In Marketplace

A Palermo's staffer tests the quality of Palermo's pizzas in "the lab."

In Marketplace

Palermo's Menomonee Valley retail shop and pizza cafe is one of the city's best lunch secrets.

In Marketplace

First, the dough is mixed, made into balls and rolled out.

In Marketplace

After the sauce is applied, the cheese is added, along with other toppings.

In Marketplace

... and finally, pizza!

Peeking in on Palermo's pizza production

Thanks to Miller Park, Potawatomi Bingo Casino and the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Menomonee Valley is becoming an entertainment strip. While you're down there, don't miss the pizza experience.

Although that experience is branded with one name -- Palermo's -- it comes in two flavors. If you're looking for lunch, the Palermo's Pizza factory, 3301 W. Canal St., has a public pizzeria that is among the city's best-kept dining secrets.

Dishing up pizza, calzones, salads, soup and other options, the little restaurant also sells olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pizza supplies, Palermo's souvenir clothing and, of course, frozen pizzas to take home.

But Palermo's, Milwaukee's only pizza manufacturer, also offers tours of its facility, which consolidated all of the company's operations in a single structure in late 2006.

The company -- started by Gaspare "Jack" Falluca and still run by the family -- entered the frozen food market in 1978 after having run the East Side Palermo Villa pizzeria since 1969. That business was born as a bakery five years earlier. The Palermo's brand has since become synonymous with Milwaukee.

"Palermo's has been in the frozen pizza business for years. We've been a brand here in Milwaukee forever," says Chris Dresselhuys, Palermo's director of marketing. "I used to sell Palermo's pizzas as a Cub Scout; when I was 8 years old. In 2001, they introduced the Primo Thin Margherita, which really launched the company into the stratosphere. (It) was the fastest growing frozen pizza brand in the market 2005-'06 and I think we were number two in 2007."

Palermo's still sells pizzas via those grass roots methods, but it's also available across the country in supermarkets and retailers like Costco and is in the process of introducing a new upscale frozen pizza called Hearth Italia.

"Right now we have two products in the market, Primo Thin, of which there are 12 flavors, and the Rustico," says Dresselhuys. "Hearth Italia is a totally new product for us and a new product for the frozen pizza industry in America, in that it is an authentic hearth-baked crust ... made in an oven that was imported here from Italy that has a conveyer of quarried Italian marble. We have the only pizza oven like it in America."

The Hearth Italia line was introduced in the Twin Cities in February and should be available in the Milwaukee area in April.
You can see all of the pizzas being made on a Palermo's factory tour, offered Fridays at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. and by appointment Mondays through Thursdays. Although due to health department restrictions, visitors cannot walk the pizza line, a tour guide explains the processes as visitors watch production through the windows of an elevated walkway.

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MILWIRISH | March 25, 2008 at 7:13 a.m. (report)

I HAVE EATEN THE PIZZA ON MURRAY STREET AND PURCHASED THIER CHEESE BREAD ON MAPLE STREET. GOOD PEOPLE WITH A GOOD PRODUCT......THANK YOU FOR STAYING IN MILWAUKEE

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megster37 | March 24, 2008 at 2:26 p.m. (report)

Are there any plans to expand the tours to the weekend?

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