Growing up in a small Wisconsin town, I remember the go-to take-out option for my family, as well for many of our neighbors, was always pizza from the local pizza place. It was first called Paul Revere’s and then changed hands and became Romano’s. Either way, it was always the local hot spot after sports games, the favorite dinner option for hosting a sleepover or the choice place to go after the Friday-night skate at the now-long-gone roller rink.
Going to Sturgeon Bay’s Stage Road Inn for pizza was like returning to my hometown pizza place. It had the same casual and welcoming atmosphere; a bartender – Tommy – who knew the majority of patrons on a first-name basis; and, of course, classically delicious pizza.
The building itself is historical, built more than 120 years ago at the corner of Country Road S and Tagge Road, about a five-minute drive south of the Sturgeon Bay bridge. The relatively simple interior encompasses the “old country charm” that’s common in bar-and-grill locations throughout rural Wisconsin, and it’s another reason why you’ll feel on your first visit as though you’ve visited a hundred times before.
The business is a restaurant and lounge with a dining room and bar area. Family-friendly, there’s a special appeal for younger audiences: a section of arcade games to entertain while waiting for food.
As far as food goes, the title of “best pizza in Door County” is often used in connection with Stage Road Inn, so I was eager to give it a try, even though there’s also a full menu of food and daily specials. A whiteboard announced the special of the day, and the full menu includes chicken, fish and seafood baskets or dinner specials. There’s a 12-ounce ribeye as a weeknight special, and Wednesday is taco-pizza night. Plus, a full bar and plenty of appetizers are available as starters or for snacking.
Pizzas come in 9-, 12- and 16-inch sizes with a thin crust. (A 10-inch gluten-free crust is also available.) Start with a cheese or cheese-and-sausage base, then add your own toppings. Or, get one of the special pizzas: the Stage Road Special (sausage, mushrooms, onions and green peppers); the Meat Lover’s (sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon and hamburger); or The Works (sausage, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives, green olives and pepperoni). At the larger sizes, pizzas can be ordered half and half, so I tried the Stage Road Special and The Works.
The pizza arrived fresh from the oven, cooked to order, and sliced into small squares. (I think that eating pizza in the small-square format somehow makes it more delicious. Perhaps there’s more time to savor?) Bartender Tommy provided plates and utensils and introduced a pizza-seasoning mix that blends herbs and spices to give the slices a rich, Italian flavor and scent. Parmesan and red-pepper flakes were also available in shakers.
Biting into my first slice, I reminisced about the many times I’d eaten pizza with my family. The flavors were exactly what I’d want if I were craving a good piece of traditional pizza. The thin crust was sturdy enough, and the toppings shone with each bite. The 16-inch size was more than enough for two people and would easily feed a family of four when paired with an appetizer.
It was a delicious dinner enjoyed while the bar area filled up with frequent patrons who all proclaimed the pizza to be their favorite. One guest said the chicken is the way to go, but to also order a pizza to save for the next evening’s meal. According to Tommy, to-go orders and take-and-bake orders are common, especially with area farmers.
The next time you’re near southern Sturgeon Bay, grab a barstool or place a to-go order to try the area’s famously great pizza and partake in dining at a historical venue.
Stage Road Inn is open year-round at 2049 Cty S in Sturgeon Bay. It serves food 4-9 pm nightly; the bar is open later.