Making the Rounds

Riverwest Pizza gives its ‘za true neighborhood appeal.

Photo via Shutterstock.
Photo via Shutterstock.
Wright Street in Riverwest is quiet but for the sound of my car’s engine and the tic-tic after the ignition goes off. We hop out and step over frozen caps of snow piled at the side of the road. The drab, midday light obfuscates the windows of 932 E. Wright St. Is it open? The sandwich board perched on the sidewalk seems an affirmative sign.

We mount the steps to the entrance, push open the door, and the barkeep, capped and curly mustachioed, nods us into a blue-gray room of engaged Riverwest Pizza activity. Beer is flowing, the chandelier twinkling, TV humming, young servers looking animatedly at us like it’s our birthday.

Pizza. It doesn’t matter that the city is riddled with it. There’s always room for someone’s rendition of it. This joint forms its pies (13 versions, plus a few dozen ingredients from which to make your own) on a cornmeal crust, which makes a dense, coarse-textured and unexpectedly entrancing base for the toppings, and no ingredient, it would seem, is off-base – whether it’s peas, kale or asparagus. Localizing the pies with names like Fratney, Bremen and Holton evokes a sense of this unconventional home. But I’d rather think about pizza, for instance the fusion of bacon, sliced jalapenos, queso fresco and cream cheese spread on the Gordon Court (14-inch $15; 18-inch $19). The Fratney, too ($15 and $19) – with balsamic-glazed duck, caramelized onion, goat cheese and arugula – commits a sweet, tangy flavor to memory. There’s a counterpart to this pie that raises the tangy quotient: the “Twist and Sprout” salad of Brussels sprouts, pears, walnuts and goat cheese in buttermilk dressing ($8). Next pizza up for the Riverwest street map? The Weil, topped with (of course) free-range chicken.

[mark]➽ Riverwest Pizza[/mark]

932 E. Wright St., 414-269-9703. Hours: Mon-Fri 11 a.m.-midnight; Sat-Sun 10 a.m.-midnight. Prices: Appetizers $5-$11; salads $6-$8; sandwiches $6-$10; pizzas $14-$20. Service: Exuberant. Dress: Whatev. Credit cards: M V A DS. Handicap access: Ramp entrance on west side of building. Reservations: Accepted.

‘Making the Rounds’ appears in the April, 2015, issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.