Transfer Pizzeria Café
101 West Mitchell Street, Milwaukee WI 53204 (map); 414-763-0438; transfermke.com
Pizza style: A little bit of this, a little bit of that...
Oven type: Bakers Pride gas-fired oven
The skinny: In a town that may be known more for thin yet hearty thin-crust pizzas, Transfer's Vasyl Lemberskyy forges his own path
Price: Small pies, $8 to $13; large, $14 to $19
I'm glad he did. See, I already knew Milwaukee could do the kind of thin-crust yet hearty Midwestern pizzas that seem straight outta 1957 and I wanted to try something 21st-century instead this trip.
Transfer, which opened in 2008 on an otherwise dreary block, gives pizzamaker Vasyl Lemberskyy a venue for creative pizzas that are, as he says on the menu, "not Italian, not American but ... my vision of cooking." Which makes sense for a guy whose bio indicates that he first fell in love with pizza in the Ukraine after itinerant Italian pizzaioli showed up at a festival and started doing their thing and who then moved to Italy to learn the trade before moving to the U.S. and ending up in Milwaukee.
That sort of ramblin' man ethos is reflected on the menu with its 44 different pizzas divided into five sections — Garlic Pizzas, Traditional, Veggie, Seafood Pizzas, and Special Pizzas.
Our waitress, in her self-described "spiel" (which was indeed as long as the menu — yet charming) sold me on a garlic pizza, noting that they're sort of what Transfer was known for. I went with a small La Bella, with its garlic sauce, cheese, artichokes, and onion ($11).
And, because I wanted to taste a more standard tomato-sauced pie, I also ordered a S.M.O., with its cheese, tomato sauce, sausage, mushroom, and onion ($11).
My companion ordered a Workweek Lunch Special — a small one-topping pizza (she chose pepperoni) and a 16-ounce drink for $6.95. That is an unbelievably great price for the size of pizza you get.
The crust on this pizza is thicker and more bready than the thin-crust pizzas I normally order when in Milwaukee. The only easy-to-grasp standard reference that might work for all of us is that this is what a "hand-tossed" chain-pizza crust might be like if it were actually good. It's pleasingly puffy, with a middling amount of density, but is not overly soft and gummy. There's some crispness to it, and the upskirt shows some nice browning:
I could have asked for just a tiny bit more flavor in the dough, but with the generous amount of toppage that goes on here — lots of cheese and many inventive flavor combinations — you won't notice this until you get to the end crust, which, I will admit, is not an insignificant percentage of a small slice here.
Of the three we tried, my favorites were the garlic-artichoke-onion pizza (artichoke is always hard to beat in my book), and the pepperoni, which was smokey and funky.
While Transfer has not replaced Maria's as my fave Milwaukee pizza haunt (nostalgia runs deep), I'm happy napplegate nudged me here. It's nice to have an option as good as Transfer in this part of Bay View.