#90 Pizza Man

May 24th, 2016

Milwaukee, WI

After lunch in Minneapolis, we hopped in the car again for the 5 1/2 hour drive over to Wisconsin. We only had to make one stop on the way into Wisconsin – for cheese, of course! We pulled in to town just in time for dinner.

The first stop on our pizza list in Milwaukee was Pizza Man. We were still a little full from the great pizzas at Pizzeria Lola, so we were glad to see that these were thin crust pies. We ended up splitting the Avantgardener pizza, which was topped with eggplant, ricotta, and peppers, and also a brussels sprouts salad.

If we lived in Milwaukee, this would be on our most-visited restaurant list. The pizza is good, but we’d also go for the wine list and to sit outside on the second floor deck. We obviously didn’t go to the pre-2010 location that was destroyed in a fire, but we love what they’ve done with the new restaurant since they re-opened in 2013. Especially the giant wine bottle chandelier that we wish we could recreate in our house.

This thin crust-style pizza is called “Milwaukee-style”, unsurprisingly. Over here on the East coast, we rarely see pizzas cut into squares like this. In the Midwest, this is really a thing.

We are both history dorks (although me more so than Eric), so of course I needed to look up why and how this cracker-thin crust started. As it turns out, pizza first came to Milwaukee in 1945, at a restaurant called the Caradaro Club. The two owners decided to combine the round, Neapolitan style and the square, Sicilian style, and this is what they came up with. It is easier to eat while drinking beers than slices, and so this style of cutting is also known as a “tavern cut”. You can read more about this here, if you are interested.

Milwaukee-style pizza also typically has a sweet sauce that is spread just so that it covers the crust. It is usually, but not always, topped with shredded mozzarella cheese. It was a little surprising how many pizzas were cheese-less, considering Wisconsin is known as the Dairy State. The crust reminded us a little bit of Pi Pizzeria in St. Louis, or Tappo Thin Crust in NYC, although neither of those is cut “tavern style”. The thin crust was really appreciated by our waistlines, because this was pizza #5 in three days (and there was plenty more to come).

We followed up our pizza dinner with a quick tour of some of Milwaukee’s breweries. We really wanted to try this beer, but after a bit of Google searching, we realized that the brewery was closed. We went to Lakefront Brewery, though, and also found ourselves in the Sugar Maple bar, which had an excellent selection of beers on tap.

 

To visit:

Pizza Man
2597 N Downer Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53211

#60 Pizzeria Lola

May 24th, 2016

Minneapolis, MN

Next on our very detailed Epic Pizza Road Trip itinerary was Pizzeria Lola, in Minneapolis. We stopped here for lunch on our way out of town, after a nice morning of running around the lake and visiting a nearby waterfall. Minnesota is so pretty, and we only got to see one of the 10,000 lakes!

We were expecting Pizzeria Lola to be just another Neapolitan pizzeria, but we were pleasantly surprised by the menu. The pizzeria was started by Ann Kim, who left the west coast and a former career as an actress to become a pizzaiola (making her one of the only females that we’ve come across to do this!) She also merges her Korean heritage and food culture into the pizzas that she creates. The menu is one of the most creative that we’ve come across, probably only bested by some of the newer Neapolitan restaurants in LA and NYC.

We tried the Korean BBQ pizza, which had beef short ribs and arugula and was covered in a soy chili dressing. The arugula was dressed so perfectly and the dressing provided just enough sweetness that this really worked on the pizza. This is probably still one of our favorite and one of the most interestingly-topped pizzas that we’ve tried. We also tried one of the “Old Reliable” pizzas, which was essentially just a regular cheese. The wood-fired crust on these was almost Neapolitan, but it wasn’t quite as fluffy, and it was more like a NY-style crust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Um, also, they have homemade soft serve.  I’m not sure it can get any better.

Next time we find ourselves in Minneapolis (not exactly sure when that will be) we want to check out Ann Kim’s newest restaurant, Young Joni, which just got ranked as one of Eater’s 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

To visit:

Pizzeria Lola
5557 Xerxes Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55410

#79 Punch Neapolitan Pizza

May 23, 2016

St. Paul, MN

After our second night in St. Louis, and our spur-of-the-moment trip to Memphis, we left bright and early for the drive to St. Paul/Minneapolis. This was one of our longer drives – about 8 hours north. We got in to St. Paul for dinner before checking in to our AirBnB.

