131 West Wilson
Sunday – Thursday 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Friday and Saturday 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM
As lifelong Madison residents, Paisan’s has always been there. Oh, sure, it is way downtown if you grow up a northsider like some of us did. And yet it was still a place that our parents would take us to for special occasions, even if it was “way over there”. Reasonably priced with unique, delectable pizza, it was a place that even in the 70’s Madison residents held dear.
It has moved around a bit during its lifetime. Starting out as a pizza place in the basement of Porta Bella’s, then moving to its long-lived location at University Square, it has now settled on Wilson Street, and for the better. The old University Square Paisan’s was dark, dank, and crowded. But it still held a certain atmospheric appeal. The new Paisan’s maintains that certain atomospheric appeal, while losing some of the dark, dank qualities. And improvements abound in the area of outdoor seating, roominess and overall impression.
The pizza is still the exact same pizza we ate 30 years ago. And that is a good thing. Thin, thin crust, crispy and strong enough to hold toppings are still the norm. The tomato sauce with diced onions is still the same old satisfying pizza sauce. Order a Porta Salad and you’ll flash back to the same Porta Salad that you ate 30 years ago, with salami, diced peppers, and chunks of cheese. The Buttermilk Dressing is the same as well.
What has changed is the outdoor seating. Expect a wait if you want to sit outside, no matter when you go. But it is so worth it. We often state forlornly that a city as picturesque as Madison has very few venues which take advantage of the outdoors. That could be because of the 6 months of harsh weather that make planning on that capacity impractical. But Paisan’s has the best outdoor seating in Madison, bar none. A beautiful view of Lake Monona awaits those lucky enough to score a seat on the spacious patio. One can forgive the sound of the traffic rising up from John Nolen Drive, as the view eclipses the noise.
Paisan’s is a nostalgic treat for some of us, and a modern, lively Italian restaurant for others. No matter which group you may belong to, Paisan’s deserves a place in the heart of all Madisonian’s, old and new.