By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Feb 09, 2024 at 9:02 AM

When Brian Francis and his wife Jenny, the owners of Mulligan’s Irish Pub & Grill in Franklin, closed on the Maria’s Pizza property at 5025 W. Forest Home Ave. on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023, they fully expected to reopen the iconic pizzeria before the end of the year. But, despite best-laid plans, it wasn’t meant to be.

“It took a lot longer than we’d anticipated,” notes Brian Francis. “Every time we thought we were ready to go, there was another hurdle.”

But, after months of work – including weeks of practice making Maria’s signature pies under the tutelage of Maria Trexel’s granddaughter, Maria Story – the Francis’ will be reopening the restaurant for carry-out service on Wednesday, Feb. 14 at 4 p.m.

During the first few weeks, Brian says they will be offering a pared-down menu of pizza, garlic bread and cheesy garlic bread for carry-out only. 

As they feel more comfortable with the volume generated by guests, they will move ahead in phases: expanding menu options and eventually opening up the dining room for full service. The Francis' have also upgraded the restaurant to a POS system which includes an online ordering option. So that will debut as well in the coming weeks.

Since the amount of time needed for the transition is somewhat uncertain, guests are asked to watch for updates on the Maria’s Pizza Facebook page.

Jenny and Brian Francis
Maria's Pizza Owners Jenny and Brian Francis

Important: Before you go

But before you call Maria’s to order your first pizza, please remember to approach the experience with patience and kindness. Be kind to the folks on the phone, leave a tip for the folks at the counter. And if you have constructive feedback for the owners, please share it respectfully.

It’s rough to reopen an iconic restaurant like Maria’s. Expectations are high. And, even when you’ve taken every precaution to recreate the same experience for guests, the first few weeks can be tough. So your understanding is a very important part of the process.

“I’m excited to bring this pizza back to the community,” says Brian. “Maria’s is so well loved and we’re trying our darndest to make sure it’s exactly the way people remember. But there’s definitely a lot of pressure. Our biggest struggle will be getting the timing down.”

Brian says they are confident that the pizza will be good, based on feedback from guests who they’ve invited to sample pizza during trial runs.

“We’ve taken the utmost care in recreating the pizza according to the original recipe,” he says. “And Maria Story will be here – along with two of her former cooks – to assist us for the first couple of weeks.”

Jenny Francis says that when she took her first bite of the pizza, she was immediately taken back to dinners at the pizzeria with family.

“My family came here all the time, and when we’d visit, it was never just one or two of us. We always came in a big group. We loved it here,” she says. “So, we totally understand how people feel. And we just want to make sure we meet their expectations.” 

Maria's South Side Special
Maria's South Side Special

On the menu

Pizza options will include basic cheese, pepperoni or sausage pizzas along with signature pies like the Special (cheese, sausage mushrooms and onions); the Pepperoni Special (cheese, sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and onions); the Supreme (cheese, sausage, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives); and the Pepperoni Supreme (cheese, sausage, pepperoni mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives). 

Garlic bread and cheese garlic bread will also be available.

Guests can also order to-go cups of Two Brothers Soda in the nostalgic oh-so-Maria's blue raspberry flavor, as well as rootbeer, cola, diet cola, rootbeer, lemon-lime and cherry.

Beginning Feb. 14, Maria’s Pizza will be open for carry-out Wednesday through Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. (closed Mondays and Tuesdays). To place your order for pick-up, head to the pizzeria to order in person or call Maria's at (414) 543-4606.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.