One of our country’s most beloved foods is the perfect medium for showcasing our area’s local food bounty. These nine pizza purveyors show us how.
By Otehlia Cassidy
PHOTO BY ANGELA WONG
Patrick DePula, owner of Salvatore’s Tomato Pies in Sun Prairie, grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, home of the nation’s oldest continually run pizzeria. “When [Papa’s Tomato Pies] opened in 1912, they were using what was available around them,” DePula says. “Then the food industry turned to factory production to reduce costs, but we don’t have to do that. We can still make our pizza local.” To do just that, DePula makes his pies in the spirit of Italian immigrants. “If I were an Italian in Wisconsin in 1912, what would I use?” DePula asks. Answer: Cured meat from Underground Food Collective, sausage from Fraboni’s, cheese from Grande Cheese Company and Farmer John’s and produce from area farms like JenEhr and Harmony Valley. Even the crust has local roots; the flour comes from Lonesome Stone Milling in Lone Rock.
While sourcing ingredients from nearby is a familiar—even expected—practice in high-end Madison-area restaurants, this kind of thoughtful preparation is a recent trend when it comes to more casual fare. But Salvatore’s isn’t alone in the farm-to-pizza-platter movement. Mobile wood-fired pizza business La Fortuna started as a way to make local food accessible and affordable, setting up at farmers’ markets during the growing season and catering private parties. Lombardino’s sources its ingredients from Fraboni’s, Jordandal Farms and Grande Cheese. The butternut squash and sausage pizza at the restaurant features Usinger’s sausage in addition to the local squash. Mat Adams, general manager at Roman Candle on Willy Street, says cooking with fresh and local foods has been part of the restaurant’s mission since day one. “Even when we look into different markets for possible expansion, we look at what kind of resources there are for buying local ingredients,” he says. “If there are not enough local resources to maintain our mission, we won’t open in that market.”
Greenbush Bar, a restaurant in Madison’s former “Little Italy” neighborhood, sources their cured meats from a Pecatonica farm, and many cheeses and in-season vegetables are local. Gil Altschul, owner of Grampa’s Pizzeria, cooks with “whatever I can from as close as I can. Our ingredients come from places like Garden to Be, Underground Butcher and the farmers’ market.”
Though usually associated with its unique pizza flavors, Ian’s Pizza is another eatery that purchases from local purveyors whenever possible, says co-founder Ian Gurfield. During the warmer months, fresh salad fixings are picked up at the farmers’ market twice a week, and they recently began sourcing sausage from Black Earth Meats. You can even pick up a farm-fresh frozen pizza from Jordandal Cookhouse, a small carryout establishment that brings Jordandal Farms meats and produce, as well as products from neighboring farms, to a small storefront in Verona and the Dane Country Farmers’ Market on Saturdays.
By utilizing local producers, these restaurants are contributing to the growing network among restaurants and farmers. It’s that network that propelled Derek Lee to open Pizza Brutta in the first place. Lee grew up farming wheat in North Dakota, then went to work in marketing and sales for Organic Valley and wrote grants to help develop direct marketing for farmers. He decided that making pizza, a food he’d always loved, was a great way to continue to support those farmers. “I use local cheeses, prosciutto from La Quercia and flour from Lonesome Stone Milling. Everything about my business reflects my relationship with growers.”
No matter where you get your slice of local pie, it’s heartening to know that when it comes to pizza, we’ve come full circle.