A pizzeria that emphasizes local ingredients and carries a good variety of craft beers opened last year in Verona, and it’s been getting busier as it’s become more well known.
That said, Sugar River Pizza offers a lot more than pizza. The Verona location—as well as restaurants in Belleville and New Glarus—also serves pasta dishes, sandwiches, calzones and very good salads.
Sugar River Pizza opened on Verona’s southeast side in March 2016 after operating in Belleville since 2009. The restaurant initially was carryout only, but the pizza was such a hit that it became apparent to owners Deb and Daryl Watterson that they could make a full-service restaurant a success.
The Verona venue operates in a large, airy space with two dining rooms, a long bar and a patio that wraps around two sides of the building. That’s where we chose to sit during a recent visit, when we discovered some of the best pizza around if you go for thicker crust and a pie that’s heavy on the cheese.
That cheese, by the way, is locally sourced from Silver Lewis Cheese Factory in Monticello, among others. Other ingredients also come from local purveyors: meat from Usinger’s in Milwaukee and flour from Lonesome Stone Milling in Lone Rock.
Sugar River Pizza’s menu lists a host of appetizers—most of which are deep-fried. An order of toasted ravioli is served in a generous portion with a side of marinara sauce ($7.49). Grissini bread sticks are made from whole wheat, covered with a blend of cheeses and then drizzled with olive oil and herbs ($4.49).
We were pleasantly surprised by the kitchen’s salads. The menu lists six choices, but we opted for a garden salad ($5.49/half, $8.99/whole) and a Greek salad ($5.99/half, $9.99/whole). The garden featured fresh greens with tomatoes, onions, green peppers, mushrooms and cucumbers with a bit of cheese sprinkled on top. The ingredients were fresh and crisp, and a half-salad was about the size one would expect from a full.
The Greek salad was a real winner, loaded with Kalamata olives, green peppers, tomatoes, feta cheese and basil.
Sugar River Pizza also offers a couple of soups daily and flatbread. The caprese ($5.99) is a tasty, hand-pulled flatbread with pesto, fresh basil, tomatoes and mozzarella. I highly recommend it.
That’s true of the pizza as well. The kitchen offers about two dozen specialty pies as well as a build-your-own option. Pies come in 10-, 12-, 14- and 16-inch sizes, and they feature a hand-tossed crust that is thicker than most yet also soft and chewy.
Among the specialty pies are things such as the MacDaddy, bacon cheeseburger and Kickapoo taco, the latter of which blends taco sauce with seasoned ground beef, black beans, tomatoes and cheddar.
In addition, the Tropics pizza ($13.45-$22.75) features Canadian bacon, pineapple, green pepper, red onion and delicious cheddar cheese. The baked potato pie comes with homemade ranch sauce as the base, and it is topped with crispy waffle fries, diced red onions, bacon and cheddar. There also are a few vegetarian pies on the menu.
Service at Sugar River Pizza is very good. On the night of our visit, the patio had closed because of rain. But inside the air conditioning made the place too cold, so we asked if we could be seated on the patio instead. After a brief conversation, the manager reopened the patio for us (and several other tables quickly filled there as well).
Generally, we prefer thin-crust pizzas, but Sugar River’s thicker, hand-tossed pies definitely have won a place at our table. The crust is first-rate; so are the rest of the ingredients used to make these distinctive pies. They’re definitely worth making the drive to the small city of Verona, which is about 10 minutes southwest of Madison.
Bill Livick is a freelance writer who writes entertainment stories and Madison-area restaurant reviews for The Gazette.