In Madison, we are fortunate enough to have a pizza for every occasion; slices the size-of-our-heads after late nights out, thin crust party-cuts for family-time on Fridays and even pizza that’s a little more elevated in composition, more sophisticated—worthy of a romantic date night out.
A trip across town.
Recently Tess and I checked a notch off the 2018 pizza goal list and ventured to the east side of Madison to Grampa’s Pizzeria. In the Willie Street and Atwood neighborhoods, you can expect to get the boundaries of your palette pushed a little further with forward-thinking restaurants like Pig In a Fur Coat and Mint Mark, but where does the pizza fit in?
Grampa’s Pizzeria plants it’s flag as the place to sit down and enjoy an elevated pizza experience and is no exception to the farm-to-table rule of thumb. Grampa’s and it’s on-site herb garden are very much what you would expect from an establishment on the east side; a youthful, carefree, modern scene where art, music, and DIY enterprising coalesce; punk rock ethos infuse the food, fashion and all things craft.
The progressive side of pizza.
Inside Grampa’s, it’s cozy, like I imagine the idealized hipster version of what a grandparents home would look like: a dimly lit dining room, strewn about tattered books and old photos—melon coly dream-pop pulsing in the background.
Tess and I were faced with a food enthusiast’s first-world pain—everything on the menu looked good. From the small plates and salads to the pizza, as usual, we couldn’t make up our minds, so we decided on a little bit of everything. We started with the Mozzarella small plate (they make those delicious balls fresh every day) and the Beet salad.
There are nine pizzas on the menu, which are composed of a handful of simple yet quite experimental ingredients. There’s a pizza with pork confit on it, a pizza with a Korean fermented condiment called gochujang sauce and one of their most popular pies called the Barberini which showcases ricotta, calabrian chiles, watercress, and honey.
To join the party we went with the Brassacre! which consisted of Brussel sprouts, bacon, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, garlic, and grana. Brussel sprouts and bacon are a great combo so I knew the Brassacre! could do no wrong. Crispy, thick, asymmetrical chunks of bacon, (more of the pork belly persuasion) were sprinkled throughout, which provided a salty, fatty contrast to the Brussel sprouts. The olive oil and garlic base was a decadent match to the cheese.
We also opted for a traditional pie; pepperoni and sausage to provide us a baseline to measure their fundamental pizza components; cheese, sauce, and crust. The pizzas are very thin and cut in squares which is my preference.
The pepperoni had more of an artisanal flare and depth of flavor than the average pepperoni, they were slightly thicker and had a light smokiness. The sausage was a highlight for me, it was rich and fennel forward, with a nice spicy balance.
There’s a pizza out there for everyone.
Grampa’s Pizzeria and it’s varieties of pizza parallel the wide-ranging and often avante-garde culture of those east side neighborhoods. These days with our lives so intricately integrated through technology, it’s more important than ever to practice tolerance and hold ourselves to a higher standard. It doesn’t matter what your opinion is, just be nice about it.
Deepak Chopra says “You don’t want to stand rigid like a tall oak that cracks and collapses in the storm. Instead, you want to be flexible, like a reed that bends and survives the storm.”
What pizza taught me:
A night out in the enlightened part of town is a nice reminder that we should keep our minds and taste buds open and not only respect other folks pizza preferences but their ideas and lifestyles as well.
What I’m eating: Grampa’s Pizzeria; Brassacre! Brussel sprouts, bacon, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, garlic, and grana. Pepperoni, half sausage pizza. Mozzarella small plate and Beet salad.
What I’m reading: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking -Malcolm Gladwell