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Grampa's Pizzeria Brings Unbeatable Italian Fare to Madison

By Marina I. Jokic

Inspired by his grandfather's pizza dough and sauce recipes, Gilbert Altschul opened Grampa's Pizzeria in 2013, parlaying his homemade creations into a successful enterprise. Offering a fine dining atmosphere and the traditional array of Italian-inspired pizzas and small plates, Grampa's Pizzeria offers approachable elegance to its customers.

When Altschul's brother put in an offer on a restaurant space, the team was poised to jump in with both feet. Opening shop in Madison, Wisconsin, Grampa's Pizzeria wanted to invent itself as a unique restaurant featuring a blend of classic Italian fare and rustic, homemade charm. Altschul wanted the restaurant to convey an urban and bucolic vibe at the same time, both in its décor and food. "We are trying to offer our guests a high end, refined experience in a casual setting," he adds.

Adopting his grandfather's recipes as his culinary foundation, Altschul nevertheless allows himself to be constantly creative and to delight guests with new inventions. Restaurant guests will be pleasantly surprised by the variety and originality of the dishes on an otherwise concise menu.

"We have a lot of core dishes that remain on the menu year round but my favorite dishes are the seasonal ones that rotate around those and allow me to continue to be creative," Altschul asserts. To illustrate that, he points to the seasonal pork belly dish served with squash risotto, birch beer fan and potato chips.  The new fried chicken skins are also very liked by customers.

Breaking the mold with traditional pizzerias which often make pizzas which are anything but authentic, Grampa's has chosen the path less traveled and made it its own. Not only do they grow their own vegetables and herbs, but they take the time to make everything from scratch.

You can start your evening by sampling a couple of the small plates to whet your appetite. For instance, popular dishes include the dumplings with chicken, truffle, foie gras, and scallions; the pork confit with chimichurri, mustard, giardiniera, and sourdough; and the calamari prepared with n'duja (a spicy, spreadable pork salume from Italy), tomato sauce, vanilla, and fingerling potatoes.

Their signature food is pizza, of course, so needless to say, Grampa's puts extra care in choosing their selection. There are eight unique pizzas on the menu, some of which stand out with the mouthwatering combination of ingredients and flavors: the Finicchio with sausage, fennel, and Anaheim chiles; the Jabroni layered with a pesto-tomato sauce, smoked mozzarella and basil; and the Barberini featuring ricotta, garlic, Calabrian chiles, watercress, and honey. For those looking to add on a little extra to their pizza, or to create their own series of toppings, look to the "Additions" section.

However, any meal is not complete without its finale -- the dessert. Grampa's has two flagship desserts right now: the Sticky Ginger Cake with lemon cream, cinnamon, and candied pistachio, and the Chocolate Mousse which is spiced to perfection with cardamom, coffee, burnt and blood orange essence, and almonds. Be sure to come in and check them out!

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