Milwaukee Needs Maria’s Pizza to Reopen

And Maria’s Pizza needs a new owner.

Maria’s Pizza (5025 W. Forest Home Ave.) is an institution. It’s hard for me to say was an institution. But it is closed, for now, at least. That news caught a lot of people by surprise. A TV news report showed an extremely long line of eager customers outside the restaurant on its  last day of service (Sunday, June 26). “I don’t know how they knew [about Maria’s closing]. We didn’t announce anything,” says co-owner Maria Story. 

The pizzeria with the unforgettable decor (a sort of religious/holiday theme) was founded in 1957 by the late Maria Traxel and originally served pies out of a different location – Seventh and Greenfield. The Forest Home spot – with that rad (now-) retro signage – opened in the 1970s. Most recently, the restaurant has been operated by Traxel’s daughter, Bonnie Crivello, and niece, Maria Story.     

Maria’s Pizza co-owner Bonnie Crivello

There really is no pizza place quite like it. The thin-crust pies are rather unusually shaped – an amoeba spilling over the pan. The crust ends break off in crisp shards, the sauce is sweet and sausage plentifully applied. I hate to see it relegated to the past tense. Story says they hope the closing is temporary. “We have a number of people interested in buying it” and continuing the Maria’s legacy, Story says. “Because of the staff shortage, we had to close it.”

There’s no shortage of fans, however. That crowd that lined up on the last day… were they able to make that many pies to accommodate them? I asked Story. “We ran out of everything,” she says. “The last four pizzas we ran out of cheese. They still wanted the pizza – just sausage and sauce.”

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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.