It’s time for Dining Month, presented by Deer District and its spooky Halloween-themed alter ego, Fear District. Throughout the month of October, we’ll be serving up fun and fascinating content about all things food. The signature dish, however, is our 2019 Best of Dining poll, who’s winners we will dish out all month long. Get hungry, Milwaukee!
“Where do I find Chicago-style deep dish pizza in Milwaukee?”
It’s a question I’m asked on a regular basis. It’s also one that’s become far easier to answer in recent years as Milwaukee become home to various Chicago-style deep dish pizza brands. But, even among those popular brands – think Uno, Pizano’s, Rosati’s and (soon) Lou Malnati’s – there are variations.
So, I decided to take the time to explore the Chicago deep dish pizza scene in Milwaukee, visiting each spot and giving you a full report on the flavors and textures you’ll encounter at each location. To keep things consistent, I ordered a small (generally 10-inch) pizza with sausage, mushrooms and pepperoni at each location, and then tasted each pizza component (from toppings to crust) to give you the full lowdown.
If you’re a lover of Chicago-style deep dish, my hope is you’ll read along and maybe find a spot or two you haven’t tried. If you’re curious what all the fuss is about, this series might well assist you in finding your ideal pie.
But first, a few words on what Chicago-style deep dish really is.
Not every deep dish is Chicago-style
“Deep dish” pizza can come in various forms. But there is really only one type of pizza that qualifies as Chicago-style deep dish. Much of what you’ll find in Wisconsin is more akin to “pan style” pizza featuring a soft, thick dough that’s cooked in a deep pan. It looks a bit like Chicago-style pizza, but the top is likely covered with cheese.
When you break it down to basics, there are three ways to identify a classic Chicago-style deep dish pizza:
- The crust: Chicago-style deep dish features an almost biscuit-like crust, which nearly always gets a boost from butter or corn oil. Note: Stuffed pizza is a category all its own. If there is a second, often very thin layer of crust in between the toppings and the sauce, it’s not classic Chicago-style deep dish.
- The toppings: they are applied in reverse order from most pizzas. The cheese is layered right on top of crust, with meat and vegetable toppings to follow; this prevents the cheese from scorching during the longer cooking time.
- The sauce: You will definitely find the sauce on the top of your pizza.
For the purpose of this series, I made a grand attempt to focus on true Chicago style deep dish. But, as you’ll find … not every “Chicago-style” pie is created equal.
2914 E. Grange Ave., Cudahy, (414) 488-8007
Cudahy is filled with numerous quirky, and often underrated spots. Among them is a relative newcomer, Pizza Pete’s, a low key pizzeria located in a humble strip mall on Grange Avenue. According to the brand’s web site, the pizza restaurant pays homage to Pete Einwiller, a late military veteran and fan of The Grateful Dead who apparently always had a dream of opening a small pizza place. As the description reads: “He was known in Cudahy for his big heart, tie-dyes and wearing shorts all year around.”
Even after Einwiller passed in 2000, his children remembered his dream and opened Pizza Pete’s in his honor. Although Pizza Pete’s is likely more of a carry-out spot, they do have a small dining area which seats about 12. And you’ll see nods to Einwiller in the form of Grateful Dead paraphernalia, tie-dyed shirts and an overall relaxed vibe.
The menu lists numerous pizza styles including original thin, hand tossed, stuffed and “Chicago Style.” As you might expect, we opted for a 10″ Chicago Style pie, which we consumed at a table inside the little dining area.
The crust of the pizza was thick and soft without the usual biscuit-like texture of a Chicago-style deep dish. But it was quite buttery with what I discerned might be a hint of garlic. It was lightly crisp on the sides and bottom, though the bottom layer grew soggy quite quickly as the juices from the pie seeped out into the take-out box in which it was served.
As I dug in, I found that there was also a thin layer of crust on the top of the pizza, hovering just beneath the sauce. Yes, this was a stuffed pizza.
The pizza was topped with a generous portion of sauce that possessed a deep, cooked tomato flavor. It wasn’t sweet, and it was moderately seasoned with spices.
The mushrooms were fresh and sliced in a thicker cut; but they were fully cooked with good flavor. Meanwhile, the sausage was loose and soft, with seasonings that were more salty than complex with a minimal presence of fennel. Subjectively, it wasn’t my favorite. The pepperoni was thin and soft with a salty, slightly spicy flavor.
And the cheese… well, there was plenty of that. In fact, if you want an impressive cheese pull on your pizza, this is one for the books. I’ll tuck a gratuitous photo of it in here, just for good measure.
Well … Cudahy is south of Milwaukee. But it’s not Chicago. Based on the crust alone (and it’s stuffed nature), this is not a classic Chicago-style deep dish. But, if you’re a fan of deep dish with a thick flavorful crust that’s loaded with cheese, you might just find a happy place at Pizza Pete’s.
Pizza Pete’s is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m.