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.
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.
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).
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.