Punch Neapolitan Pizza was the first stop on our list. They make true, Neapolitan-style pies that are quickly baked in a 900-degree oven. We went with the “Margherita Extra” pizza. This is a step up from the traditional margherita pizza because it is topped with mozzarella di bufala (fancy words for “buffalo mozzarella”, or mozzarella from an Italian breed of water buffalo). We should have had a taste test to compare with the regular margherita pizza (which I’m assuming was regular cow’s milk mozzarella, although I’m not really sure about this). We really liked the taste of this cheese, but we’d need to compare it side-by-side with regular mozz to tell if it’s worth the extra $5.

To round out our pizza, we also got an arugula salad that was served in a warm pita. We felt like we needed some vegetables to go along with our pizza, and this salad was awesome. We highly recommend trying it.

The pizza itself was good, but it wasn’t our favorite Neapolitan. It wasn’t as good as Hog & Hominy (but, yes, that wasn’t a VERIFIED Neapolitan pizza). On average, we find traditional Neapolitan pizzas too thin and flimsy. They can get a little watery with too many toppings or thin sauce. We definitely appreciated the freshness of the mozzarella and tomato sauce, and we like the taste of a doughy crust, but we also need our crust to have some weight. So, Punch gets points for staying true to its style, but loses some for letting the fancy mozzarella slide off the crust when we picked it up.

Another plus: the location that we went to had a really nice patio outside, which was so enjoyable after sitting in a car for 8 hours.

Fun fact learned while writing this post: Did you know that to make 2.2 pounds of mozzarella cheese, you need 18 pounds of cow’s milk, but only 11 pounds of buffalo milk? If you want to know more about buffalo mozzarella, this article was really fascinating.

To visit:

Punch Neapolitan Pizza
704 Cleveland Ave S
St Paul, MN 55116

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#59 Hog & Hominy

May 22, 2016

Memphis, TN

Picking up the story from my last post, we were staying in St. Louis and cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals, who were losing, on the first weekend of our epic pizza road trip. We were getting a little bored of the game and Eric had an amazing idea: we should drive down to Memphis!

Memphis has one pizza place on the 101 list, Hog & Hominy, and we weren’t planning on hitting it during this road trip. However, Eric pointed out that it was only a 4 hour drive from St. Louis, and it would save us a weekend of flying. If we left right then (it was around 3 pm), we’d be down there just in time for dinner. That sounded like a lot of driving to me, but Eric volunteered to do all of the driving so I couldn’t say no.

   

Of course, on our way into Memphis we had to stop at Graceland. We couldn’t really be tourists because Graceland had already closed for the day, but we got to stand outside and peer over the stone wall. We took a couple of pictures and then drove down to the restaurant.

Hog & Hominy is known for their wood-fired pizzas, but their other Southern-inspired vegetable and pork-based menu items also get rave reviews. We started out with the poutine (we were hungry!) and then moved on to two pizzas – the Prewitt, with fontina, mozzarella, sausage, and scrambled egg, and a Margherita. We really loved both of these. The “Prewitt” was the most interesting combination on a pizza that we’d had so far, and we do love egg on a pizza. The crust was also one of the best Neapolitan-style crusts that we’d had, being the perfect amount of fluffy and also having a nice char around the edge. Not too much cheese and not too much sauce to weigh the crust down – just how we like it!

Eric liked these pizzas so much that Hog & Hominy made it into his top 20. I ended up ranking it at a decent #36.

Their other pizzas all have really interesting combinations of toppings, too! If we were ranking some of the most unusual and delicious combinations of toppings on pizza, Hog & Hominy would be pretty high up on both of our lists. For example, the “Red Eye” is topped with pork belly, egg, fontina, celery leaf, and sugo and the “When I was in Tuscany” has tomato sauce, gorgonzola, spicy pork sausage, and fried capers. We could have tried all of them if we weren’t looking forward to 10 more days of eating pizza on this road trip.

Can we also just say how cute this restaurant was? It was very homey and rustic. They also have an outdoor patio and I’ve seen around the internet that they have bocce too, but I can’t personally confirm that because it was after 8 pm by the time we got there and we weren’t going to be playing bocce in the dark!

We were glad to have made it to Memphis for this pizza, although it would have been nice to explore the city a bit more. We drove through downtown on our way out and it was pretty raving and the neon lights were intense. Luckily, it was *only* a short 4 hour drive back to our hotel. 🙂 Maybe we will make it back there in the future.

To visit:

Hog & Hominy
707 W. Brookhaven Circle
Memphis, TN 38117