Milwaukee pizza scene offers unique flavor

Tour highlights independent shops around the city

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With Chicago’s world renowned deep dish pizza in close proximity, it is easy to overlook the unique culinary history of Milwaukee pizza.

Locally owned Milwaukee Food & City Tours explores the culinary culture and history that local Milwaukeeans sometimes miss. The company offers everything from Bloody Mary Brunches to Historic Third Ward tours.

One of the company’s more popular tours, the Milwaukee Pizza Bus, blends history and food as it explores four local pizzerias and a gelateria. Although Milwaukee’s German influence is unmistakable, an influx of Italian immigrants during the 20th Century led to an explosion in the popularity of pizza.

During the tour, the guide frequently highlights obscure Milwaukee landmarks and entertains patrons with local history, myths and legends.

The first stop on the tour is Zaffiro’s Pizza located at 1724 N. Farwell Ave. Founded in 1954, the family owned restaurant has a classic Italian neighborhood bar vibe.

Zaffiro’s specializes in ultra thin crust topped cut into squares instead of the traditional triangle. In order to achieve their cracker-like crust, Zaffiro’s briefly cooks the dough, flips it and then adds sauce and cheese before reinserting it into the oven.

The next stop is SoLo Pizza near UW-Milwaukee at 2856 N. Oakland Ave. This pizzeria features beautiful mosaics and a cozy atmosphere. SoLo utilizes a brick oven and San Marzano tomatoes to create excellent Neapolitan style pizza with crispy crust.

Classic Slice is a hip Bay View pizzeria that specializes in New York style pizza with unique toppings and offers vegetarian and vegan selections. The thickest crust of all the pizzerias on the tour, Classic Slice, utilizes locally grown organic ingredients from a variety of Wisconsin vendors. They make a pizza specifically for the Milwaukee Food Tours that is so large, it does not fit on a tray.

The final pizzeria on the tour is Wauwatosa’s Pizzeria, Piccola, located at 7606 W. State St. A member of the Bartolotta family of restaurants, Piccola offers thin crust authentic Neapolitan pizza in both traditional and gluten free varieties. Frequent fliers at Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport are familiar with Piccola’s location at the end of terminal C.

The tour ends with a trip to locally owned gelateria Cold Spoons. Located at 5924 W. Vliet Street on Milwaukee’s West side, Cold Spoons sells a variety of traditionally flavored gelato and sorbet alongside a constantly changing roster of specialty flavors. Cold Spoons does not shy away from experimentation, offering unconventional flavors like cucumber and chili pepper.

It is easy to become stuck in the Marquette bubble where the only real options for pizza are Papa John’s, Domino’s, Sal’s or Schroeder. Milwaukee Food Tours gives students an opportunity to try delicious authentic pizza while immersing them in the culture and tradition that helped create it.