When I awoke (literally) this morning to the news that one of our favorite pizza joints (and a Milwaukee icon) was ablaze, I was in shock.
Pizza Man has always been our "go to" restaurant. It was one of the places we chose to mark any number of celebratory occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, job offers). It was the place where we'd go when life had taken us for a ride, and left us yearning for familiarity and the comfort of an old friend. (how many tear-filled sessions I've had, drowning my sorrows in deep dish pizza, I may never know). It was also one of our favorite spots to dine with friends and family.
Seems there was NO occasion that didn't suit the Pizza Man. And we weren't the only ones to think so. There was always a wait. I can't count the number of times we found ourselves standing around waiting for a table (though, in most cases, we simply left the friendly hostess our cell number and grabbed a beer or two over at the Eastsider, a neighborhood bar just across Oakland Avenue). And that fact alone should be seen as a testament to the quality of both the food and the atmosphere -- which included an old wooden door (which opened and closed thanks to the power of pulleys and weights), darkly stained wooden booths, and walls hung with shelves of jars featuring Italian specialties like olives, roasted red peppers, and canned beans.
If a comparison is even fair, Pizza Man was the historic equivalent of Lombardi's (New York), Santarpio's (Boston), and Giordano's (Chicago). The interior of Pizza Man itself was a historic marker, since it became a Milwaukee tradition to write or carve one's name or other messages on the wooden booths. The restaurant was also known for its huge wine list, which included over 500 wines from California, Washington, and Oregon.
When we weren't ordering Pizza Man's delicious deep dish pizza (sometimes just their plain old cheese, sausage, mushroom & onion -- which was simply incomparable), we'd often order a pie affectionately referred to as artichoke a la mode -- a thin crust variety topped with mozzarella cheese, artichokes, generous dollops of cream cheese, and slices of fresh tomatoes and garlic.
This wonder of a pizza became one of our absolute favorites -- so much so that we decided to recreate a riff on the original at home. A sourdough crust replaced the thin crust, and roasted cherry tomatoes stood in for the fresh tomato slices... but this pizza was a pretty great stand-in for the real thing.
In memory of Pizza Man, all the good times shared -- and, hopefully, all the good times to come:
Artichoke a la Mode Pizza
Other great memories and photos also available on ThirdCoast Digest.
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