Best Pizza in Milwaukee
Only 90 miles north of Chicago and its world-renowned deep-dish pizza lies Milwaukee – not exactly the first city that comes to mind when most folks are discussing the next food-centric destination on their travel list. And outside of beer and brats, it’s hard for most non-Wisconsinites to articulate exactly what one must consume when in the Brew City.
The answer? Pizza, of course. And of far different variety than its neighbor to the south.
Milwaukee-style pizza is … kind of its own thing. And if you aren’t from Wisconsin, you would be forgiven for not knowing that fact.
It’s primarily thought of as thin-crust pizza – sometimes as thin as a wafer. Usually, the ultra-thin crust is topped with heavy sauce and toppings.
You’ll also find your fair share of New York-style pizzerias, occasionally with a thinner crust than your typical New York joint, almost as a mix between the Big Apple and Brew City. Additionally, there are a number of options in Milwaukee when it comes to Neapolitan pizza, and there are indeed plenty represented on our list, as you’ll soon see.
Most of the below pizzerias also include full-service bars, with some offering extensive wine and/or whiskey lists. There are also plenty of micro-brews to be found, although there are at least a couple of “dry” parlors as well.
Navigate the list with abandon, as you’ll have to check out all 20 of these restaurants at some point, anyways. Just pick the one that stands out to you and start there, but be sure to not miss any of them.
1. Oak Barrel
Oak Barrel is a brand-new pub house located in downtown Milwaukee that offers its patrons artisan, thin-crust pizzas. The two-floor restaurant opened in early and inhabits a renovated building in walking distance of the Milwaukee Bucks’ new arena and plenty of other downtown attractions.
The pizza itself includes seven ultra-creative offerings on the menu, plus the always-popular build-your-own option.
In addition to pizza, Oak Barrel serves tacos, “smash butter burgers”, and other classic American entrees. Of course, there’s also plenty of craft beer and whiskey to choose from, and there’s even a bottle club that awards members a bottle of Jameson whisky displayed behind the bar with a plaque of their name.
Additionally, Oak Barrel offers shuttles to see the Milwaukee Brewers play at Miller Park as part of their Summerfest promotion, and serves brunch on the weekends.
Talk about a versatile pub that specializes in the things that pub-goers want most: pizza, American classics, beer, and whiskey.
DiModa offers pizzas fresh out of its wood-fired oven – and not just any wood-fired oven, but stone ovens sourced from Bellingham, Washington, and the pizzas are cooked over locally-sourced, sustainable timber to enhance the flavor.
In contrast to No. 1 on this list, DiModa accepts reservations and is more of a true restaurant than a pub. There are nine different styles of pizza on the menu, with ingredients such as little neck clams, Nduja sausage, giardiniera, and more to be found on the pies. In addition to the option to build your own pizza, DiModa also specializes in a variety of other Italian eats, from pasta to sandwiches and more.
DiModa is also a relatively new joint, having opened in spring of 2018. They also offer brunch on the weekends.
If you’re looking for more of a relaxed, sit-down type of atmosphere with wood-fired pizza, than DiModa just might be for you.
Carini’s offers “genuine Neapolitan pizzas”, cooked in a wood-burning Acunto oven directly from Naples. As with most other wood-fire ovens, these pizzas are cooked at over 900 degrees for approximately 90 seconds and are served uncut, for an additional touch of authentic-ness.
This is the perfect restaurant for Neapolitan pizza purists, if you couldn’t already tell. You won’t find any crazy combinations of ingredients on the menu; only authentic selections including fresh mozzarella, basil, mushroom, artichoke, Vinny’s Italian sausage, and more are offered. (You can, of course, add toppings of your own, but wouldn’t you rather eat as those in Naples eat?)
4. Maria’s Pizza
This is a traditional joint, as comfortable and Midwestern of a pizza place as you’ll find.
It’s a small restaurant with a living room-style feel, and your pizza, served on a rectangular tray with crust dangling over the edges, will fit right in with the ambience. Maria’s Pizza was founded back in 1957 as a family business, and it continues as such to this day.
The pizza itself is extremely thin and has pastry-like qualities to it, and it’s sliced “party style”, which fits the oblong-shape of the pie itself.
