Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Brickhouse Pizza Pub — Fort Atkinson, WI — A Restaurant Recommendation


She's a beauty, isn't she?

Like every other good American would probably say, pizza is one of those five foods that if I was stuck on a deserted island and I had to pick one food that I would have to eat for the rest of my life, pizza would probably be it (besides chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream).  I could eat pizza every day, I think.  What you served on it wouldn't matter hugely to me, although I am definitely more of a traditionalist with my toppings.  You can hold the pineapple and the taco meat, thank you.

What I am particular about is the crust.  I grew up in a town full of amazing pizzerias run by Greek and Italian families.  Their pizza dough was like their bread: yeasty in aroma and flavor, with a crispy exterior, and a bubbly, chewy interior.  Good mandible strength was required when tucking into one of their giant pizza slices.  

When I moved to Chicago at the age of 17, everyone declared that I was moving to the best pizza in the world.  And while I would eventually agree that it was quite good, I missed—no, make that craved—the pizza from home.  There is only so much cheese that one person can eat in a sitting before things start acting a little scary, and who the hell cuts their pizza into squares, anyway? I mean, really.  And the dough? It just didn't even compare.  It was either too bread-y or too cracker-like.  Nope.  My Italian boys were missed.

Almost twenty years later I moved to Wisconsin, famous for its cheese curds and frozen custard.  Unfortunately, it looked like I would have to carry on with my pizza fantasies for another few years.  Pizza was nowhere near being a Wisconsin delicacy.

And then along came Brickhouse.

I was one of the original staff that opened this little restaurant in what became my new hometown.  On the day I interviewed to waitress, I sat across from two men, father and son, and admitted that I had never worked in the food industry in my life but that I loved people and I loved food and I would be the hardest worker they had.  They gave me the job, and I prayed that I would like the food.  Little did I know that their food standards would exceed even my own.

The day before opening all the waitstaff came to the restaurant for a tasting so that we would know some of the foods we would be promoting.  It was then that I learned that everything—the pizza dough, the sauces, the soups, the salsa, the bread, the nacho chips, the croutons—everything was homemade.  The only non-condiment item we didn't make were the desserts and the pasta.  The burgers were shaped by hand, the steaks hand-cut.  I walked into the kitchen and saw a tray full of roasted chickens being pulled out of the oven and soup stock simmering on the stove in a giant pot.  This was a restaurant I was going to be proud to work in.

First I tested the chips and salsa.  Delish.  Crispity chips with layers that shattered when you bit, and salsa that was nicely spicy and lime-y and fresh.

The soup was straight out of grandma's kitchen.  Full of flavor and stuff.  No thin, brothy stock here.

And the pizza?

The pizza.

The pizza...

That pizza that I had been dreaming of for the past twenty years? Right.  There.  The crispy-chewy crust.  The fresh tomato-y sauce.  The perfect amount of melty cheese.  Dear Lord, and I was going to work here!

That was four years ago.  I no longer work at Brickhouse, or "BH" as we affectionately call it in our house, but you can bet that when any of us talk about going out for dinner, it is an unspoken understanding that there is only one place we mean.  

Those two men who were my bosses? They are no longer my bosses.  They are my family.  

And that pizza? That pizza... (Scroll back up there and look at it!)

It's still my favorite pizza anywhere.

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