The Pizza of Milwaukee—A Cut Apart

From the Slice mailbag, this time from my cousin Aimee ...

Hi Adam, It's your cousin in Milwaukee. Today there was a cute article in the Journal about Milwaukee-style pizza. Apparently, it's mainly the way the pizza is cut that separates us. The square-cut pizza is not popular outside the Midwest. You know, I can't even remember the last time I had a pizza that wasn't cut into squares.

Here's the link:


Dear Aimee, Yeah. Some of my earliest memories of pizza are from when my parents, sister, and I used to visit Gram and Gramps at the Howell Avenue(?) house. Dad would always pick up a pizza from Maria's either on the way to the house or almost immediately after dropping off our bags at the old homestead. The last time I was in town, visiting Aunt Mary and Gram, we went to some place whose name I don't remember, and they did the square cut.

Incidentally—and I don't know where I picked up this terminology—I've heard it called "party cut" or the "tavern cut," as the Journal-Sentinel story mentions, I'd imagine because it's a good way to break a pizza up into almost hors d'oeuvre–size pieces. (Not that I think the words hors 'doeuvre and pizza necessarily go together.)

Anyway, I'll cut this response short now and get to quoting from the story for the readers out there.

Hasta la pizza, Adam

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Just what is Milwaukee-style depends on whom you ask—and in which generation the person may have started eating pizza.

Tom Koester of West Bend goes back to the 1950s to define a Milwaukee style of pizza. "In those days, thin crusts were the norm," he said.

Dawn Hicks left West Allis for Marysville, Ohio, years ago, but she still identifies a Milwaukee pizza as having a cracker crust and a sweet sauce topping.

Mark Gold brought his Pizza Shuttle pizza here in 1985. Gold cut his teeth on pizza in his hometown of Detroit and tried to re-create the style here: think thicker, airier crust than a cracker crust. It may be catching on, he said, tongue in cheek.

"That's becoming more commonplace now with people under 30," said Gold. "People over 30 get the cracker crust. That's the traditional Milwaukee-style."

And thus explains my partiality for New York joints like the now-defunct Lento's or Pizza Gruppo, both of which had and have the thin, cracker-like crust certain Milwaukeeans of a certain generation prefer.

Photograph from verbanonacta on Flickr. The bands La Quiete and Phoenix Bodies on tour through Milwaukee enjoying some party-cut pizza.