, but most of the others come from their food service provider.

Dinner specials include Peel and Eat Shrimp on Wednesdays, a Saturday night steak night and a Friday Fish Fry with cod, perch, walleye and bluegill starting at $7.95.

Saturday afternoon also features a $1.50 Schneider burger from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The pizza comes in three sizes : 9, 12 and 16 inches. Twelve-inch cheese pizzas start at $7.95 with additional toppings at $1.25 each.

I ordered my pizza with the works. The sausage and pepperoni weren't spicy but had good flavor. The mushrooms were canned, but worked well with the green peppers, onions and black olives.

The sauce had a nice slightly spicy flavor to it and was a bit on the thicker side. Schneider's starts with …

The pepperoni and sausage pizza was crispy and mild.
The pepperoni and sausage pizza was crispy and mild.

In search of the perfect pizza: Trattoria di Carlo

I was first introduced to Trattoria di Carlo, 8469 S. Howell Ave., three years ago for a work function. We were set up in a very nice private room for pizza and pasta.

With a little help from his family, owner Carlo Pedone opened the restaurant 10 years ago after spending 10 to 15 years helping run his parents restaurant in Burlington.

Pedone is a first-generation Italian American. Although he was born in the States, he spent most of his childhood in Sicily before his parents moved back here and opened their own restaurant.

Pedone told me he can be found at the restaurant most evenings interacting with the guests, helping out in the kitchen, or working on the books. When I asked him about his recipes and how he got started, he had a big smile on his face.

He is clearly proud of what he and his family have accomplished and is passionate about what he does.

My Monday night visit found a fairly full front dining room and bar. I was impressed, considering how many restaurants close on Mondays due to a lack of business.

The dining room was full of wooden tables and chairs with dark stain on them. The walls, booths and cloth napkins were in different shades of burgundy. The ceiling had curved, brown columns with horizontal gold-colored ridges between them and large decorative bunches of grapes hanging from them.

The menu at Trattoria di Carlo is very large. While paging through it, I found small pages inserted with additional menu items and specials for the evening.

Besides the standard appetizers, salads, and pasta dishes, you'll find a page of Carlo's Specialties including Shrimp Siciliana, large shrimp stuffed with ripe tomatoes, roasted garlic, olive oil, basil and parmesan served with spaghetti.

Steaks, seafood dishes, a kids menu with smaller pasta portions, and a family-style dining option can also be found. Family style is for a minimum of four people and at $19.00 per person, diners would choose two entrees and two pastas with sauces. Bread, salad, and d…

Sal Barbiere opened his Italian restaurant in 1963, moving to the current location in 1973.
Sal Barbiere opened his Italian restaurant in 1963, moving to the current location in 1973.
The thin crust pizza was prepared just the way I like it.
The thin crust pizza was prepared just the way I like it.

In search of the perfect pizza: Barbiere's

I came across Barbiere's, 5844 W. Bluemound Rd., while exploring my extended neighborhood. Its website tells most of its story which saved me some time.

To summarize, the story begins with Sal Barbiere opening Barbiere's Italian Inn in 1963 on 106th and Bluemound. The restaurant was moved to the current location in 1973.

In 1979, Sal and his wife Bernice retired and turned the business over to their son Steve and his wife Kathy. They ran the business until they retired in 1997 and sold the business to current owner, Mark Dempsey, who started working at Barbiere's in 1973 at age 16. In 2009, he added a second location at 1021 Milwaukee Ave. in South Milwaukee.

That's what the website told me, but I had a couple of questions the website didn't tell me, like why the thick and buttery garlic bread recipe is so similar to the garlic bread I've had at another local Italian restaurant chain? Also, why does the Barbiere name precede the name of that Italian restaurant at one or two of the locations?

I called in to ask. Dempsey wasn't in, but the gentleman who answered was willing to help. He believes that Steve Barbiere may have had a sibling who went his own way and became involved with the other pizza chain. OK, I'll accept that for now. Let's move on.

The Barbiere menu features the items you would expect at an Italian restaurant, such as an antipasto salad, minestrone soup, sausage and meatball sandwiches, pasta and pizza.

Pizza seems to be the most popular item here, although I'm told the lasagna is also very popular.

The pizza is served on a thin crust and comes in four sizes: 8, 10, 12 and 14 inches. The 8-inch cheese pizza is $8.00 and the 14-inch cheese pizza is $14. The 10-inch and 12-inch cheese pizzas are $9.50 and $11.75, respectively. Additional toppings are $.75-$1.50 each.

On my visit, there were diners at four other tables. At the table to my left sat five men having a curious conversation. It was curious because I couldn't figure out what they were …

Klasiana Pizza is located at 5487 S. 76th St.
Klasiana Pizza is located at 5487 S. 76th St.
The alfredo pizza on original crust.
The alfredo pizza on original crust.
Sausage, mushrooms and mild giardiniera on pan-style crust.
Sausage, mushrooms and mild giardiniera on pan-style crust.

In search of the perfect pizza: Klasiana

Across from the south end of Southridge Mall is a strip mall. As I quickly scanned the names of the businesses in that strip mall, I noticed "PIZZA" in large red letters. I went in for a closer look and found the name "Klasiana" next to those letters.

From the outside, I could tell this would be a small storefront. I wasn't expecting much more than a counter and a kitchen behind it.

However, what I found when I entered Klasiana, 5487 S. 76th St., was a well thought-out and executed design to maximize the use of the limited space. The colors and lighting make the space look larger than it was.

Four dining tables stand upon light beige floor tiles, and the walls feature a combination of sky blue paint and dark woodwork. A small build-out resembling an older Italian home complete with a window and roofing section with Villa Tiles adorned the north and west walls.

The service counter is covered with a canopy of artificial grape vines. Saloon doors behind the counter provide the entrance to the kitchen.

I've never been to Italy but the décor made me feel like I was on a patio outside of an Italian café, minus the snow and 10-degree wind chill.

Ylli Proko started Klasiana over six years ago. The name "Klasiana" comes from a combination of his children's names. Ylli started working for Patrick Cudahy when he first came to Milwaukee over 20 years ago.

He also worked nights and weekends, and later full time, at three area pizzerias where he learned the pizza business. He reached a point where he felt he was ready to venture out on his own and Klasiana was born.

Ylli's two brothers and his wife help with the cooking and Ylli's neighbors chip in to help with pizza deliveries.

The menu offers pizza, appetizers, sandwiches, chicken, fish, shrimp and Italian specialty dinners such as the Tortellini Casa Mia featuring homemade tortellini stuffed with porcini mushrooms and topped with two sauces, tomato and forestiere (…