While not nearly as fancy of some of the other establishments on this list, Maria’s Pizza is a fun place that you won’t want to miss on your next trip through Milwaukee.
5. Zaffiro’s Pizza
Zaffiro’s Pizza is another place with “pizza” in the name that offers far more to its patrons than just ‘za. But it is, in fact, the pizza that keeps folks coming back.
Zaffiro’s was awarded first place in the pizza category of the Best of Greater Milwaukee Top Choice Awards in 2016, spurred on by its famous thin-crust pizza. The restaurant was opened by Bobby Zaffiro, the son of an immigrant from Sicily – and the authenticity of the pizza comes through clearly in the flavors.
The menu includes plenty of other Italian dishes, including salads, sandwiches, pastas, and even fish and shrimp. But it’s the wafer-thin crust on the pizza that you’ll be writing home about.
6. San Giorgio
Here’s another restaurant famous for its Neapolitan pizza – or, as they call themselves, a Pizzeria Napoletana.
The dough is made fresh and is naturally fermented before being cooked at 900 degrees in a wood-fired oven for 70 to 90 seconds, ensuring a light and fluffy crown and a soft center.
There are 10 different varieties of the “Real Neapolitan Pizza”, including the San Giorgio, which has braised fennel, crispy pancetta, Fior di Latte mozzarella, Pecorino Roman, baby arugula, extra virgin olive oil, and … wait for it … a sunny side egg.
7. Pizza Man
Looking for something besides the thin-crust pizza that has (thus far) largely dominated our list? Look no further than Pizza Man, which won a Diners’ Choice award in 2018.
Sure, Pizza Man delivers on the regional favorite that is thin-crust, but they also offer pan pizzas and deep dish – although you’ll only be able to get that Chicago-style pie on Mondays.
Pizza Man encourages their guests to consider building a custom pizza by choosing from one of four bases: Classic, Italia, Bianca, or Verde. From there, you’ll have to choose your own adventure.
Also a hit here: the wine bar, which includes 30 unique wines by the glass, 16 tap lines, and 250 domestic bottles.
8. Dom and Phil DeMarini’s
What’s better than a pizzeria named after a pair of brothers?
The duo has been in business for decades and is famous for its “original recipe pizza” and hearty helpings of toppings piled high on a thin-ish crust. They promote the ability to see the Milwaukee skyline from their dining room, lounge, and patio.
This is just the kind of community-centric place that you’ll want to keep coming back to again and again.
9. Transfer Pizzeria Café
From a traditional, hometown favorite to a new restaurant that hasn’t quite been around for a decade, we arrive at the Transfer Pizzeria Café.
Transfer was opened by a Ukrainian chef who rolled into town with a medium-thickness crust as opposed to the popular thin-crust style. But what’s unique about this joint is the variety of pizzas on the menu: Transfer Pizzeria Café offers seven “garlic” pizzas, nine “traditional” pizzas, three versions of veggie, and 10 “specialty”, including a Thai chicken selection complete with peanut sauce.
If you’re looking for something completely different and completely delicious, you’ve found it.
Balistreri’s is one of the pizzerias on our list that was nominated for the 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards in Milwaukee for “Best Pizza”.
It’s most famous for their crispy thin crust on their artisan pizzas, and notes that their pizza-makers spend years apprenticing before being able to bake on their own. If you’re looking for authentic, Milwaukee-style thin crust, then Balisteri’s has you covered.
They also have a full bar with a wine list, and a popular outdoor patio area, plus a shuttle service to sporting events throughout Milwaukee.
11. Riverfront Pizzeria
Riverfront Pizzeria is, of course, located on the riverfront and offers great views from the patio area and quick access to the water.
They have an enormous selection of pizzas on their dinner menu – 15, in fact – including Taco, Cheeseburger, Harborfront (includes pest, fresh mozzarella, basil, and a house bruschetta mix), and The BLT. There are other food options available, as well as a full-service bar.
In terms of the perfect combination of a view, awesome pizzas and diverse alternative options, and an adequate bar, the Riverfront Pizzeria has you covered.
12. Calderone Club
The Calderone Club bills itself as “casual, yet refined”, and specializes in award-winning Neapolitan, thin-crust pizzas. They claim to use the oldest (and best, of course) pizza recipe in all of Wisconsin, with its origins dating back to 1945.
