Revisiting Balistreri's Italian American Ristorante
Talk about blind spots.
I realized recently that in more than 12 years at OnMilwaukee.com and nearly a decade living within aroma's distance of Balistreri's, 812 N. 68th St., in Wauwatosa, I'd never put pen to paper about what is most certainly the best pizza west of the stadium interchange.
Balistreri's has two locations within walking distance of one-another and while I enjoy them both, there is really nothing in Tosa that matches the ambience of the 68th Street location – called the Italian American Ristorante – which resides in a pair of adjoining storefronts, and has been in business for more than 40 years.
You don't even have to step inside to feel the vibes emanating from Balistreri's on 68th. The green awnings, the bright neon signs hawking pasta, ravioli, pizza, seafood and, my favorite, "American food," are a clue.
But, inside, it gets better. The atmosphere is casual and friendly. The tables are close together. When it gets crowded, Balistreri's feels like a party to which the whole neighborhood is invited.
While folks come for the atmosphere, they stay for the pizza. (I should add that quite a few stay for the garlic bread nearly as much as for the pizza.)
Yes, all those dishes promised by the neon signs are on the menu – lasagna, veal parmesan, chicken cacciatore, plus sandiwches and an impressive list of appetizers – but in all the times I've been to Balistreri's, I admit I've never considered ordering any of them.
Sure, I might be missing out and I know I've got to try the fish fry someday soon, but if I were to go to Balistreri's, sit myself on one of those wooden chairs and NOT order a pizza, I'd feel like I'd cheated myself.
Much like Zaffiro's and Calderone Club, Balistreri's makes an improbably thin crust.
A crust so thin that you imagine it can't possibly be worked by hand.
A crust so thin you'd think it would collapse under the weight of the cheese.
A crust so think you'd expect the tomato sauce to render it a soggy mess.
But, nope. The pizza at Balistreri's – as at those other places – nearly paper-thin, slathered with a nicely seasoned sauce and topped with mildly salty mozzarella (and whatever else you choose to toss up top).
Order a large pizza and, if you've never dined at Balistreri's before, it'll arrive at the table and you may immediately regret having upgraded from the medium. But don't fret; remember that thin crust. It's not as much pizza as it looks.
On a recent visit, I decided to venture off my typical Balistreri's course a little and order the deep fried clam strips. They were so delicately flavored that even my usually finicky little ones ate their fair share.
Balistreri's serves lunch daily except Sundays, 11 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Dinner is served Mondays-Thursdays, 3:30-11 p.m., Fridays-Saturdays, 3:30 p.m.-midnight; and Sundays, 2-10 p.m.
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I love Balistreri's pizza, but to suggest that they are in the "suburbs" is not even close to the truth. Tosa isn't a suburb. Brookfield and Elm Grove are the closest western suburbs. Wauwatosa's population density is too great to be a suburb and there is no line of demarcation between the City of Milwaukee and the City of Wauwatosa. If you consider merely the lack of demarcation, one could argue that Waukesha is the closest western suburb. Delafield and Oconomowoc are exurbs, by definition. This is as ludicrous as OMC calling Shorewood a suburb.
what is with this joint in Mequon calling themselves Mama Mias? Any info on them?
Bobby, have you had pizza from both their locations? Is it just me, or are the pie's slightly different from each place? I've been told countless times that each place uses identical crusts and cooking methods, and even interchanges chefs. But for whatever reason, I swear the pizza from the 68th street location is better. You are correct though, best pizza in the Western burbs. Pricey, but worth it if you want to treat yourself.
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