30 May 2013

Lost City: Milwaukee Edition: Marty's Pizza

Milwaukee, I've learned, has—like New York, like Chicago—it's own style of pizza. It's a thin style, which a dry, crackery crust. It is often served in a rectangular shape, as opposed to a circle, and it is invariably sliced in a "party cut" or "tavern cut"—that is, not eight wedges, but innumerable squares. The cheese is, naturally, good quality. And sausage is a prominent topping, as popular as pepperoni, and is frequently of the fennel-flecked lump sort.

Curious to check this phenomenon out, I paid a call on Marty's Pizza on a recent trip to Cream City. Milwaukee possesses more famous exemplars of the local pizza style—Maria's and Zaffiro's are two renowned practitioners—but Marty's was close to where I was staying, and it has been doing what it's been doing since 1957, so I figured they couldn't be doing it terribly wrong.

The business is on Bluemound Road, a thick and unlovely commercial strip that runs several miles from the outlying city of Waukesha to the neighborhood of Brookfield, with various strip malls and big box stores on either side of the strip. Marty's is surely the oldest business along this thoroughfare. The owner told me that, when Marty's began serving pizza out of a wooden shack in the late '50s, it was just about the only place around to eat, and Bluemound was barely a step above a dirt road. (See photo above.)

Today, the restaurant is house is a modern, fairly charmless building. The interior is just as utilitarian. Beyond that, however, things get quirky. As I stated above, the pizzas are not round. They smallest are squares—as was the one we ordered. From there, they grow into longer and longer rectangles, and are given size names like "Family," "Party," "Colossal" and "Super."

As a helpful guide, pizza trays matching each size are stuck on the wall. When the pie arrived, the waiter, who was also the owner, said, "Oh, I forgot the scooper!" The "scooper" (seen two photos up) was a small metal spatula. One comes with every pie. No picking up the pizza with your nasty fingers.

How's the pizza? By New York standards, on the tame side. Not too tangy, not too zesty. And the thin crust has an odd, chalky taste to it. And yet, it was strangely addictive. Before we knew it, two thirds of the pie was gone. Maybe it's that "party cut." The tiny pieces make you want to reach for just one more.

1 comment:

patty said...

So glad you posted this - my friends think I am making Milwaukee-style pizza up. Lisa's, Zaffiro's, Demarini's, Pizza Man (soon to be rebuilt after a fire).