At The Caradaro Club, the Works comes topped with sausage, mushrooms, onions, black olives, green peppers and pepperoni. (Right) This cheese pizza is a favorite at Zaffiro’s.
It’s also a city that loves a good pizza pie. Since the 1940s, Milwaukee—with its lively mix of Sicilian, Italian, German and Irish immigrants—has evolved its own pizza-and-beer culture. “Milwaukee is a city that surprises,” Nemetz says. “It’s a city of value. You can come here and have a great experience that’s inexpensive. And we have great cuisine. People don’t necessarily think of Milwaukee as a food city, but when they come here, they’re really wowed.” THE SMO, THE SMOP AND THE WORKS
People do think of Milwaukee as a beer-drinking town. Thanks to German immigrants who brought their brewing skills to the New World, the city already had 138 taverns in 1843—one for every 40 residents—and that was before Frederick Miller founded Miller Brewing Company there in 1855. By the mid-1940s, competition was stiff, and tavern owners needed to stand out from the pack. “A great way to get customers in the door was to offer something to eat, and pizza was very good for that task,” Nemetz says. “Inexpensive, quick and easy to produce, it was a great way to draw crowds from the factories for lunch and dinner.” And since thin-crust pies bake faster, Milwaukee-style pizza boasts a crispy cracker crust with the sauce and toppings spread right to the edge, Nemetz says. “I have
heard people that try it for the first time describe it as similar to flatbreads,” he adds. The pies are typically oblong-shaped or rectangular and cut into squares, which are said to be easier to grab and hold with one hand while gripping a brewski with the other. The classic topping combo features sausage, mushrooms and onions—known locally as the SMO. Throw in some pepperoni, and you’ve got a SMOP. Walk into any pizza joint in the city and ask for a SMO or SMOP, and they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. If you want your pie loaded with toppings, you can order The Works. But don’t embarrass yourself by using the wrong terminology. “For an old pizza guy like me, sausage, mushrooms, onions, black olives, green peppers and pepperoni is my favorite,” says Wally Kutch, owner of the legendary Caradaro Club, which has thrived in Milwaukee for 75 years. “That’s called the Works. It’s not a Supreme. It’s not a Deluxe. In Milwaukee, you say, ‘Give me The Works,’ and you know what you’ll get every time. If you say, give me everything and the kitchen sink, well, then, you’re gonna get anchovies.” Kutch should know. The Caradaro Club is widely credited as the birthplace of Milwaukee-style pizza. John Caravella and Joe Todaro founded the restaurant in MARCH 2019 | PMQ.COM
1/28/19 1:34 PM