Lisa’s Fine Foods – A Hidden Treasure
By Cynthia Sommer
During the last 49 years on the east side, the Bongiorno family has developed a reputation for great thin crust pizza served in a casual, friendly environment at their restaurant, Lisa’s Fine Foods. Regular eastsiders have made it a favorite little restaurant and college students through the years have discovered it and often return after leaving the area and even after leaving the state.
Joseph Bongiorno started the business in 1960 at the Shorewood site that is now Harry’s Pub & Grill and eventually moved in 1964 to the cozy white building at 2961 North Oakland Avenue, north of Locust. Several relatives were involved in the early business include his brotherMike, as part owner and Uncle August as the creator of the secret pizza sauce and Italian meatballs. Joe’s sons, Gary, Scot and Brian became owners of Lisa’s in 1978 with Gary’s wife Teresa and for the past few decades, Gary, Scott and Teresa continued the business as a team. Gary has fond memories of growing up in the family business and making pizza as early as the age of 11. It was surprising to fine in this strong Italian family that the name Lisa did not come from some relative – rather, short, easy-to-remember names were placed in a hat and Lisa was chosen.
Gary, Scot and Teresa take pride in using the freshest, highest quality ingredients in their foods: You will never find a canned mushroom on their pizzas! They have stayed with the quality brands of cheeses and pepperoni that gave them their reputation and provide the distinct tastes and textures. Reviewers have described their pizzas starting with “a light, flaky, layered thin crust and a sauce with just a hint of garlic.” Customers can request their pizza baked regular, crispy, and extra crispy and one unusually customer always orders the pizza crust very well done (burnt by most people’s standards!). Generous supplies of over 20 toppings allow you to express your creativeness. Several Italian dishes (lasagna, manicotti, mastoccioli, linguine, fettuccini, spaghetti, and ravioli) along with Teresa’s recipe for spedini and Uncle August’s Italian meatballs add to the Italian fare. Gary, Scot and Teresa also make all their own homemade sausage.
Lisa’s Fine Foods is the type of place that you may meet some of your friends and neighbors having a meal. Through the many years that Teresa has personally served her customers, several generations of customers have become part of their greater family as stories are shared at the tables. The friendly staff help to make Lisa’s a comfortable place to eat. Lisa’s also has a fully stocked bar. The non-smoking restaurant is open seven days a week with hours of operation on: M-Th, 4-10:30 pm; F-Sat, 4 pm–12 am; Sun, 4-10 pm.
Besides the dine-in experience, carryout and delivery service are a substantial part of the business. Their delivery area is from Wisconsin Avenue to the 6300 block and the Lakeshore to the 700 block including Shorewood and WhitefishBay. Die-hard customers further north have actually coordinated pick-up of pizza in the parking lot of Winkie’s to get their Lisa’s pizza. Teresa indicated that for a number of years, Lisa’s customers could also order pizza to bake at home – long before Papa Murphy’s pre-made pizza even existed! The five delivery staff have been with Lisa’s for 5- 40 years – a real statement about their employers. The next time you are out, need a meal or are planning a football game party, think of Lisa’s – it’s worth a try!