After moving to Milwaukee in 2010, I had heard the tales and read the stories, but to me it had only been a myth. Earlier that year, a fire destroyed Pizza Man at its original location on North Ave. and for three years, it appeared that was the end of Milwaukee’s beloved pizza joint. Rumors of rebuilding sprouted, but never came to fruition. Until now.
Pizza Man began rebuilding on Downer Ave.: a street off the beaten path, near the University, and the grand opening was set for late August. Being the za fanatic that I am, I had it written in my calendar app, checked their Facebook page weekly for updates, and anxiously awaited . When the announcement was posted they were doing a soft reopening three weeks sooner than anticipated: I couldn’t get myself in the car fast enough.
Decorated in a rustic-meets-industrial vibe, the first thing you notice is a long, polished bar with friendly faces ready to take your drink order or help you navigate the more than 600 wines they serve (eight on tap). Glancing around the room, cozy, high-back booths made from wide boards of multi-color stained wood line the black brick walls while the exposed light bulbs and polished metal ceiling tiles add a touch of swank to the roughness.
Continuing up the stairs, a chandelier constructed of recycled wine bottles looms over your head adding to the raw decor as you make your way to the best spot in the house: the second level and patio balcony. The space is separated by large brick columns into two eating areas, an outdoor patio balcony, and a bar seating section. It gives the space an open airy feel, yet guests enjoy intimate seating from the almost room-like sectioning system. Sunlight bathes the eating areas with an open ceiling concept and exposed beams and more hanging recycled wine bottle pendants are the only things between you and the summer sky.
After settling in with a glass of wine and an appetizer (try the onion ring loaf or one of garlic breads) and get ready for some of the best thin crust pizza you’ve ever had. From specialty pies such as the famous Pizza Man staple, “The Special” to more unique combinations such as the “Topher” that comes with sausage, cheese, and cream cheese (bonus za tip: throw some jalapenos on that bad boy), there honestly is not a bad choice. And trust me, if you haven’t had cream cheese on your pizza, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you’re more the build your own pizza pie connoisseur, go crazy with the more than 30 toppings to choose from. The sauce has a slight sweetness to it as if the tomatoes were picked and stewed yesterday and cheese to sauce to crust ratio has been perfected. You can tell the toppings were chosen from the best of the best and smother the whole thing from edge to edge. No piece goes un-topped.
So if you don’t already know, it’s open! Pizza Man is open! Go right now! Get on your bike or in your car and go, go, go! The official grand opening is still set for August 15, where the full beer, wine, and food menu will be premiered as well as extended hours announced. However, I highly doubt you can (or should) wait that long!