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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

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Frank Ebert opened Big Ebe's Pizza 35 years ago.
Frank Ebert opened Big Ebe's Pizza 35 years ago. (Photo: Rick Rodriguez)
Black olives usually ruin a pizza for me, but Big Ebe's sauce was just strong enough.
Black olives usually ruin a pizza for me, but Big Ebe's sauce was just strong enough. (Photo: Rick Rodriguez)
Sausage, pepperoni and mushrooms on thin crust pizza.
Sausage, pepperoni and mushrooms on thin crust pizza. (Photo: Rick Rodriguez)
The meat thin crust.
The meat thin crust. (Photo: Rick Rodriguez)

In search of the perfect pizza: Big Ebe's

In 1978 Frank Ebert, aka "Big Ebe," grew tired of the construction business and decided to get into the restaurant business. He opened Big Ebe’s Pizza, 9125 W. Lincoln Ave., and 35 years later, business is still going strong.

The recipes remain the same as established by Ebert, but the business is now owned and operated by his son Mike and Mike’s daughter Rachel.

Big Ebe’s Pizza seems to be very popular. I visited on a Saturday night and a Sunday afternoon, and the delivery guys and kitchen staff were busy both times.

The waiting area featured a bench, which I appreciated. The walls were covered with dark paneling and an old menu board. The take-out window was large and faced the massive pizza ovens.

Pizza and broasted chicken are the most popular items on the menu, which also includes baked pasta, seafood, ribs, salads, sandwiches and appetizers such as cheese or apple-filled Bosco Sticks.

The pizza is available on 8, 11, 14 or 16-inch crusts. An 8-inch cheese pizza starts at $4.90 with additional toppings ranging from $.60 to $1.25. The 16-inch cheese pizza starts at $15.75 with additional toppings ranging from $2.00 to $2.50.

Pizza crusts are thin, but a deep dish crust is available for a small up-charge. The deep dish is really more of a double crust. It isn’t baked in a pan with smooth edges, as is typically the case with a deep dish crust.

The pricing grid listed variations of cheese and a topping or two, but you can obviously build your own pie. Some of the special toppings available included shrimp, jalapeno, Canadian bacon and anchovies.

I keep telling myself that I should try anchovies some day. I almost tried them on one of the 8-inch pizzas, but I chickened out. I’ll step up to the challenge and try them eventually. Some people love the flavor and describe it as salty and fishy.

I read somewhere that a pizza maker wears gloves when he puts anchovies on a pizza to prevent the next four or five pizzas he makes from tasting like anchovies. Really, I’ll try them some day.

On these visits, I ordered the vegetarian pizza on the "deep dish" crust and a sausage, pepperoni and mushroom on thin crust.

The vegetarian pizza was topped with black olives, mushrooms and finely diced onions and green peppers. I’ve learned that black olives tend to kill the flavor of a pizza for me, but the flavor of the sauce was just strong enough to counter the black olives so I could
enjoy the pizza.

The deep dish crust looked more like two thin crusts stacked on one another, and the texture was similar to the thin crust, which was slightly crispy with a light coating of flour underneath.

To truly appreciate a pizza with meat toppings, I advise you to eat one after a vegetarian pizza. No offense to vegetarians, but I just think meat toppings make a pizza taste better.

To be fair, I will say that I’ve had vegetarian chili that had more flavor than chili with various meats, but when it comes to pizza, there’s no contest.

The sausage on the pizza was spicy and among the most flavorful I’ve had on a pizza anywhere in town. The pepperoni also held its own for flavor and was just spicy enough. Both worked really well with the flavor of the sauce.

Thankfully, the canned mushrooms didn’t take away from that flavor. I prefer fresh mushrooms on my pizza. Some believe that the canned mushrooms look better on a pizza but I prefer the subtle flavor and texture of fresh mushrooms, and I’m not concerned with
the singed look they often present.

The thin crust was slightly crisp but did not have that cracker-like crunch I look for when I bite into a crust. As I expected, they make their pizza dough daily.

Big Ebe’s pizza sauce starts with a canned base, but a seasoning blend handed down from Frank Ebert to his son and granddaughter creates a balance between sweet and spicy.

I might give a slight nudge to the sweeter side, but overall, I really liked the flavor. It wasn’t the type of flavor that jumps out at you, but I definitely noticed it. The sauce was also on the thicker side, and they put enough sauce on for me to see and taste.

Since I started these pizza blogs, I’ve noticed that West Allis seems to a have concentration of pizzerias larger than any other community. Lincoln Avenue alone has five pizzerias between 60th and 92nd Streets that I know of.

Yet they’ve all been in business for years, if not decades, so there certainly seems to be enough business to go around for the area pizza lovers.

Congratulations to Big Ebe’s Pizza on 35 years!

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