The restaurant is located in downtown Milwaukee on historic Old World 3rd Street. While they do have traditional selections such as margherita, the works, veggie, and more, Calderone Club pushes their build-your-own option.
There is also an extensive wine and beverage menu for your enjoyment.
13. Brick 3 Pizza
Brick 3 Pizza markets itself as “bringing the Big Apple to Milwaukee”, claiming to serve authentic New York-style pizza from their location on Old World 3rd Street.
At first glance, their pizza menu looks traditional: cheese, pepperoni, sausage, and so forth. But then, you’ll stumble across Chicken Parmigiana and Mac & Cheese, followed by Tomato Basil Artichoke, Baked Potato, Chicken Philly and more.
There are several appetizers to choose from, as well as sandwiches and salads on the menu.
The offerings at Ian’s Pizza By The Slice don’t differ all that much from No. 13 on our list, including Mac n’ Cheese and Cheesy Potato with Ranch, but there is also Drunken Ravioli, Smoked Brisket and Tots, Macho Nacho, and so, so much more.
Guests can order pizza by the slice or by the pie, and each month on the calendar has three featured flavors.
Ian’s is a chain that is based in Madison, Wisconsin, with locations outside of the state limited to Seattle and Denver.
15. Classic Slice
Classic Slice is our second pizza-by-the-slice joint on the list, although they also push their full pies. When you’re ordering a full pizza, simply choose to start with red sauce, pesto, or olive oil base, and then add your favorite toppings.
There are 17 existing flavors of pizza on their menu, including four vegetarian and five vegan options. Classic Slice also offers calzones – or, as their menu puts it, “a small manatee made of dough” – as well as several different kinds of appetizers.
Along with Ian’s (No. 14 on our list), Classic Slice is the place to get by-the-slice, New York-style ‘za.
16. Mama Mia Italian Cuisine
Mama Mia has an extensive menu that boasts what they term as “the world’s best garlic bread” – made with 100 percent butter, after all.
They offer pizza with all the toppings and offer pies with preselected toppings such as the E.B.A. (everything but anchovies), Garden Hawaiian, and Sicilian.
Mama Mia has one of the more diverse menus on our countdown, including seafood, sandwiches, Italian salads, and appetizers such as breaded zucchini strips, breaded eggplant stripes, jalapeno cream-cheese poppers, and soup.
17. Ricardo’s Pizza
Ricardo’s has been around since 1970, and promotes its “made fresh daily” dough, combined with fresh produce, signature sauce, and, of course, Wisconsin cheese.
They focus primarily on thin-crust pizza baked on a slate deck and offer a full-service bar that serves local micro-brews in addition to imports and domestics. The menu includes pizzas such as Taco, Cheeseburger, Blanco, Roasted Potato & Chicken, and more.
Ricardo’s is only open for dinner and is located in the Greendale area of Milwaukee.
18. Lisa’s Pizza
Lisa’s is a family-owned pizza parlor that has been around for over 40 years and is well-established in the Milwaukee area as a champion of thin-crust pizza. They make all of their ingredients fresh daily, and offer dine-in, take-out, or delivery.
The most unique thing about Lisa’s is the extremely wide array of options when it comes to toppings. From traditional (white sauce, anchovy, black/green olives) to less-traditional (shrimp, broccoli, banana peppers), Lisa’s has you covered.
19. Organ Piper Pizza
Organ Piper Pizza has been in business since 1976 and is yet another Milwaukee-based pizza parlor to focus primarily on thin-crust pizza.
The uniqueness of Organ Piper comes from, well, the organists. Really. They promise that you’ll hear “the country’s finest organists” when you come visit the restaurant, contributing to an all-around audio and visual experience.
The pizza itself isn’t exactly gimmicky; the focus is on the build-your-own, although they have north of 15 toppings to choose from.
20. Barbiere’s Italian Inn
The two-location Barbiere’s Italian Inn opened its first store in 1963 as a family business. They’re famous for their garlic bread, and live by their motto of “Family, Superb Food and Quality Ingredients”.
It’s a thicker crust than your typical Milwaukee-style pizza, and the restaurant offers 15 toppings to add to your build-your-own pie. They offer other entrees as well, including Italian sandwiches and salads.