Since 1969, Ann's Italian Restaurant in the Milwaukee suburb of Hales Corner (see map) has been dishing up some great Italian food. But I found out long ago that Ann's makes some of the best thin crust pizza anywhere.
Ann's is situated in a small house-like building at a busy intersection on the southwest side of Milwaukee. If you're not familiar with taking a right off 108th Street onto W. Forest Home, then another hard right onto 108th St. Place before turning into their parking lot, you can pass it pretty easily. Just like I did when I went back to Ann's recently.
I had an early evening meeting with a dealer that stretched a lot longer than I anticipated. I had wanted to go see the Milwaukee Brewers play that evening, but it was the fifth inning when I got out of the meeting. Knowing that would be a waste of time and money, I thought, "Well, I'll just go out to Ann's and get a pizza."
I'd first gone to Ann's, oh, probably 10 to 12 years ago when we were visiting my cousin, John Wehrle, in Milwaukee. One night, either Cindy or I suggested pizza. John didn't even hesitate - "We'll go out to Ann's. It's a ways out, but it's worth it."
And it was worth it. It was a great pizza, probably one of my all-time favorites. The crust was crispy, yet light and flaky. They didn't skimp on the toppings and their sausage was very flavorful. My stomach was doing jumping jacks as I was driving toward Ann's just thinking of getting one of their pizzas.
After the initial mis-step getting into the parking lot, and subsequently driving down W. Forest Home to turn around and come back, I pulled into Ann's around 8:45 p.m. I walked in to see the front dining room closed and a waitress vacuuming the floor. I was greeted by a guy at the stand and I asked if it was too late to get dinner. He said, "As long as I'm here and the door's unlocked, it's not too late."
Turned out it was one of the owners of Ann's, Jeff Dietz. Jeff seated me at a table for two in the back dining room and then went off to talk with some people who sounded like they were regulars at Ann's.
I glanced at the menu which features traditional Italian dishes including their famous homemade Ravioli. But I wasn't interested in that - it was pizza I was after that evening.
My waitress, a nice young lady, came over to take my drink order and I told her that I was tired, I was hungry and it was late so I knew exactly what I wanted. I ordered a small (12") sausage, pepperoni and mushroom pizza. I also ordered one of their Italian salads, mainly because I was in the mood for one. And I ordered a cold Miller High Life (when in Milwaukee...).
My waitress brought out my beer and my salad - a huge bowl of mixed greens with tomatoes, red onions, black olives and anchovies covered with their homemade Italian oil and vinegar dressing. It was too much food - easily two people could have eaten this one salad. But I nibbled on about half of it waiting for the pizza to show up.
About 20 minutes after I ordered it, the pizza came to my table, piping hot. I ordered up another beer and waited for it to cool. The first bite brought back the memories of the other two or three times I've been to Ann's - light and crispy crust, sweet tangy sauce, loads of cheese and toppings. It was pizza nirvana that evening.
With the salad, there was no way I could finish the whole pizza. Even without the salad, I'm sure I couldn't finish a 12" pizza in one sitting. I ate three pieces of the pizza and had her wrap up the rest, mainly because I had a small fridge and a microwave in my hotel room and I could have some for breakfast. (Pizza for breakfast? Absolutely. With a big ol' glass of cold milk, what a great way to start the day! And long before I had access to a microwave, I used to love cold pizza in the morning.)
The bill for the pizza, salad and three beers came to just under $30 bucks. Because it was late and I overheard the waitress tell some friends that she would be late meeting up with them, I gave her a $7.00 tip.
Although I'm sure Ann's regular Italian food is very good, I've only gotten the pizza there. It is world class on its own. Even if they didn't do a full menu of Italian food, I'm certain Ann's could make it just on their pizza alone. It's the kind of pizza I wish we had here in the Quad Cities.