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Milwaukee’s Frozen Pizza Scene

Aug. 30, 2016
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A trip to the pizza section of any grocery store’s frozen foods aisle reveals a plethora of choices—not merely in terms of crusts, sizes and toppings, but companies. But have you ever wondered which (if any) of those companies’ roots are here in Milwaukee? How about Tombstone, for example? Not quite; it all started at the Tombstone Tap in Medford, Wis., Tombstone remaining Wisconsin owned and operated until Nestlé purchased them in 2010. DiGiorno? No; it started as a Kraft-owned frozen pizza maker but is also a Nestlé product today. Similar to Tombstone, Home Run Inn has tavern roots, but in this case, the originating tap was in Chicago. Despite its name, Brew Pub Pizza (which previously acquired two other Wisconsin-based frozen pizza makers—Orv’s and Roma) has its production facility in Kaukauna, Wis. But, yes, there are some much closer-to-home frozen pizza makers, such as:

Cedar Teeth

3040 S. Delaware Ave.

Hannah Roland’s rural North Dakota roots—far from the nearest grocery store—are what she attributes to her culinary creativity, and creativity is a powerful ingredient in the world of pizza making. Cedar Teeth (the name, an idea of Hannah’s husband, Chris, suggests a light-hearted love of nature) offers a variety of fresh and frozen pizza—for vegans, vegetarians and carnivores, alike—available at their Bay View headquarters or at Outpost Natural Foods, Beans & Barley, Riverwest Co-op, Bert’s Beer & Liquor, Milwaukee’s Craft Beer Garden at Humboldt Park and Burnhearts bar. “We feel that all creativity is linked,” Roland affirms, “be it musical, artistic, culinary, etc.; it’s all an expression providing enjoyment, camaraderie and inspiration to the heart, soul, mind and gut.” 

Dino’s 

Dino Dominici arrived in Wisconsin from his native Italy in 1948 and within a few years opened Dino’s Restaurant in Racine. Alas, the restaurant closed three years ago, but the legacy of the place lives on in the form of Dino’s frozen pizza. Currently, their pizzas can be found in grocery stores in Racine, Kenosha, Burlington and Oak Creek—they announce they’re “coming soon to Milwaukee.” Dino’s boasts pizzas that are “made by hand on a traditional thin crust” and utilize an Old World tomato sauce recipe, 100% mozzarella cheese and pork that’s made fresh daily. Among their 15 specialty and eight standard combination pizzas are cheese and sausage, spinach-garlic-herb, deluxe and veggie varieties.

Emil’s Pizza

1020 S. 12th St., Watertown

emilspizzainc.com

As they put it: “Since its inception in 1961, Emil’s Pizza has evolved from a ‘mom & pop’ pizzeria in Watertown, Wis., into a thriving operation” offering 21 varieties of pizza on thin or “Hi-Rising” crusts. Along with all the usual suspects where pizza topping combinations are concerned, Emil’s also offers bacon cheeseburger, Cajun chicken, “The Porker” (with four different meats) and the “Rise & Shine”—a breakfast pizza available in five varieties. Though once available only in Watertown, Emil’s pizza products have, through the decades, spread to the point where they can now be found in more than 1,200 cook-and-serve and retail distributors in both Wisconsin and Illinois.

Milwaukee Pizza Company

309 W. Main St., Waukesha

milwaukeepizzacompany.com

Erik Burgos founded Milwaukee Pizza Company six years ago out of a desire to create a truly recognizable, Milwaukee-style pizza akin to the well-known Chicago and New York-style pizzas. He came up with a thin, crispy, flaky crust, and upon that foundation Milwaukee Pizza Co. offers nine different varieties, including Margherita with fresh tomatoes, basil and Asiago cheese and Greek with toppings such as olives, garlic cream sauce, artichoke hearts and feta cheese. “I believe that there is a healthier alternative to the traditional pizza,” Burgos asserts. “We use preservative-free, fresh and clean ingredients, and we hope that these qualities make us stand out.” Milwaukee Pizza Co.’s pizzas are not yet available in grocery stores but they offer dine-in, delivery and pick-up. 

Palermo’s Pizza

3301 W. Canal St.

palermospizza.com

Palermo’s Pizza was started by husband and wife, Jack and Zina Fallucca, who first owned a bakery on Milwaukee’s East Side. For a decade they owned and operated the Palermo Villa Restaurant, but turned to selling frozen pizzas in that lucrative, growing market of 1979. Today, Palermo’s frozen pizza is ubiquitous throughout our area’s retailers. Their product line offers several varieties—thin-crusted Primo, Breakfast, hand-tossed Pizzeria, the “overly topped, fully loaded, pub-style” P’MOs and, for the socially conscious, there’s Mission Pizza, whereby Palermo’s donates one pizza to help local hunger projects for every five that are sold.

Screamin’ Sicilian

3301 W. Canal St.

screaminsicilian.com

Screamin’ Sicilian—an offshoot of Palermo’s—is essentially a pizza-making version of the craft beer industry. For three years now, they’ve been selling their frozen pizzas “with so many toppings that only the most carefully crafted and sturdy crusts can keep ’em all in place,” as they describe them. Available in the frozen foods aisles of area Pick ’n’ Save, Metro Market, Walmart and Sendik’s stores are Screamin’ Sicilian’s pizzas, including the all-cheese Bessie’s Revenge, sausagey Boss Hog, chicken and jalapeño-topped Spicy Clucker, Holy Pepperoni, meatball and pepperoni-covered Mambo Italiano, veggie-friendly Supreme Maximus and Three Lil’ Piggies, with sausage, pulled pork and bacon.

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