If you had told me a year ago that Matt and I would be driving 2 hours to Sheboygan for an afternoon pizza on our first anniversary, I would have laughed in your face..for a long time. Who drives to Sheboygan to celebrate their first anniversary? We do. We do because one: we love our road trips, two: we love good food, and three: we love a good food find even better. Before I get into any of this, I should admit that Matt thoroughly surprised me last month when he revealed his email confirmation to Next for their Sicily menu. THAT folks was our real celebration. You will have to stay tuned for a post from Matt about our experience at Next, but what I can tell you is that the restaurant was closed on Tuesday (our actual anniversary) which is why we attended dinner there on Sunday. However, we both wanted to do something special on the 3rd and for Matt and I there is no better way to spend a day together than packing up the car and heading out of the city to discover new food, reacquaint ourselves with some old favorites, and simply spend the day together.
Thanks to Matt’s dad, we have recently been turned out to Wisconsin Foodie. This is a show on PBS that highlights Wisconsin’s local and growing food scene. You can check them out here: http://wisconsinfoodie.com/. For Matt and I, the best part about this show are the stories behind the old and new generations of food purveyors in Wisconsin. Makes sense that we would be into this. Besides our love for food, Matt’s family has strong connections to Wisconsin as many of the Temkin clan is from there or went to school there. They know Wisconsin in a way that we do not, and they have the stories to prove it. Stories are important to us. Matt’s interest in sports and sports culture stems from his father’s roots as a high school sports writer for the Tribune. If you told me I would be married to a man who is a HUGE college sports fan (Go Badgers!) I would have also laughed in your face, but what I love about Matt’s involvement in sports are the stories he knows. He can tell you about a player from the time he was playing basketball in elementary school to how and why he came up and who his family was…how all of these dynamics really shape the player he is today. I really respect this about Matt and it deepened my appreciation for his nearly obsessive knowledge of everything Badgers. For me, I can compare it to art history, something I have always been passionate about. Learning about the artist and why they chose to express themselves this way or that way in a particular time is fascinating to me. You cannot walk into a museum and see a canvas that appears to have been painted with one color without first understanding the artist and their technique….in my opinion. In addition, my background in theatre and now a drama teacher, is based in the art of storytelling. My mother, who always encouraged writing and creative expression brought this out of me as a young child and I will always be appreciative of that. I know now as an adult that sharing stories is important for they teach us about ourselves and the world around us. Stories create understanding and respect for all people. For Matt and I, our story is just beginning. And as we discover who we are, we find ourselves immersed in the stories of food and the people who make them. For us, those stories are inspiring.
Stefano Viglietti and his wife Whitney traveled to Europe nearly 20 years ago and when they returned they opened up the first of three restaurants in Sheboygan…all on the same street. They went from living upstairs from their first restaurant to opening two other establishments that focus on local and organic food. You can even shop for the same products they believe in and often use in the market located between Field to Fork and Il Ritrovo. Stefano, who graciously chatted with us as he ran from restaurant to restaurant donned in his chef’s attire, has truly brought a sense of local and quality food to the Sheboygan area. For that, we were truly impressed. Il Ritrovo makes wood fired Neopolitan style pizza. There is a reason people travel from everyhwere for his pizza…its the oven. His wood fired pizza oven is legit. “Verace Pizza Napoletana Association as it meets all the requirements and proudly serves the true Neopolitan style pizza”. This a statement from their website that confirms the authenticity of their oven. And it shows in their pizza! We are from Chicago; we know pizza…all kinds of pizza. But at Il Ritrovo, we had a different kind of pizza experience. It is worth the drive. Thanks Herb for entertaining us at the bar! We really enjoyed the sample of an iced coffee concoction that Stefano just brought back from Italy! We cannot wait to come back.
After Il Ritrovo, we shopped around. We scooped up some organic dates, olive oil, and a few chocolates before heading back to Milwaukee. There, we made our usual stop for oysters at the Public Market, picked up some Pleasant Ridge Reserve (check out their story on Wisconsin Foodie here: http://wisconsinfoodie.com/2012/01/30/uplands-cheese-la-merenda/ ) and some cheese curds for our friend Noah ;-). We did a bit of walking around near the market, headed to Alterra for some coffee and treats, and then back on the road to Chicago where we laughed about Matt’s fear of roller-coasters, sang along to random 90’s alternative rock, and discussed how we need to finalize our plans for Europe. This is our love story, and I would not have it any other way.