Where: Rossi's, 100 Frost Woods Rd., Monona
Why you should go: It's the only place I know of in this town that delivers the exact kind of pizza I grew up loving on Chicago's South Side ' simple toppings on a cracker-thin, crispy crust cut in squares.
I have a hunch you come from a big Mad City family.
Yep, I come right from the 'Bush. My family was dislocated when the city tore up all the houses on Bowen Court. My dad, Ross Sr., moved to Monona and opened Rossario's [upstairs, over Rossi's]. By the time I was 7, I was up there washing glasses. When I was 10, I got stuck in the kitchen, and I stress 'stuck.' I spent 16 years of my adult life running that kitchen. Food is in my blood. Guilt by association, I call it.
I make the classic Rossario's spaghetti sauce, carried in 150 stores across Wisconsin. When I got to where Rossario's kitchen and my sauce business were practically running themselves, I opened this place. It was 2003. We've evolved since then. There's no sit-down ' you can order takeout, but I'd say 95% of our business is delivery. We give fortune cookies, Dum Dums and garlic butter with every pizza.
What's the origin of the thin-crust, square-sliced pizza?
Actually, we do thin or deep dish, cut in wedges or square ' whatever the customer wants. But you can make two pounds of dough feed your whole family if you spread it out thin. The same amount will only feed five if you do it deep-dish style. My grandma had nine kids. She made schiacciate. She'd just punch out the dough and put tomatoes, basil and garlic on it and sprinkle it with a little cheese. She'd put that on the table with olive oil on the side.
Schiacciate's probably the original thin-crust pizza. Why cut it in squares? Grandma never had round pans. She had one rectangular pan that did lasagna, meat loaf, pizza and everything else.
You do a mac and cheese pizza ' true or false?
True! We do a spaghetti and meatballs pizza, too. We call it the anti-Atkins pizza. It's fantastic. We don't sell a lot of those, but people who try 'em always come back for more. The gyro pizza's a big seller. The one I love ' it's something nobody else has ' is the Swiss Pig pizza. It has full strip bacon, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, Swiss cheese and barbecue sauce. The flavor's zingy and totally unexpected.
The recipes are all my inventions, or my right-hand man Kevin Zamastil's. He used to make pizza for Wolfgang Puck in California. He took a cut in pay to come work with me. Basically, we put whatever we like on the menu. We do calzones, batter-fried cod with coleslaw, slabs of ribs, chicken wings, mozzarella-stuffed, garlic butter Bosco breadsticks, even egg rolls. For dessert we have something we call Uncle William's Apple Betty. We soak thin or deep-dish pizza crust in cinnamon butter, then top it with spiced apples, ice it and bake it. We serve a side of honey with that. It's unbelievable.