Milwaukee Pizza Party

Last week, the WMSE conference room turned into a vulture den as the staff and I circled a couple of pizza ovens where Erik Bugos of Milwaukee Pizza Company was preparing lunch. Erick was very patient and we took turns stepping up beside him as if somehow that would make the pizzas cook faster.

It was hard to hold everyone back from the pizza long enough to take this photo

It was hard to hold everyone back from the pizza long enough to take this photo

Milwaukee Pizza Company got started almost by accident. Erik and partner Nick Smith were running batting cages and decided to make their own pizzas for the birthday parties they hosted. The pizzas were a big, er, hit, and soon they were being served at Art Bar and stocked in a couple corner stores. Two years later, you can find them at grocery stores all around town. Thank goodness.

Milwaukee Pizza Company pizzas are, as you’d expect, Milwaukee style pizza; thin, crispy, flaky crust. But it’s not just the crust that takes its inspiration from our hometown. They honor the city with pizzas called Milwaukee Beer Brat and Lakeside Deluxe, and by using locally made toppings whenever possible.

When the timer on the ovens finally went off, we descended. First up was Milwaukee Beer Brat topped with a cheddar ale base, Usingers brat slices, green and white onion and more cheddar. A general moan moved through the room as everyone took a bite. Brat pizza sounds like a gimmick, but the cheddar ale base gives it complex flavor. Two bites in and I was making plans to stock the freezer with these.

Milwaukee Beer Brat pizza

Milwaukee Beer Brat pizza

Having had our first taste, we were a little more patient in waiting for the Lakeside Deluxe, which was good because even after it came out of the oven we had to wait a bit; hot pepperoni juice is dangerous. Along with the all-beef pepperoni, this one features sausage, mushroom, green pepper and onion. This “traditional” pizza particularly pleased Tom Crawford, a pizza purist.

The Herbivore is definitely not a “traditional” pizza. Ryan Schleicher drew funny looks when he said it tasted like a really good vegetable soup, but somehow he was right on. Artichoke hearts, arugula, cilantro, onion, red pepper, cheddar and garlic infused olive oil come together atop this pizza in a well-balanced, fresh tasting blend of flavors. No wonder; Erik said that toppings on all the pizzas go on fresh, and then they freeze the pizzas themselves. Each one is shaped and topped by hand and I swear you can taste that.

I am of the belief that the frozen pizza is the most perfect convenience food; easy to make, easy to eat and gets your belly full. But when was the last time you took a bite of a frozen pizza and made yummy noises? It’s pretty cool that these guys have elevated it to a meal to actually look forward to. We’re certainly looking forward to seeing them at the Food Slam. There’s a good chance you’ll see someone from the WMSE staff circling their table.

by Food Slam blogger Steph Kilen

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