Every night the notes of renowned jazz, blues, and R&B performers echo through the glimmering walls of 88 Keys Piano Martini Lounge, where martinis and small plates meet beneath mood-setting blue lights in West Allis’s downtown stretch. The relaxed spot was conceived by co-owners Greg Barczak and Suzy Ball who, as West Allis Now reporter Mark Schaaf notes, “hope the city is turning a corner and want to make something more of the downtown” by attracting a younger crowd and lending the area an intimate, upscale nightlife option.
Inside the low-lit lounge, glass windows open and close to bathe guests and performers in a cooling breeze. Artwork and Wisconsin gangster memorabilia, including John Dillinger photographs and high-school report cards, beam down upon pots of fondue and gourmet pizzas. Behind the glowing bar, master mixologists blend a lengthy list of 28 specialty martinis and fill glasses with wine and beer.
Crisp Pizza Bar & Lounge’s super-heated Neapolitan-style oven bakes crunchy cracker-like crusts topped with chef-curated ingredient bouquets or build-your-own-pizza creations. The restaurant also transforms into a morning-meal factory for Friday–Sunday brunches, flipping expectations on the heads with funky adaptations of morning classics, such as the breakfast pizza topped with scrambled eggs and a pepperoni-wrapped alarm clock. By night, the eatery doubles as a music venue, with a rotating schedule of DJs setting hips asway with high-octane playlists.
Drinks flow to the beat of the night's soundtrack, an eclectic selection of dance music ranging from salsa to bass-heavy club hits. Salsa Saturdays are perfect for a tall margarita thirst quencher ($6), or refresh your panting palate with a minty mojito ($8). Any night of the week is suitable for fermented ales from the tap ($4) or by the bottle ($3.50 domestic, $4 imported). For a late night or if you’re performing a grueling dance scene from an episode of Veronica's Closet, a Red Bull ($4) or any bomb upgrade ($6) will provide anybody with a surge of body fuel.
Most of MOCT's patrons start the experience with an appetizer of Serbian-style sliders (ground pork and beef with kamjak, a feta and red-pepper spread, $6) or O.G. wings (classic buffalo sauce, $7) and a $4 draft of any of the seasonal beers on tap. One of the special imports such as Big Nik Serbian beer or Strongbow ($6 each) pairs well with a 14-inch MOCT pizza (Serbian sausage, mushroom, and onion, $13) or beef burek (ground beef and onions layered in phyllo dough, $12) before you move on to liquid desserts such as a blackberry margarita ($7).
Marchese’s Olive Pit provides pizza purveyors with a menu of pies with and without red sauce. Opt for sauceless sustenance with the caramelized onion and mushroom pizza, boasting olive oil and aromatic garlic reclining on an herb-brushed crust ($14.99 for regular size), or go in the red by bankrupting hunger with Pete’s Pepper Pizza, topped with spicy serrano peppers or mild green bell peppers, plus pepperoni and onions ($15.99 for regular). Customers can conceive the most artistic pie creation since da Vinci’s Mona Lisa Face-Planted Into Pizza with the create-your-own option, which lets you add as many toppings as your stomach pleases, including olives, extra seasoning, artichokes, bacon, and more ($12.99+). Marchese’s also offers a solid selection of appetizers, from its fresh bread available with toppings such as marinara sauce, pesto spread, or olive tapenade ($3–$5.50), to Aunt Susie’s Salad, with strawberries, butter-toasted pecans, and a raspberry-poppy-seed dressing bunking atop a bed of spinach ($5.99). Lunchtimers can nosh on pizzas by the slice ($4–$5)—Marchese's Olive Pit serves up a new special slice of pizza each week—or the massive Bear’s Big Sandwich available in veggie-friendly ($5.99) or pepperoni-topped ($6.99) variations.
Tazinos Pizza & Salad Bistro provides patrons with a buffet-style smorgasbord of specialty pizzas, pastas, and salads. Already cooking at three locations, a fourth eatery in downtown Milwaukee is slated to open its doors this summer. Each casual restaurant revolves around an all-you-can-eat menu of fresh, nutritious Italian fare, including pizzas crafted from natural Wisconsin cheeses and dough that is kneaded onsite every morning using unbleached flour and absolutely no high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, MSG, or magic beans. Pies range from classic pepperoni and authentic Italian margherita to the specialty Tailgater, topped with Klement's bratwurst, green peppers, brown mustard, and barbecue sauce. Salads, such as a sweet Asian-style slaw, and pastas, ranging from mac 'n' cheese to garlic-and-herb fettuccini, keep forks gainfully employed, and each meal is rounded out by a selection of soups, desserts, and spicy pepperoni rolls.
On Saturday and Sunday, Sunriza pizzas fend off the morning munchies with renditions of breakfast favorites in pie form. Topping choices include eggs and bacon, eggs ranchero, and morning-fresh veggies, and each slice may be enjoyed alongside other breakfast staples such as french toast, cereal, and mini cinnamon rolls.