It’s Pizza Night at Zaffiro’s in Milwaukee

May 15, 2023, at Zaffiro’s, Milwaukee.

About this episode

In this pilot episode of It’s Pizza Night, I visit Zaffiro’s Pizza & Bar on Farwell Avenue in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Since 1954, Zaffiro’s has been serving an absurdly thin thin-crust pizza of the variety recently being referred to as “tavern-style” pizza—tavern style’s characteristics being smallish (though sometimes quite large!) crisp, round (though sometimes oblong!) pizzas loaded with cheese and classic “pizza parlor” toppings, all cut into a grid of squares known as “party cut” or “tavern cut. In this episode, I meet my Aunt Mary for lunch, and we both try Zaffiro’s for the first time.

Zaffiro’s “Special” is their most popular pizza: sausage, mushrooms, onions.

This was an amazing pizza and maybe my favorite of the trip. I don’t know if I’m biased because Milwaukee’s essentially my birth city—also because in tastings, there’s often a “first sample bias,” but wow, was this pizza good.

In Steve Dolinsky’s Pizza City podcast, owner Michael Zaffiro tells him they parbake the crust for a few seconds* before throwing it in the cooler for serving the next day, which is unusual for this style. Zaffiro also notes that they use Stanislaus Alta Cucina tomatoes and Grande mozzarella, sliced.

* Dolinsky mentions “13 second parbake,” which seems almost comically precise.

About the YouTube channel

This is the pilot episode of a series I’ve been wanting to create since… wow(!) … early 2020. My YouTube channel (like, comment, subscribe!) is a work in progress, and future episodes will evolve from here, their content depending on whether I was/am able to arrange an interview with an owner/pizzamaker, whether I’m able to get make-and-bake footage, or if I’ve got any guests I might be dining with, etc.

I’ve actually been shooting footage of some near-to-me Queens pizzerias since January but have been endlessly tinkering with video treatments over the last several months, so it’s ironic I’m launching with a pizzeria 899 miles (1,446km) away. But after gathering a bunch of content on a recent pizza trip to the Midwest, I figured I’d launch with Zaffiro’s for two reasons:

  • It was the best pizza I had in the Milwaukee area—the city to which I can arguably trace back my love of pizza
  • I just want to get this stuff out there instead of making the perfect the enemy of the good. (This whole thing is a work in progress)

Episode notes

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