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Monday, Nov. 26, 2012

Fresh Frozen Pies?

Milwaukee Pizza Co. Turns Bar Food into an Art Form

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In a world overrun with forgettable pizza, few are more forgettable than the frozen pizzas commonly available at kitchen-less bars. Nobody seeks out these pizzas for their quality. With their tasteless, pre-made crusts and freezer-burnt toppings, they’re offered as sheer sustenance, a convenient way to tide over hungry bellies between rounds. These pizzas don’t have to be terrible, though. Erik Burgos and Nick Smith launched The Milwaukee Pizza Company this year with the belief that even frozen pizza can be an art form.

“We do everything from scratch, starting with the flour, water and the yeast,” Burgos says. “We brush a little butter on top of the crust, which gives it a nice, flakey texture, and from there we top it. Everything is handmade, including our sauces, and all of our vegetables are cut up fresh. We package each pizza, then we freeze it. We call them fresh frozen, because we make them all to order every week, and never make them ahead of time. Most of these pizzas won’t be sitting in a freezer for more than week or a week and half before they’re eaten.”

Burgos and Smith created their recipe for thin, crispy pizza while working at an indoor batting cage in New Berlin.

“We took it over from people who were offering Tombstone pizzas for kids’ birthday parties,” Burgos says. “Nick and I had been in the industry a long time, so we decided we could do our own pizzas at the parties. People enjoyed them so much that we got requests to package them up and send them home, and from there it evolved into its own business once we let the batting cages go.”

The Milwaukee Pizza Company services about a dozen bars around the city, including The Bottle and The Monkey Bar in Walker’s Point, Art Bar and the Riverwest Public House Co-Op in Riverwest, and 88 Keys Martini Lounge in West Allis. They’re also sold at a number of small grocery and convenience stores, including Sunrise Foods and the Riverwest Co-Op.

The company makes 13 varieties of pizza, including traditional ones like veggie and sausage and pepperoni, but also some unusual ones like the “BBQ Gyro Monster,” with gyro meat, BBQ sauce, green onion and red pepper; a chicken Caesar pizza; and a brat pizza, made with Usinger’s bratwursts and a beer-cheese sauce.

“We really wanted to incorporate Milwaukee into these pizzas, and that really comes across in our brat pizza,” Burgos says. “Bar owners have told us there’s just something about that pizza and the taste of bratwurst that makes people want to drink more.”