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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Transfer Pizzeria Brings New Flavors to Milwaukee

Vegan, gluten-free treats among the tasty offerings

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Good pizza can easily be found in Milwaukee, a city that once had tight, thriving Italian neighborhoods in the Third Ward and Bay View. And while pizza ovens popped up all over town in the years following World War II, it took a more recent Ukrainian immigrant to bring something almost entirely new to the menu—albeit Vasyl Lemberskyy humbly credits his apprenticeship under great Italian masters when the opening of the Soviet Union allowed him to pursue his dream. After a couple of early ventures in Milwaukee, he became pizza maestro at Transfer Pizzeria Café, at the gateway to Historic Mitchell Street opposite the transit system facility.

For years the corner housed a diner called Scrambled Ed's and, before that, a George Webb. The new owners thoroughly restored much of the century-old site, exposing wooden beams, a tile floor and even stained glass. The pleasant, airy and yet somehow cozy space is dominated by a bar island—a full-service dispensary for wine, mixers and an international beer list with no fewer than nine Midwest brews plus beer from places as far away as the Ukraine and Russia. Ringed by classic swivel stools in chrome and red vinyl, the bar does double duty as a lunch counter. The restaurant has tables for two or more, risers along the big plate-glass windows and a back room for when the joint gets packed. Transfer also places work by local artists on the walls, including recognizable scenes of Milwaukee.

It's a comfortable place for conversation, for catching live jazz on certain evenings and wine tastings on other nights. The main draw, however, is the pizza. The 45 choices covering most of the menu's front page are remarkable for their variety. Conveniently grouped by category—garlic, traditional (think sausage and pepperoni), veggie, seafood and “special”—the list only hints at what an adventurous diner might taste. With dozens of toppings also listed, you can customize your own one-of-a-kind pizza.

Whatever you choose, the intense flavors rise from the use (whenever possible) of local and organic ingredients and the refusal to smother everything under tomato or any other sauce. Each ingredient is allowed to stand out and contribute to the harmony of the composition—like a player in a string quartet. But the crust is what truly sets Transfer's pizzas apart. Thin and airy as a cirrus cloud, crisp but never doughy, it's the ideal setting for mushrooms and garlic, feta and pesto, Gouda and anchovies or whatever combination your imagination suggests.

For dessert, the gluten-free cupcake was a sweet treat. Vegans and others with special dietary concerns will have no trouble finding filling, flavorful meals at Transfer.

Transfer Pizzeria Café

101 W. Mitchell St.

(414) 763-0438

$-$$

Credit Cards: All Major

Transfermke.com

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