Thursday, May 16, 2013

Day 4 - Buck's Pizza

I have never tried Buck's Pizza. To people outside of the Madison area this may mean nothing, but locals define Buck's Pizza as a Madison staple. The restaurant has served handmade pizzas in Madison since 1960 and stands as one of Madison's "best kept secrets" that everyone knows about. Basically, Buck's Pizza is kind of like what Geno's is to Philadelphians. Although not as large and famous as Geno's, Madisonians generally see Buck's as a cornerstone of Madison's restaurant scene. In fact, one of the first local food recommendations I received when I moved to Madison was something along the lines of, "Oooohh, man, you have to try Buck's Pizza!" For some reason, I never got around to acting on that recommendation until today. As a result, it makes the "I have never..." list.

Now, it's important to understand there is nothing fancy about what Buck's Pizza does. The restaurant makes basic pizzas with basic ingredients and nothing else. People do not see Buck's as innovative or unique, but everyone consistently says what they do, they do well. I usually trust such advice, particularly when I hear it from different sources, but I must admit I was a little worried about what I was getting myself into when I pulled up to the establishment.

Having only driven by Buck's in the past, I was unaware of what the restaurant really looked like up close. Upon entering Buck's parking lot, the sight of the former auto body turned restaurant, complete with garage doors stuck partially open, was enough to make me wonder what I was getting myself into. My concerns were amplified when I entered the building and saw my name stapled to a grease spotted white paper bag with a picture of Italy on it. "How authentic..." I thought as a man at the counter greeted me. He promptly gave me my total and punched a few keys on the register as I paid for the pizza. The man then slid the paper bag my way and gave me the customary, "Have a nice day" as I stood bewildered at the sight of my order. I carefully picked up the bag with a well-placed hand on its bottom and turned for the door as the man shot me a quick smile. I remember thinking whether it was genuine or one of those smiles you give someone when you're really thinking, "Good luck with that, buddy..." Regardless, I exited the building, placed the pizza in the backseat of my car, and started my drive home.  

The Italy bag makes a great grease trap.
Although the pizza smelled delicious through the little paper Italy bag, I spent the majority of the ride sifting through ideas of what the pizza would actually look like when I got home and unwrapped it. I was a bit worried given the pizza was intended to feed Rachael and our friend, Mary, who we had invited over for dinner. I didn't have a backup plan if this experiment failed. So, I really needed the pizza to be, at minimum, edible. After getting in my front door I busted the staple off of the bag and began unwrapping our dinner for that night. I was relieved to find a pizza that not only was intact, but looked to be of decent quality. Like I had been told in the past, there was nothing fancy about the pizza. It was a standard thin crust pie that looked a lot like a frozen pizza made by hand; nothing elaborate and certainly nothing special. I crossed my fingers hoping the pizza would live up to the expectations I had developed from the myriad of positive comments I had heard about Buck's in the past. I knew there was only one way to find out...

This what I look like when I eat.
I was the first to dive into the pizza, and I was surprised to find it was quite delicious. After the first few bites I decided, while Buck's pizza is not something I would eat very often, it is the perfect pizza to have with a few beers or to order in during a football game. It was tasty, and I was happy to have more. I sat in anticipation of what Rachael and Mary's thoughts would be after giving the pizza a try.  I was relieved when both of them agreed it was a good choice for the evening's meal. In no time we worked our way through the pre-cut bite-sized pieces until all that remained was a crumb laden cardboard disc.  Despite my reservations, Buck's pizza lived up to its reputation, and the dinner ended up being a success.

I can now say I have tried one of Madison's cherished local eats, and I now have a go-to source for a quick game day meal. I can't say I will make Buck's Pizza a routine when I'm going out for a bite, but I'm glad I gave it a try. The food is more than enough to make up for management's decision to give the thumbs up to the questionable locale and an unorthodox choice of food container. Now I can no longer say I have never tried Buck's Pizza, which will save me a lot of stunned, disappointed looks the next time the restaurant comes up in conversation.


  1. Any place that fixes a car and serves pizza should get an A+. I mean its the same kind of grease right? :)

    1. At this place, that is likely closer to the truth than I would like to believe... Who knew mechanic grease was so tasty?

  2. I thought it was interesting that they only do want breadsticks? Go somewhere else.

    1. Ditto. One would think the limited selection would hurt sales, but they must be doing something right to have been around for the last 50+ years...