This eccentric pizza is called "The Dirty Dirty Welcome to Waukesha, Where the Playaz Play." No, really.
This eccentric pizza is called "The Dirty Dirty Welcome to Waukesha, Where the Playaz Play." No, really.

In search of the perfect pizza: Magellan's

For the eighth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Locavore, the newest restaurant at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2014."

I recently met with Tom Graber, the man behind FridayFishFryGuide.com, for coffee to talk about food and blogging. He recommended that I add Magellan’s, 370 W. Main St., in Waukesha to my list. 

I googled the place and learned it offered the self-proclaimed "best pizza in Waukesha." I haven’t had great experiences with Waukesha pizza, so I figured I’d give this place a visit.

Located in downtown Waukesha, the building had been home to various bars for over 60 years. Dan Italiano, Jr., eventually took over the space and opened Magellan’s seven years ago after a cooking stint at The 5 O’Clock Club in Pewaukee.

The bar had an old school, cozy feel to it. Customers ranged in age from early 20s to into their 70s. There was a large, casual dining room next to the bar, but we chose to sit at the bar, since the front of the building was open for the great weather.

Our bartender was friendly and knew the regular customers, as well as some of the history of the bar – impressive considering he only worked there on Saturday.

Magellan’s menu consists of appetizers, hot sandwiches, dinners, salads and pizzas. The garlic bread and cheese bread are listed under hot sandwiches instead of the appetizer section where they are more commonly found.

Pizzas come in a personal size (8-10 inches), a "10-inch" (10-12 inches) and a "16-inch" (16-18 inches). The personal sized cheese pizza starts at $9.50, and additional toppings range from $1 to $2 each. A 10-inch gluten-free crust is also available for a $2 upcharge.

I enjoyed reading the names of some of the specialty pizzas on the menu. A few actually made me laugh out loud.

There are 12 other specialty pizzas including "That Jimmy Buffet Song Only Here and With Bacon" which is their bacon cheeseburger pizza; the "Poor Attempt at Healthy" topped with spinach and a spinach and asiago turkey sausage; the "Drunk and Desperate" topped with chicken, garlic, bacon, green olives and artichokes on a sauce-less crust; and "Pretending Not To Be White Trash," which is topped with garlic and olive oil instead of sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, parmesan, mozzarella and bacon.

A new menu will be coming out soon including an additional 27 new pizzas, including Mexican breakfast with chorizo, eggs, chili powder and green peppers; the fried Italian with eggplant, zucchini, olive oil, garlic, grated parmesan, ricotta and mozzarella; and the Caesar, which is topped with salami, ham, green peppers, onions, mozzarella and a Caesar dressing in place of pizza sauce.

We started out with "The Dirty Dirty Welcome to Waukesha, Where the Playaz Play!" Yes, that’s the name of the pizza. It’s topped with a mozzarella and pepper jack blend, barbecue sauce, shredded barbecue pork, mac 'n' cheese bites and a dollop of coleslaw.

The crust was a thicker and cooked longer than the sausage and pepperoni pizza we ordered, but the texture was similar. The barbecue sauce was drizzled on top of the pepper-jack and mozzarella blend, and it didn’t overpower the pizza, which I appreciated.

I’m not a huge fan of mac 'n' cheese nuggets in general, and these did not win me over, but they were definitely crispy and cheesy, so I liked the contrasting textures that they added. Those of you who enjoy mac 'n' cheese bites or nuggets may appreciate this pizza even more.

Each mac 'n' cheese bite had a dollop of creamy and fairly well-seasoned cole slaw on top. The coleslaw arrived at room temperature. I would have preferred it chilled, and it likely was but may have heated up while sitting on the hot mac 'n' cheese bite on their way to the bar where we were served.  

The pork appeared to be chopped versus shredded as it was described. Perhaps it started out as shredded pork and was chopped afterward, but I expected to see strands of tender pork. This pork was crispy in areas, and some of it looked like ground sausage.

I really liked the concept behind this pizza, with components adding salty, sweet, hot, cold, soft and crispy. It was a well-engineered orchestra of flavors and textures; I just couldn’t relate to the music being played.

The sausage and pepperoni pizza we ordered was more to my liking. The sausage appeared pulled apart by hand into small to medium sized pieces, as opposed to being sliced from a link.

Spicy sausage and pepperoni complemented a slightly salty and delicious mozzarella cheese while sitting atop a layer of thick and tangy sauce. The sauce is made from adding a house seasoning blend to a canned base, providing a result that I found to be flavorful.

Then Magellan’s sprinkles another house blend of seasoning – including basil, oregano, thyme and others – for another dimension of flavor. Finally, they generously add parmesan cheese, providing another layer of flavor and texture.  

My friend said it best: "When I bite into a slice of pizza, those are the flavors I want to taste." I’ll agree with that.

The crust was soft and slightly chewy with a light dusting of cornmeal underneath. It wasn’t as dark or crispy as I expected it to be after seeing photos on their website and reading the top of their menu, but it certainly served its purpose.

Magellan’s makes it crust using a frozen dough ball. Based on the two pizzas we had, the results of the crust seem to vary, so perhaps the hand stretching technique is done inconsistently, as well as the time spent in the stone oven.

Each slice flopped over when lifted since the crust was so soft, and when I looked at the slice from the side, I could see the pockets of air indicating the texture would be light as I hoped it would be. There was something very familiar about the crust, but I just couldn’t place it. 

As far as Waukesha pizzas go, I will say I enjoyed Magellan’s more than the others, so I won’t dispute their claim to the best pizza in Waukesha yet. On my visit, I learned of another pizzeria nearby, and I’ll continue to keep my eyes and ears open for others. Do you have any favorites in Waukesha that I should know about?

Talkbacks

littlezubes | Oct. 3, 2014 at 1:09 p.m. (report)

The Lucky Rabbit has $2 9" pizzas on Tuesdays with 1 meat and 2 veggies. Also Bernie's Tap Room Duck Confit flatbread/pizza is amazing! I suggest you try those when you come back to Waukesha. They are my favorites!

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mainfr4me | Oct. 2, 2014 at 11:50 a.m. (report)

Lucky Rabbit would be a worthy stop on your travels. Also, across the street from Magellans, is Bernies, and their flatbreads are very good. I have not tried their pizza myself yet, but I've been told Michaels Italian on Sunset and Grand would be worth a visit (I've had other meals there, and have always been happy with the food and service). Of course most folks know JImmy's Grotto, and for good reason. Back downtown is Mia's as well (again, I cannot attest to their pizza, but I've had other meals there).

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Cflowers | Oct. 1, 2014 at 2:35 p.m. (report)

I know it isn't in Milwaukee, but you have got to try Gallaghers Pizza in Green Bay!! You will make an exception to include this in your search for the perfect pizza. Great place to go after the game to wait for traffic to die down!!!!

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