One of my co-workers suggested I visit Ferranteâ€™s, 10404 N. Port Washington Rd. Iâ€™ve been to several businesses in Mequon but have rarely, if ever, ventured much north of Mequon Road, so I never really noticed Ferranteâ€™s before.
The impressive history of Ferranteâ€™s can be found on its website. I recommend getting the full story there, but I will try my best to summarize, quote, and paraphrase while hitting some of the highlights.
In 1920, Rosalie "Grandma" Ferranteâ€™s immigrant father, Tony Zulli, started various businesses including an ice cream parlor and a restaurant, which were lost during the Great Depression. He later started the Marine Veteran Ice Cream Factory, where Rosalie Ferrante started helping out and later developed into a "shrewd businesswoman" heavily involved in accounting and marketing for the business.
"In 1938 when Rosalie married Alex (Grandpa) Ferrante, they established the first Ferranteâ€™s Restaurant in central Milwaukee. This neighborhood restaurant was followed in the '50s with the opening of a pizza parlor in Whitefish Bay on Hampton and Santa Monica. In the '60s Alex and Rosalie sold their pizza parlor and opened up Ferranteâ€™s Supper Club in Germantown, which closed in the early '70s."
Rosalie Ferrante went back to work at a restaurant on Milwaukeeâ€™s North Side after a brief break from the restaurant industry and developed a following for her recipes â€“ soups in particular.
Around this time Alex Ferrante started a frozen pizza business out of his home, selling pies door-to-door. He also helped their children Lisa and Bob open the current Ferranteâ€™s restaurant in Mequon around 1977. The rest, as they say, is history.
I visited Ferranteâ€™s with a friend. We were seated at a small round table along a short wall that divided the dining room from the bar. On the other side of the wall was a table of three elderly and very loud gentlemen. Had I not seen them, I would have thought they were college students that were over-served.
The dining room walls were made of two sections. The lower half was composed of light beige-painted wooden panels. The top half of the walls, and the ceilings, were covered with stucco.
The carpet was dark red with black patterns which matched the red linen covering the tables and the black chairs with red cushions.
The menu consisted of appetizers, sandwiches, salads, pizzas and entrees featuring chicken, beef, seafood, and pasta including Zulli, a vegetable lasagna paying tribute to Grandma Ferranteâ€™s maiden name.
There is also a fairly large childrenâ€™s menu with pastas, burgers, chicken tenders, grilled cheese, pizza and a small cod fish fry.
Ferranteâ€™s pizzas are made on fresh 12-, 14- and 16-inch thin crusts. The 12-inch cheese pizza starts at $12 with additional toppings ranging from $1.25 for standard toppings to $2 for premium toppings on a 12-inch pizza and up to $4 for premium toppings on a 16-inch pizza.
Standard toppings include pepperoni, green peppers, ham, tomatoes, sausage, bacon, green olives, black olives, onions, mushrooms, pineapple, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, jalapenos and anchovies. Premium toppings include artichokes, grilled Portobello mushroom, feta cheese, meatballs and grilled chicken.
Specialty pizzas start at $16 and include a tomato basil pizza with an olive oil and garlic-brushed crust, then topped with cheese, fresh tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. Another interesting pizza is the Texas Ranch with spicy white ranch sauce and topped with grilled chicken and fresh lettuce and tomatoes.
My friend and I started with the deluxe pizza, topped sausage, pepperoni, green peppers, onions and black olives. Since she was not a fan of black olives, we ordered our pizza without them. I had yet to have green olives on a pizza, so I decided to add them on only half of the pizza.
The crust was very thin. Like most thin crust pizzas, the slices around the perimeter were crispier than those in the center. However, the center slices still maintained a crisp texture to them. The toppings were generously applied and all played a part in the delicious overall flavor of the pizza.
Ferranteâ€™s uses fresh mushrooms, which I was pleased to see, and the green peppers and onions were diced finely so as not to overwhelm the flavor of the other toppings. The sausage chunks were large and delicious.
I only wish they would have added more sauce, so I could taste it on the pizza. I took off the cheese and toppings on one of the slices to try and isolate the sauce, but there just wasnâ€™t that much sauce to really taste.
One possible benefit of a small amount of sauce might be to prevent the crust from losing its crisp texture. I think that would be a tough trade-off.
I asked my server to bring me a sample of the sauce so I could taste it, and she graciously and promptly obliged. The sauce had a subtle, spicy tomato flavor to it. Ferranteâ€™s starts with a canned tomato paste and then adds their own special blend of seasoning to it. I would have preferred a little more seasoning.
Next, we selected the Texas Ranch Pizza. The tomato-based sauce is replaced with a spicy white ranch sauce then topped with mozzarella cheese and diced chicken which has been rubbed with a "Tex-Mex" seasoning.
The ranch sauce gets its spicy flavor from jalapeno peppers, but Iâ€™m guessing the seeds were kept to a minimum because the sauce didnâ€™t have any heat to it. It did, however, have a nice flavor that Iâ€™m sure the jalapenos contributed to.
After the Texas Ranch pizza was removed from the oven, fresh lettuce and diced tomatoes were added. I have to admit I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the pizza. I thought it had the potential to be good but it exceeded my expectations.
I would call the visit a success. Both pizzas were tasty, I liked the thin crust that they made, and our server was very friendly and accommodating.
Ferranteâ€™s is now owned by Lisaâ€™s daughter Amy Ferrante-Gollwitzer, who was not at the restaurant when I visited.Â Ferrante-Gollwitzer added a successful catering business in 2000.
While the recipes originated from her grandparents, Amy Ferrante-Gollwitzer and her staff "continue to refine these recipes â€¦ adding just a pinch of this and a handful of that making it â€˜just right.â€™"
On a night when many restaurants are closed or light on traffic, Ferranteâ€™s had a pretty full parking lot. It seems to have developed a loyal following in Mequon, and now it has two new fans.
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