I've driven past Papa Joe's, 5601 W. Vliet St., several times while taking an alternate route to work.
The building looked a bit like a dive on the outside, but that's never stopped me from patronizing businesses in the past and it wasn't going to stop me now. In fact, some of the best meals I've had have been in dives.
The lobby is large, but has only three tables for those preferring to dine in and a few chairs along a wall for customers awaiting carry-out orders.
"Classic" pictures of various menu items adorn the green and white walls that would benefit from a fresh coat of paint. I guess overhead is kept to a minimum here.
Menu boards hang behind the counter. The prices have been written on strips of paper taped over the original prices. You'll also find the owners behind the counter and in the kitchen.
Doug Dietrich, his sister Cheryl and their cousin Dennis Kahler represent the third generation of the family-owned business that started in 1966. They've run Papa Joe's for the past 27 years, with 20 years at the current location.
Doug is typically taking food orders and helping with deliveries, while Cheryl makes pizzas using recipes passed through the generations, including the pizza sauce that they make from scratch.
Pizzas come in 12, 14, 16 and 18 inches. Pizza crusts are hand-tossed and mostly thin. The 12-inch cheese pizza with one topping starts at $10.50. Additional toppings start at $2 each.
There are a few specialty pizzas such as the sausage special, pepperoni special and the super deluxe. I ordered a 12-inch super deluxe pizza which included sausage, mushrooms, pepperoni, green peppers, onions, black olives, extra cheese and extra sausage.
I didn't have the highest expectations for the pizza on my first visit, but I have to say that my expectations were exceeded.
The super deluxe is a heavy pizza due to the large quantity of toppings, but the crust was crispy and sturdy enough to hold together well. Even the center slices held up, which was a nice surprise.
The chunks of sausage were large, but I thought they lacked flavor and spice. I was pleased with the flavor and spiciness of the pepperoni slices, but I was disappointed that the mushrooms were canned. However, the thick layer of cheese was a hit that made up where the toppings missed.
The pizza sauce had a slightly thick texture. The flavors were subtle with a slight lean toward the spicy side. Overall, I though it was a decent sauce and a fair amount was applied.
Other menu items include appetizers, burgers, Italian sausage and meatball sandwiches, and pastas including lasagna. Soft-serve ice cream and shakes appear on the menu during the warmer months. Soda is sold in two-liter bottles only.
During my two visits, business seemed slow. However, while I waited for my order, a couple of calls came in for delivery requests.
Papa Joe's seems to have found a niche that has contributed to their longevity. I can only think of one pizza joint a short distance east or north of them, but there are a couple of major players a little south and west. With the business starting in 1966 and surviving 20 years at this same location, they must be doing something right.
I find this recommendation IMPOSIBLE! I too enjoy trying almost any food place, however this place scares me. For three years i have driven by Papa Joes and the most activity seen was a new paint job. My fear is age of the ingredients and lack of ownership effort. Thousands of people drive by your location every week, get an employee to stand on the corner and show your are open. Wear a customer is that is what it takes, Papa Joe's is not the Field of Dreams (build it and they will come) work to earn the customers.
I appreciate business that have been around for a longtime however I feel this one is too old and requires Gordon Ramsay to point out this nightmare! Hey Rick, stick to Cranky Als!
1 comment about this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Rick Rodriguez
Published March 4, 2015
My first experience with Cranky Al's, 6901 W. North Ave., was during the Chili'n on the Ave event in Wauwatosa a few years back. Since then, I've been hearing about their pizza and their doughnuts - the crullers in particular.
Published Feb. 4, 2015
This month's installment of Rick's quest for the perfect pizza takes him to ... the lower level of a Best Western?
Published Jan. 7, 2015
Rick's pizza journey takes him to SALA, where he talks sauce and tries one of the best pizzas he's ever had.
Published Dec. 3, 2014
Rick's constant search for perfect pizza in Milwaukee took him to Brian's in Oak Creek, where things didn't quite go as planned.
Published Nov. 5, 2014
I am one of the many that participates in fantasy football leagues. One year, a league commissioner ordered pizza from Michaelangelo's, at 8330 W. Puetz Rd in Franklin, for our draft party, and I enjoyed it enough to add it to my list.
Published Oct. 1, 2014
I googled Magellan's upon getting a recommendation and learned it offered the self-proclaimed "best pizza in Waukesha." I haven't had great experiences with Waukesha pizza, so I figured I'd give this place a visit.
Published Sept. 3, 2014
Early last year, there was quite a bit of buzz over the transformation of Palermo Villa into Divino Wine and Dine, 2315 N. Murray Ave., and equal buzz about Dean Cannestra taking over the space after closing his previous venture, Libiamo.
Published Aug. 6, 2014
I started working for my current employer six years ago. A few months after I started, one of my team members invited us all over to his Sussex home for a Packers party. Among the popular party foods were pizzas delivered from a nearby pizzeria. The pizza was good enough - and the name was catchy enough - for me to remember them both all of these years later.
Published July 2, 2014
Rick's quest for the perfect pizza brings him to Capri di Nuovo, the revamped and renovated rendition of a recently closed popular West Allis Italian restaurant.
Published June 4, 2014
Rick's search for the city's finest pizza offerings takes him over to Mario's Italian Grill, a remodeled George Webb's near the airport.