La Crosse, WI continues to be one of my all-time favorite cities to travel to around the Midwest. The city is part of the Coulee Region which straddles the upper Mississippi River in southeast Minnesota and southwest Wisconsin, making the area one of the most picturesque areas in the Upper Midwest. (To read previous posts on Road Tips regarding the greater La Crosse area, click here.) I've been chasing a dealer in the area for awhile now and I had set up an early morning meeting with him to show him some new products. I got into La Crosse the night before and decided to go downtown and try a new pizza restaurant, Kate's Pizza Amore.
Kate Gerrard is the owner of Kate's Pizza Amore. Nearly nine years ago, Gerrard and her husband, Steve Scheuch, opened Kate's on State, a somewhat upscale Italian restaurant that features a number of natural and fresh ingredient entrees on the menu. With that restaurant going strong, they opened Kate's Pizza Amore in December of last year. With an emphasis on unique, fresh and plentiful toppings, Kate's Pizza Amore mirrors the "California/Italian" cuisine that its sister restaurant features.
The last time I was in La Crosse, I had a hankering to go downtown to one of the many wonderful restaurants that are all within walking distance within historic downtown La Crosse. However, a freak power outage in the downtown area that evening shut down nearly every restaurant as the power company couldn't say when they would be able to get the power back on. I was forced to eat at a Buffalo Wild Wings next to my hotel that night - not quite what I had in mind when I started out on my culinary adventure that evening. Fortunately, the power was on in downtown La Crosse this particular evening and I was able to easily park in the free parking garage caddy-cornered from Kate's Pizza Amore (see map).
Kate's Pizza Amore is located in a refurbished building with large front windows, wooden floors and a high, antique tin ceiling. The exposed brick walls are adorned with a number of interest works of art including these circles with small lights inside them that are on the wall behind the bar (above right). The bathrooms are built out and on top of the structure sits two mannequins seated at a table. Much of the artwork at Kate's Pizza Amore was curious, to say the least.
There were plenty of tables to choose from when I arrived, but I decided to sit at the bar and have my pizza there. The hostess dropped off a menu and the bartender asked me what I wanted to drink. She had a glass-encased refrigerator full of some pretty good beers and I ended up getting a Bell's Pale Ale, one of my all-time favorite beers.
To say the pizza offerings at Kate's Pizza Amore were eclectic is quite the understatement. At the top of their pizza list is a Pear and Gorgonzola pizza that features, of course, fresh chop pears and Gorgonzola, with chicken and walnuts covered with a balsamic cream sauce. There's the Spaniard pizza with seasoned roasted pork, black bean and corn salsa, with fresh avocados, tomatoes, black olives and a cheddar cheese blend. The Roman's Ruin caught my eye with the four different types of meat including Italian sausage, chorizo, pepperoni and salami - and that's just for starters. Then they dump roasted garlic, fresh mushrooms, red peppers, onions and a handful of other veggies on the pizza. Kate's Pizza Amore even had a Mashed Potato pizza - I understand Kate Gerrard has a wonderful garlic mashed potatoes recipe and she adds Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions and fresh tomatoes, then tops it with a garlic cream sauce. I don't know - mashed potatoes on pizza?
Kate's Pizza Amore also allows you to choose from three different levels of ingredients to make your own pizza. The "A" level has the normal toppings that you'd find at most restaurants, but it also featured items such as cucumbers and carrots. The "B" level is a little more eclectic with items such as grilled chicken, gyro meat, sun-dried tomatoes and grilled zucchini, while the "C" level gets you items such as clams, shrimp, pine nuts, anchovies and fresh mozzarella. They have 14" or 8" individual-sized pizzas to choose from, and gluten-free dough is available upon request.
I went with my old stand-by - an 8" Italian sausage, pepperoni and fresh mushroom. I'm still learning how to use the camera on my new Smartphone, so I apologize for the fuzziness of the picture. It's sort of hard to tell, but there are a ton of toppings on this pizza. It featured the large chunks of fennel sausage that I like so much on my pizza. The chopped mushrooms were fresh and delicious, and the pepperoni slices (although a little thin) were salty and tasty. There are certain pizzas that taste pretty good with beer and the pizza at Kate's Pizza Amore is no exception. The tomato sauce they used was sweet and tangy. The four triangular pieces were easy to handle and I had no trouble eating the whole pizza.
I've found that there are a number of pizza places in the greater La Crosse area and many of them have fiercely loyal fans. I haven't eaten at all of them over the years, but I'll have to say that it will be tough to beat Kate's Pizza Amore just for the shear number of assorted and diverse toppings to choose from. For those not wanting pizza, Kate's Pizza Amore also features a handful of Italian-styled entrees as well as salads and anti-pasto appetizers. Like Kate's on State, Kate's Pizza Amore is closed on Monday. And to be quite honest, because of the extensive list of toppings to choose from, the pizza prices do run a little higher than your run-of-the-mill pizza joints. But that should be expected of a place like Kate's Pizza Amore. It was a great find and one that I would highly recommend.