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American Pie
The East Side’s sleeper Sicilian adds a plum pizza to its repertoire.

RIGHT ROUND Sala’s pizza Margherita.
Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

The crust is not much thicker than my napkin. Not perfect, but it keeps its balance on the great pizza teeter-totter. Light and crisp, with little pockets of air. The object of discussion is 10 inches of baked dough and “Rita” toppings at SALA, the little off-Downer Avenue Sicilian place that spent the 2000s finding East Side sleeper status. When the business reached the 10-year mark over a year ago, owners/siblings Teresa, Tony and Peter Balistreri made some edits to better reflect its evolution. One was shortening the name from the original Sala da Pranzo (Italian for “The Dining Room”). Another created more of a dividing line between the kitchen and bar, which used to give off an Italian deli vibe, complete with its prepared foods case. Repainted (in the same rich genre as the red, art-encrusted dining room walls), walled-in and stocked with bottles, the bar is truly a sala of its own. But not completely closed off from what’s happening in the kitchen. Such as the careful crafting of pizza.

Bite into more of Sala's cheesy creations.
Which showed up relatively late to the Sala game. Close to the two-digit anniversary mark. Better late than never. The best part is the pizzas have done a 180-degree turn since their first appearance on the menu, alongside Sala’s  shrimp scampi, chicken saltimbocca, pasta arrabiatta, gnocchi in Gorgonzola cream sauce and others.

If the pizzas had had a stylist when they were first rolled out, the advice given would have been this: Less is more. Things changed. The crust – either 10 or 14 inches, $10-$30.25 – and toppings have profited from honing the crust and the smaller distribution of gooey cheese. You can make the pie your own, with 36 topping choices (pepperoni and pepperoncini to capers and cream cheese). Or choose a specialty pie like the carbonara – with Alfredo, pancetta and an egg on top. Delizioso. The Rita turns fresh mozz, banana peppers, onion and prosciutto into a pizza party in your mouth.


The changes make me wonder what might happen when Sala turns 20. I’ll ruminate on that over another slice of the Angelina, with extra Gorgonzola.

This article appears in the April 2013 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
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