Pizza. Kenosha. If they make it, we will eat it.
Whether it is because Italian families historically accounted for a strong segment of Kenosha’s early population, or because we just find the combined textures and flavors of melted cheese, savory sauce and oven-crisp crust irresistible, pizza has long played a dominant role in Kenosha’s culinary scene.
For how long? Well over half a century.
The Kenosha News tackled the tasty topic at the urging of Scott, no last name, who submitted this question to Curious Kenosha: “What is Kenosha’s oldest, still operating pizza restaurant?”
When it comes to pizza purveyors, over the past few decades, the competition has been tough: many have tried, and some have failed. Readers may recall such names as Pat’s, Lucchetta’s, Torre Ulisse, all gone now.
But others have had real staying power, whether due to business savvy, tasty ’za, or both.
The most recent count reveals 14 independently run pizzerias and 11 corporately owned pizza chains or franchises. This does not include restaurants that include, but do not specialize in, pizza.
So who’s been tossing pizza pies here the longest?
Villa d’Carlo, 5138 Sixth Ave. Opening in 1957, the restaurant has run continuously for 59 years.
Casa Capri, 2129 Birch Road. For 55 years, pizza has been on the menu at this Kenosha mainstay, at its original location on 82nd Street and Sheridan Road, and at its expanded location — with expanded menu — on Birch Road.
Third place goes to Luigi’s Pizza Kitchen, 7531 39th Ave., open for 53 years.
Also with more than five decades in business: Valeo’s, 5021 30th Ave., and Pa’s, 5621 22nd Ave., both of which have been in business for 51 years.
These five have been delivering hot, tasty pizza to Kenosha residents for a combined 259 years.
With 25 pizza places to choose from there’s both choice and rivalry — especially among pizza fans. So, as far as the topic of “the best pizza in Kenosha goes,” this reporter isn’t about to “go there.” (Discussions of “favorite pizza” are often heated because pizza is the penultimate comfort food, meaning slurs on one’s favorite pizza are bound to get personal in a hurry.)
In the interests of journalistic inquiry, however, we will recap the last few years of the people’s choice contest known as Kenosha’s “Best Of.” In the past five years, Kaiser’s, located for the past nine years at 510 57th St., has taken top notice three times (2015, 2014, 2013) and Villa d’Carlo was chosen twice (2012 and 2011).
So what’s the most popular pizza at the longest-running pizza place?
“It sounds silly, but cheese and sausage,” says Villa D’Carlo’s owner, Robert Greskoviak.
Greskoviak, 53, wasn’t even born when his stepdad, Carl Ruffalo, opened Villa D’Carlo in 1957. The restaurant opened its doors in the Columbus Park neighborhood, moving to its Sixth Avenue location in 1962.
In addition to pizza, the restaurant offers a full slate of Italian entrees.
The pizza specialty has become an entity of its own known as Carl’s Pizza. From 1993 until just this summer, Carl’s Pizza was also offered on Kenosha’s west side at 60th Street and 50th Avenue.
Greskoviak says he is excited about Villa D’Carlo’s future. “Last year we started an herb garden in the back and we’re about to start a remodeling project.”
Asked what he attributes to Villa D’Carlo’s longevity Greskoviak said, “It’s our homemade pasta and pizza, grinding our own sausage and making homemade dough.”
What do you wonder about the Kenosha area, its people and culture? With Curious Kenosha, we’re looking into the questions that matter to you.
Visit www.kenoshanews.com/curiouskenosha to submit your question, read what others have submitted and — when voting rounds are taking place — have your say on which one we answer next.