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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014

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The New York-style pies represent 90-95 percent of the sales at Leonardo's.
The New York-style pies represent 90-95 percent of the sales at Leonardo's.
Leonardo's Pizza Parlor is one of the few in the area that makes Sicilian-style pizza.
Leonardo's Pizza Parlor is one of the few in the area that makes Sicilian-style pizza.
The dining room was quiet, but business soon picked up.
The dining room was quiet, but business soon picked up.

In search of the perfect pizza: Leonardo's Pizza Parlor

I first noticed Leonardo's Pizza, 11051 N. Port Washington Rd., while visiting another nearby business.

Located in a strip mall behind a building on Port Washington Road, it can be tricky to find if you don't know where to look. You'll actually want to turn west onto West Towne Square Road from Port Washington Road, and you'll find it on your right.

It seemed quiet when I visited early on a Monday evening, but business soon picked up. A few folks entered to pick up their carry-out orders or grab tables for dining, while additional orders were being taken by phone.

I scouted the menu online before my visit and noticed there were two styles of pizza to choose from, New York style and Sicilian style.

Very rarely do I see the words "Sicilian-style pizza" around Milwaukee, so I was intrigued to try Leonardo's version. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I guessed it would be different than the last "Sicilian-style" pizza I had several years ago.

I ordered mine with sausage and mushrooms. The gentleman who took my order turned out to be the owner, Mark Mollenhauer. He told me the Sicilian-style pizza had a thick crust and was cooked in a pan. I pictured a Chicago pan-style pie.

What arrived was not exactly what I imagined. The edge was round instead of flat, which I typically find among Chicago pan pizzas.

The crust was crisp with a doughy and chewy center. The bottom had a texture similar to a Chicago pan-style, indicating the pan was possibly coated with butter or oil.

Since this pizza was so different from the last "Sicilian" pizza I had, I decided to do a little research.

The origin of the Sicilian-style pizza comes from the Sfincione out of Palermo. It is typically topped with onion, tomato sauce, anchovies and bread crumbs. The style typically comes as a thick and doughy crust and is cooked in a pan with oil, which essentially fries the crust.

It turns out that most Sicilian-style pizzas in the U.S. are square pies, even though most of the pizzas in Sicily are round. So, by definition, Leonardo's pizza is pretty close to what a Sicilian-style pizza should be.

The sausage on my pizza was spicy and flavorful, and I was pleased that Leonardo's uses fresh mushrooms. However, since I prefer a thin-crust pizza, I wasn't really a fan of this pizza style.

Instead, I preferred Leonardo's New York-style pizza. Mollenhauer told me I was not alone since the New York-style pies represent 90-95 percent of their sales.

While many local pizzerias claim to make New York-style pizza, Leonardo's tries to stay true to the style. The crust was cooked perfectly crisp and chewy, and the slices were cut as triangular slices. The thin slices of pepperoni were spicy and delicious, and the onions were diced finely, which prevented them from overwhelming my palette.

I prefer a sweet or spicy sauce, and I didn't think this sauce was either. I prefer not to taste tomato in the pizza sauce, but this sauce tasted like a fresh tomato sauce to me. So, for those of you who prefer that tomato taste in your sauce, you might enjoy this one.

Mollenhauer told me that he adds a special seasoning blend to the canned tomato sauce used at Leonardo's and batches are made almost daily.

The pizza recipes date back to the original owners, who moved here from New York. Mollenhauer started as a delivery driver for Leonardo's at age 16. Eighteen years ago, he bought the pizzeria and the business remains strong.

The menu also features pasta dinners such as homemade lasagna, hot and cold subs, salads, appetizers and calzones.

The New York pizzas come in 12, 14 and 18 inches. The Sicilian-style pizzas come in 12 and 16 inches. Cheese pizzas start at $11.65 and $13.50, respectively.

While New York-style and Sicilian-style crusts don't represent my favorite style of pizza, many of you may prefer them. Based on what I've learned, Leonardo's tries to stay true to those styles, so you may want to pay them a visit.

Talkbacks

jcorns23 | Dec. 14, 2012 at 12:18 p.m. (report)

The author is right- this is excellent pizza. Like noted- its not located in front of the strip mall but rather back along the side- worth looking for! I'd also recommend the sub sandwiches and bring an appetite. There's a reason this place has been in biz so long- people love the za!

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swoakes | Dec. 13, 2012 at 1:57 p.m. (report)

Lenny's is the best.

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brewcitypaul | Dec. 13, 2012 at 1:23 p.m. (report)

Maybe it's because I grew up in Mequon....but there's no doubt in my mind that Lennys has the best pizza in the Milwaukee area hands down. I love the sauce, love the cheese, love the crust. Perfect NY slice you can fold in half. I highly recommend this pizza parlor.

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curlysarah29 | Dec. 13, 2012 at 12:51 p.m. (report)

36155 I do love their pizza - the cheese is really good and there's lots of it. :)

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