On the last full day of our Milwaukee/Wauwatosa weekend, we trekked to a ‘Tosa fixture in pizza by the name of Pizzeria Piccola. For a little background, Piccola is owned by Joe Bartolotta who at the very sense of the word is one of the most giving men I have never met. Does that make sense? We were supposed to meet the day that we feasted at the pizzeria, but he was off at an event doing what he does, and being great at it. He’s a giver, and it’s evident in every nook and cranny that we were able to see during our time there. The philanthropy is what has me wanting to go back just so I can get an interview and hang with another Midwesterner who clearly gets the concept of pouring back into your city and state. It’s epic.
Not only is Bartolotta epic, so is his hand in the restaurant business in Wauwatosa, where he was born and raised, and the greater Milwaukee area. We were dining at Pizzeria Piccola for very obvious reasons, the four main ones sitting eagerly waiting for their piece of the pie. They wouldn’t be disappointed, and I’ll let you know that my kids are somewhat of pizza connoisseurs. They have indeed met a pizza that they didn’t like, and I’ll let you know that we didn’t order from that spot again.
For those of you still wondering what’s so great about Pizzeria Piccola, it’s the authenticity. It’s made the same way pizzas are made in Italy. I was whisked back into an episode of Rick Steve’s Europe and could taste the same pizza that he sampled while in Naples. If you’re wondering why, it’s because Piccola’s head chef, Juan trained in Italy before coming over to join the Bartolotta group. The pizza is as close to purist style as you can get (they do have cheese on many of the pies) but the Margherita makes me pretty confident that it was the closest that I’ve gotten to Italy in my life. When I travel there for our 10 year anniversary, I’ll be sure to update. The atmosphere of the pizzeria was casual. Lots of lights and people standing around and going in and out – remember we were there at the height of the TosaFest, and the people watching was amazing. We saw several 5k runners come in and join up with their families, and even four-legged friends sitting and enjoying time out in the air with their families as well. It was nice to see fest goers come in, order their pies, and sidle up to a highboy and eat while watching the Milwaukee Brewers game against the Cardinals. Conversation was free-flowing and so were the smiles and laughter. The dining room was set up for limited serving because of TosaFest, but that didn’t stop it from being full to the brink, and a steady stream of customers going in and out. The open space really added to the charm of the pizzeria.
Before going in on the delicious food that we ate, I have to give our gratitude to the great manager, Irene who navigated us through our culinary journey, and even had small talk with the littles. She was a wealth of information, and not only explained the Pizzeria’s mission, but the mission of Joe Bartolotta. Let’s get to what we ate, shall we? We were served the Bread Knots (Bocconcini di Pane) Capri Salad (Caprese) and Arugula (Insalata di rucola e funghi). The bread knots were chewy, and a perfect flavor combo of the oregano, garlic, and with enough parmesan cheese to mop up with the knots before dipping them into the marinara sauce. These also can be served gluten free, so EVERYONE can enjoy them. The Capri Salad had a perfect melange of basil, tomatoes and mozzarella dressed with olive oil. My children are tomato lovers and I had to keep them from picking them all out of the salad and leaving me and Mr. Houseful with just mozzarella and basil. Our last appetizer was the Arugula salad that had fresh arugula, mushrooms, shaved Asiago and a lemon vinaigrette. I may have eaten the entire thing by myself. I have no regrets.
Our pizzas were delivered all together, and were each cut into quarters. We had cheese, The Piccola, Four Cheese, Four Seasons, and a Margherita. Let’s just say, no conversation took place. Nathaniel did note that while the crust was thin – it wasn’t crispy like thin crust pizza he is used to in Chicago. Juan, the head chef explained that it was because of a special way that they make the dough. It was thin, yet chewy, and lots of flavor to go along with the various toppings that we had on each pie. Pizzas can also be made gluten free for a $2 upcharge. Each pie is handmade, and cooked in a wood burning oven. Ready to see the amazing pizza we chowed down on?Fennel sausage, red onions, mushrooms and black olives top this pizza named after the pizzeria. Cheese pizza. Can’t get simpler than that. Four Cheese (Pizza ai Quattro Formaggi) Provolone, mozzarella Four Seasons Pizza – Tomato Sauce, Porovolone, Mushrooms, Imported Black Olives, Artichokes, Prociutto. Said to represent each season’s most popular ingredient. Margherita (Pizza Margherita) Tomato sauce, mozzarella, fresh basil
After finishing our meal, we headed over to see the cornerstone restaurant in the Bartolotta group – Ristorante Bartolotta – to get a view of his first opening. Mr. Houseful and I made Irene a promise that we would be back (sans kids) to enjoy this restaurant on our own. With the meal behind us, we headed out to the streets of TosaFest which automatically put me in the mind of the many neighborhood festivals that we are privy to in Chicago. It spanned a couple of blocks, and because Pizzeria Piccola was right in the thick of it, we were able to get in on the action right away. People, dogs, tickets, food, movies and fun. There were groups of teens, and groups of seniors congregating in various areas of the festival and the excitement was palpable. We got out in enough time to see 5 Card Studs light up the stage, encouraging young and old to dance the night away with them. The ladybug and I did just that. I do love that there was room for us to dance, and that adults made way for the kids to have a good time as well. Ticket prices were reasonable, 1 ticket per dollar, but we were STUFFED so we passed on eating anymore. It was a weekend event, and it’s been around for over three decades, so we know it’s successful. Now we just need to remember to put it on our list of things to do in Wauwatosa in September. Until then, check out the photos, and leave all of your comments below. We love hearing from you!