Georgio’s: Perfecting the recipe for pizza

USA Today readers know by now that Georgio’s in Milton, a Rock County community of 5,100, is my Wisconsin recommendation in a nationwide roundup of great pizza places.

The owners of this cozy, little Italian restaurant – George Rakidzich and Cheryl Ryan – have Serbian and Irish roots. They discarded corporate careers 13 years ago because, as Cheryl explains, “we love to cook and are borderline gourmet cooks.”

Little did they know that their restaurant location, the former Emmanuel’s, was part of the infamous “pizza connection” trial of the 1980s that resulted in the conviction of 17 people in a Mafia ring that distributed tons of drugs internationally.

“So when we first opened, some people wouldn’t come in because of that history,” Cheryl says.

But the duo persevered and spent years perfecting their recipes.

The pizzas were George’s project, and his wife says he spent 10 years seeking the right combinations: “a nice chew” in the mozzarella (made with whole milk and “not ground too fine”), a customized and fennel-rich sausage (“not pre-cooked crumbles”), a flour with hints of barley flavor in the crust and a sauce with “at least” 14 spices.

“I don’t even know the recipe,” Cheryl says, of the sauce. The pies bake directly on their oven’s stone tiles.

The spaghetti sauce also is George’s doing, and Cheryl’s pet projects include the meatballs (ground beef and Italian sausage but no bread crumbs – an adaptation of an Italian friend’s recipe), lasagne (“five layers and one pound per serving”) and cheesecakes (“I’ve probably done 200 varieties over the years, and 50 to 75 involve chocolate”).

The couple used to work well past 11 o’clock on some nights, but now fast food takes away clientele, so Georgio’s typically is open no more than three hours per day. “We’re tight to the bone, as far as expenses go,” Cheryl says, “but I don’t foresee us doing anything else.”

And they’re unlikely to sacrifice product quality for convenience or profit. Pizza prices start at $10 for a 10-inch with cheese and top out at $32 for a 16-inch, thick-crust deluxe.

Doors open at 5 p.m. and reservations are suggested. Show up at 7:30 or 8, as I’ve done a couple of times, and you’ll likely leave without eating.

“We’re not a Burger King,” is how Cheryl explains it. The making of a good meal at Georgio’s takes a little time.

Georgio’s, 301 Parkview Dr., Milton, is closed on Mondays. For more: 608-868-4872.

For more about my Wisconsin food recommendations to USA Today, consult “Great American Bites.”

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