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Balistreri's: The secret is in the staff and the recipes

General Manager Tom Siever keeps things humming at Balistreri’s, a restaurant known for its pizza.

General Manager Tom Siever keeps things humming at Balistreri’s, a restaurant known for its pizza. Photo By Dave Haberkorn

Nov. 21, 2012

The word "institution" is sometimes thrown around a lot when referring to long-standing restaurants. But in the case of Balistreri's Italian-American Restaurant in Wauwatosa, they have most definitely earned the designation.

Balistreri's was opened in 1967 by James (Jim) Balistreri. This tiny neighborhood family pizzeria has been serving thin-crust pizza and Italian specialties to generations of diners. On a warm summer day, it is not uncommon to drive down 68th Street, just north of Wells, and see crowds of people patiently waiting for a table or a carry-out order.

So what is the secret that keeps this restaurant crowded?

"The staff by far is part of secret," said Jeremy Koss, one of the Balistreri's managers. "Generations of people have been working for us - parents and their kids. The GM has been with the company for over 35 years. People love working for Jim and Tom (Siever, general manager)."

A quick online search of reviews shows that Balistreri's is often listed as the favorite pizza place in the area. The thin-crust pizza ($12 to $30) is offered with almost any combination of toppings. If you're not in the mood for pizza, chicken Parmesan ($15) is another signature dish. And no matter what you're having, an order of eggplant strips ($11) is a perfect complement.

"People ask me all the time for recipes, but they are all company secrets," Koss said. I guess we'll just have to keep going back and enjoying those "secrets."

The Basics

NAME: Balistreri's

ADDRESS: 812 N. 68th St.

PHONE: (414) 475-1414

WEBSITE: Balistreris.com

FARE: Italian

HOURS: Lunch - 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday; Dinner - 3:30 to 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 3:30 p.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday, and 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday

RESERVATIONS: lunch only

HANDICAPPED ACCESS: No, there are three stairs.

GLUTEN-FREE OPTIONS: yes

LOOKING TO 'GRAB A BITE'?

"Grab a Bite" is an informal look at the food scene in the Wauwatosa, Brookfield and Elm Grove area by freelance writer Karen Waldkirch. Whether you're looking for a place for a date night or a casual spot for lunch, Waldkirch will be out and about scouting eateries for you. If you have a suggestion for a column, email her at kmwaldkirch@yahoo.com.

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