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Pizzeria Piccola: Bartolotta Quality in Casual Setting

Choices abound with appetizers, salads, pizzas, pastas and desserts

Nov. 18, 2009
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The Bartolotta name is usually associated with expensive restaurants such as Lake Park Bistro, Bacchus, Mr. B’s Steakhouse and the original Ristorante Bartolotta. But there is a different sort of eatery in the group, located right next door to Ristorante Bartolotta in the old heart of Wauwatosa. At Pizzeria Piccola you order from a counter within view of a wood-burning pizza oven and proceed upstairs to the dining room or walk a few steps outdoors to a summertime seating area. The upstairs room has exposed Cream City brick walls, oak floors and sturdy wooden tables. A server will deliver your order—beyond that, you are on your own. Many of the items on this menu are meant for sharing.

The pizzeria has been in business for a number of years, but the menu continues to evolve. A newer addition is pizza made with gluten-free dough. The pizzas are not large (“piccolo” means “small”) and are made in the Neapolitan style. This means a crust that is very thin in the middle and thick around the edges. The thin spots are soft and doughy, not firm and crisp.

Eight standard toppings are offered along with a few daily specials. (You can also customize your own pizza with the many toppings offered.) The high quality of the ingredients is noticeable. The pizza con salame piccante ($8.25), or spicy pepperoni, has thin sheets of the sausage over a base of tomato sauce, provolone and mozzarella. The pepperoni nearly covers the entire pizza. The pizza alla Piccola ($9.95) is the meatiest, tasty fennel sausage with provolone topped by olives, sliced mushrooms and onions. A recent daily special, pizza salernitana ($8.25), combines provolone with mozzarella and grana cheeses and garlic. A bit of green color is provided by fresh arugula, and it makes for a delicious meld of flavors. Note that the toppings here are traditional—you will not find barbecue chicken or Hawaiian pizzas.

The menu ranges beyond pizzas with appetizers, salads, pastas, panini and desserts. A popular starter is the bocconcini di pane ($3.95), or bread knots, which can become too much if ordered with pizza or pasta. Instead, try mozzarella alla pizzaiola ($6.25), a bowl of mozzarella nuggets with plenty of tomato, black olives and fresh oregano. It arrives with a few pieces of grilled bread. The bread quickly runs out, but save the rest for when the pizzas arrive—the excess crusts also work as eating utensils.

The same good rustic bread is used for panini. The simplest, panino ai formaggi ($7), has three cheeses with some fresh tomato. The bread, of the proper type, is grilled correctly. Chain restaurants never do this right. Three options for penne pasta ($4.95-$8.25) include a vegetarian marinara sauce, an Alfredo and a Bolognese sauce. The creamy Alfredo is competent but unremarkable. The meat ragu in the Bolognese is more compelling.

Salads are sized as starters. Insalata di rucola e funghi ($5.95) is arugula with fresh brown mushrooms, shavings of asiago cheese and lemon vinaigrette. The lemon is too abundant. The Caesar salad ($4.50) consists of romaine lettuce with grated Parmesan. While the salad is properly tossed, the anchovy Romano dressing could use more of the anchovy and some of the lemon from the arugula salad. The daily soup special ($3.50) is a better bet. The minestrone is full of vegetables and mushrooms with a few herbs and traces of extra virgin olive oil—a good price and an even better soup.

Service is minimal, but the kitchen is on a proper course. Appetizers, salads and soups will be delivered before the pizzas, panini and pastas at a civilized pace. There is a small list of wines by the glass and a smaller beer list. These are handed to you downstairs. Soft drinks are a serve-it-yourself affair upstairs. (This can be a bit of a nuisance for customers seated outdoors.) While nothing approaches the level of the food at the ristorante next door, it does not matter: Pizzeria Piccola is a casual place and a good choice for families. Besides, where else can you enjoy pizza while watching Rachael Ray perform on a flat-panel TV?

Pizzeria Piccola
7606 W. State St.
Credit Cards: All Major

Handicap Access: Yes


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