Nearby Chicago might get all the attention for its deep dish and stuffed pizza, but Milwaukee offers a host of pizzerias for all tastes. Feast on Neapolitan pies baked in a scorching ovens or dig into modern interpretations on classic recipes — we're talking mac 'n' cheese or Mongolian beef on top of your slice.
A fire destroyed the original Pizza Man location in 2010, but this local favorite shop has officially rebounded in its new East Side digs. The menu at Pizza Man hasn’t changed at all — and thanksfully for wine geeks, neither has the extensive wine list. Most selections are from boutique California producers, and some wines are even on tap. Seventeen specialty pizzas include The White Pizza (bianca base, mushroom, cream cheese, truffle oil and arugula) and the meat-heavy Carnivoro. On warmer nights, snag a table on the rooftop, which has a retractable roof. Downstairs, the high-walled wooden booths are a great spot for a date or intimate chat with friends or family over pizza. Note: Other Pizza Man locations are in Oak Creek (since 2016) and Wauwatosa (since 2015).
Ian’s Pizza By the Slice is perhaps best known for late-night shenanigans, but it's also a great spot for family meals during the day. The pizza sold here strays from the norm— sample slices topped with mac ‘n cheese, smoked brisket, gyro meat or tater tots, in addition to standards like tomato pesto. Any of these pizzas can be prepared as vegan. Note: Ian's also has locations in near Marquette University, and in Madison (the original shop), Denver and Seattle.
This isn't your standard coffee shop fare: A pizza oven direct from Italy hides in the back of the restaurant, which turns out cracker-thin, crispy pizzas cooked at a blistering 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Specialty pies here fold in farm-fresh fare—like the Beet (with fire-roasted beets and goat cheese) and the South Side Salumi (mushrooms and salumi). Beer and wine are sold in the coffee shop, as well as espresso and coffee drinks.
So named for its location along the Milwaukee County Bus' transfer point in Walker's Point, Transfer Pizzeria Cafe is a lively, boisterous place, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when live jazz is on offer. Gluten-free diners love that they can order pizza here, while the after-work crowd enjoys $3 glasses of wine with an early dinner. The line-up of 28 pizzas is staggering, with inventive options that include Thai Chicken and Roasted Potato Chicken, as well as standards like Billy Bob (tomato sauce with pepperoni, green peppers, onions and mushrooms). Garlic lovers will drool over the special garlic-pizza section of the menu, featuring seven garlic-rich options.
Cranky Al’s is perhaps best known for its donuts, but the cafe has a cult-like West Side following for its pizza. Here's the drill: Pizza service starts at 4 p.m. and lasts until 8 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday only. There is plenty of dine-in seating. Eleven specialty pies range include the Chicka-Chicka (grilled chicken and barbecue sauce) to the Fab Five (five cheeses: mozzarella, ricotta, asiago, romano and blue). Meat eaters will love Mike’s Meatball Special, a pizza that’s topped with meatballs, sliced red onion and cheese.
This Bay View staple has been serving its iconic rectangular pizzas for years. Most customers order the pies to go, although seating is available in the attached dining room. Come summer, the outdoor patio overlooking a grassy space is open. Six specialty pizzas are topped with a variety of ingredients, such as the Italian Garden Pesto, piled with veggies; and the Steak Compobasa, lined with tenderloin steak, red onions, mushrooms and red peppers.
If you want to experience the kind of retro Milwaukee pizza place the Fonz would have loved, then Zaffiro’s Pizza is a must. This joint has been turning out affordable thin-crust pizza in cozy surrounds (red-checked tablecloths, dark wood furnishings) since 1954, and it’s still a quiet oasis at the bustling six corners of Farwell Avenue, Oakland Avenue and Brady Street. Specialty pizzas include the Meat Lover’s Pizza and Veggie Supreme; wine is served by the glass and bottle, and desserts are Italian (tiramisu, spumoni).
Popular with East Side residents and UW-Milwaukee students, Lisa’s Pizza is tucked into a string of storefronts on North Oakland Avenue. Pizzas can be ordered out or eaten at the restaurant. The focus is on build-your-own pies, with the pizza menu featuring just four signature combos; the others are named by a star ingredient (like bacon or anchovy), with an option to add even more toppings (there are 28 total). Gluten-free crusts are available by request. Be sure check the pizzeria's website for a $2-off coupon on large and extra-large pizzas.
Located in Bay View, Classic Slice is a popular spot for families (the dine-in area is spacious and super casual) as well as those on gluten-free or vegan diets (both can be accommodated). Food snobs also like the toppings, which include truffles when in season ($8 on a small pizza. As the name suggests, Classic Slice is a great option for ordering slices, which are massive. Be sure to ask about the “slice of the week,” which often features seasonal ingredients. There are three sizes of pizza (12”, 16” and 20”), and five vegan pizzas.
Not to be confused with Balistreri’s Bluemound Inn a few blocks away, Balistreri’s Italian/American Ristorante is a cozy little space on busy North 68th Street that’s been in business for four decades. Pizzas can be ordered for carry-out or dine-in. The Works is a popular specialty pizza, featuring sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, onions and green peppers, while many other specialty options fold in anchovies, sausage or pepperoni. Opt for extra sauce or a thick crust—or both—with your order and pay nothing more.
Ned’s Pizza has been flipping pies since1969, when two childhood friends opened the restaurant. Enjoy thin-crust style pizza with all manner of toppings: shrimp-and-cheese, Hawaiian or the PLT — pepperoni, pepperoncini peppers and pickles. Want to stock up your freezer so you don't have to order in? Order the parbake, an unbaked pizza you can heat up at home.