Wisconsin Eats: Pizza, Cookies, Tapas

I didn’t expect much from Sheboygan, especially after our disappointment in Oshkosh. It just goes to show you, don’t make any assumptions based on silly city names.

When we told people we were going to Sheboygan for the Kohler Art Center, at least two people asked if we were going to “that wood-oven pizza place.” I was instantly suspicious; for one thing we were in Wisconsin, and for another there are plenty of wood-burning pizza places that turn out merely adequate pizza. But it’s not as if we had any other restaurants we knew in Sheboygan, so after basking in a wide variety of American art we decided to give Il Ritrovo a try.

Il Ritrovo

When we walked into Il Ritrovo the first thing I saw was a certificate on the wall from the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN). This is an organization that, in its own words, “safeguards and promotes the culture of the real Neapolitan pizza worldwide.” They certify pizzerias that adhere to strict standards, from the origin of their ingredients to the manner in which they are cooked. To give you an idea about how strict they are, there are about 32 AVPN certified pizzerias in the entire country. Who would have guessed that one of them would be in Sheboygan?

Despite some uneven, slow service, the pizzas came out fast. We both ordered the DOC Margherita, of course. The pizza was wonderful, though it could have used another few seconds in the oven for a bit more charring, and a sprinkle of salt, but it was quite good. My sister thought it needed more mozzarella, but I disagree — the balance of the three key ingredients (dough, tomato, cheese) was, I thought, spot on.

Field to Fork

Il Ritrovo is attached to a store called Field to Fork, owned by the same people. Field to Fork specializes in local and artisanal products, as well as other specialty foods. They had local, organic, flour — when’s the last time you saw that in a store in NYC? We got a couple of cookies for the road — butterscotch and shortbread. We drove off to a small town called Manitowoc. Once there we ate the cookies. I found the butterscotch a bit too sweet, but I really liked the shortbread one.

There wasn’t a lot to do in Manitowoc, though we did take a look around a home brewing/wine making store, Grape, Grain, and Bean. If you find yourself in Manitowoc, I would recommend it; their selection of ingredients and hardware is amazing. After seeing everything to see, we drove back to Appleton.

Tapas

My sister had wanted to take me to a tapas restaurant called Sirocco’s, but about a week before I arrived in town they closed, temporarily they say but I have my doubts. Instead, we went to a tapas restaurant called, surprisingly, Tapas.

Tapas has an ultra-modern interior and a lot of vegetarian food on the menu. I even had an excellent glass of wine, a Martin Codax Tempranillo Rioja. Unfortunately, the food didn’t measure up. The patatas bravas came in a tomato broth instead of being sauteed. The mushrooms were swimming in a bowl of white wine-butter sauce, their flavor lost in the presence of such bold ingredients. The mushroom empanadas were fine, and matched well with the the sharp chimichurri sauce. The best food we had was called, maddeningly, “Queso con honey” (there is a Spanish word for honey). This was a breaded, fried disk of goat cheese with honey on top. It had the salty-sweet combo that I love so much. This was my first experience with a tapas restaurant, and it was a bit disappointing.

It was a nice night out, so we walked a bit before stopping for one last bite, some more ice cream from one of the omni-present Wisconsin Chocolate Shoppe outlets. Again, what you see above is a “single.” Who would have guessed that the best food I had all day would be in Sheboygan?

Il Ritrovo — 515 S 8th St Sheboygan, WI
Field to Fork — 522 S 8th St, Sheboygan WI
Tapas — 527 W College Ave, Appleton, WI

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