Tarantino's sausage, pepperoni and mushroom pizza.
Tarantino's sausage, pepperoni and mushroom pizza.
Tarantino's is family-owned and operated.
Tarantino's is family-owned and operated.
Black olive and shrimp pizza.
Black olive and shrimp pizza.

In search of the perfect pizza: Tarantino's Pizza

I was introduced to Tarantino’s Pizza by the Entertainment Book. Every now and then I remember that I have one and attempt to give it some use.

Learning my lesson from last week, I confirmed that Tarantino’s Pizza will not close within five days of this blog posting before I began asking my probing questions. Tarantino’s Pizza, 2577 S. 68th St., is now owned by his cousin Lorenzo Tarantino II who runs the business with his sister, Terri Tarantino.

Lorenzo Tarantino II took over eight years ago after seeking a career change from the Milwaukee Police Department. He and his sister grew up working in the father’s restaurant, so both have the experience to manage the pizzeria and incorporate recipes handed down from their father, uncles and cousin.

Tarantino recited the various members of his extended family who were or are restaurant owners, including his aunt, Sally of Sally’s Steak House, which some of you readers around my age will recognize.

After I placed my order, I watched the magic happen. The dough, which is made fresh daily, was run through the dough rolling machine.

Then the sauce is applied, which is also made daily by mixing a family spice recipe to the canned tomato sauce base.

Next the cheese and toppings are spread out among the pie. Terri told me that they also cut and grate the cheeses fresh each day, as well.

Pizzas come in 9-, 12-, 15- and 18-inch crust sizes. All pizzas are thin crust and prices start at $5.15 for a 9-inch small cheese pizza up to $15.05 for an extra large 18-inch cheese pizza. Additional toppings range from $1.30 to $2.50 each.

Tarantino’s offers daily specials which include a large, one-topping pizza, garlic bread, and a two-liter of soda for $13.50 or a large three-topping pizza with garlic bread for $11.95.

I went with the latter, choosing sausage, pepperoni and mushrooms as my toppings. I’ve got to eat my veggies, don’t I?

I was impressed with the value of the specials. The garlic bread was an entire half of a loaf of bread. Butter was applied generously and the bread maintained a fresh and chewy texture while still slightly crisp on the outside. I saved $6.30 off regular price on the special I ordered.

I was very happy to pull a thin crispy crust out of the bag when I got back home. I was even happier when I bit into the edge of the crust and heard the sound of a cracker crunch.

The small chunks of sausage and slices of pepperoni were spicy and flavorful, but a bit on the mild side of spicy, if that makes sense.

The mushrooms were thick slices of canned product, which were fine, but I would have preferred fresh mushrooms, as always.

The sauce was thick and took some time for me to figure out if I was tasting spicy or sweet. I eventually came to the conclusion that it provided a subtle sweetness to it.

I did not taste tomato, which was fine with me, but I did taste some of the seasoning. A little more seasoning could have produced a more pronounced flavor and perhaps help put the sauce on my list of favorites.

The pie had potential to be special. A little more seasoning in the sauce, fresh mushrooms instead of canned and a little more sausage and pepperoni to cover the empty space over the cheese and it could have been right there.

I will admit it is hard to complain about a light load of toppings considering the great price for the special I purchased.

They do offer a Blanket Pizza, so I’m guessing that one is heavy on the toppings.

Tarantino’s specialty pizzas include Barbeque Chicken, Hawaiian, Mexican, and shrimp and black olives. The Hawaiian pizza is topped with sausage in addition to Canadian bacon and pineapple, which is a different take than I’ve seen before.

Specialty pizzas are available in 9 inches up to 18 inches, with prices ranging from $7.45 up to $19.90.

I was intrigued by the shrimp and black olive pizza, so I ordered a small to give it a try. I was hoping for larger shrimp than the baby canned shrimp that were used. The shrimp had a slight "fishy" taste, but the flavor of the shrimp combined with the black olives and the sauce actually worked.

The crust was crispy throughout with a cracker crunch around the edges. I think using fresh shrimp on the pizza would have enhanced the quality of the pizza, over all.

In addition to pizzas, Tarantino’s menu includes appetizers, pasta dinners, calzones, hot sandwiches and dinners featuring chicken, ribs and shrimp.

The location for Tarantino’s places it on the corner of the block in the middle of a quiet neighborhood, giving it that quaint neighborhood business feel.

Some of the delivery orders come from area taverns, which provide a nice source of business.

Outside of Tarantino’s, you’ll find a table and chairs on a patio where you can enjoy your pizza on a nice day. It was a bit cool when I visited, but that didn’t stop two women enjoying dinner and conversation on that patio.

Tarantino’s pizza barely missed on key features I look for in the perfect pizza, but clearly others have become loyal fans of their menu items. Fifty-five years in business is not a fluke.

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