by Anne Trucco
As a Chicago native, I have been spoiled by amazing pizza my entire life, and although Madison is a hot spot for great food, I had yet to find a slice that even compared to what I am used to. That was however, until I wandered into Grampa’s Pizzeria on an early Monday evening this fall.
After walking through a somewhat hidden side door, my friend and I were warmly greeted by our waitress who led us toward the back of the restaurant. Grampa’s Pizzeria’s owner, Gilbert Aschul, transformed “Grampa’s Gun Shop,” located in a home, into a restaurant consisting of a bar, a few cozy booth tables, and several tables along windows that looked out into the “backyard” of the restaurant. From this backyard grows an impressive garden that produces several of the ingredients on the delicious pizzas. With deep blue walls and wood accents, the décor is simple and comforting, much like the pizza.
The menu was pleasantly overwhelming, offering several different types of small plate appetizers and creative pizzas with many possible add-ons. That being said, the “Jabroni” pizza caught my attention right away. I am a loyal fan of anything with pesto, mozzarella and basil, and this pizza was no exception. The pesto-tomato sauce was a flavorful alternative to the classic red, tomato sauce and the flavor of the creamy, melted mozzarella (made fresh and in-house daily) was reinforced by the bite of fresh basil that finished off the pizza. My friend went with a simpler choice, the “Basic Pie.” We agreed to share and swap a few pieces from each of our pizzas. Despite being essentially just a cheese pizza, the “Basic Pie” was notably delicious! Thin crust pizzas are often too flakey for my liking so I usually opt for a thick crust, however the crusts of both the “Jabroni” and the “Basic Pie” were not too chewy, but also not overwhelmingly crunchy.
Located in East Madison, Grampa’s Pizzeria is probably a long bike or maybe even an Über ride from campus, and while the pizzas are a little on the pricey side, Grampa’s Pizza definitely offers great bang for your buck. My friend and I probably could have split one pizza, but since we could not agree on just one of the several appealing options, we both got our own and brought some back home for lunch the next day. I would say that the slight splurge and the trip were definitely worth the flavor, experience and the leftovers.
My Grampa’s Pizza may not have been a traditional “Chicago pizza,” but it was the closest that I could find in my new home away from home. Overall, the “homey” atmosphere, good company, and great food made me forget for a moment that I was hours away from home and extremely tired of cafeteria food. It was everything that I believe a food experience should be, and I definitely would make the trip again.