Big Al’s Pizza
New owners spotlight original recipes of former proprietor
Ryan Johnson bought Big Al's in downtown La Crosse, Wis., in 2018 knowing he and operating partner Joe Zenz could add value to operations and the building. But the pizza?
"We thought, 'You know what? That's something we don't need to touch,'" says Johnson. "Big Al's has been a La Crosse icon for decades. We just want to embrace that product’s history."
That meant cutting out the burgers and pasta to really bring to the forefront what Big Al's has always done best.
"Al came up with some great recipes back in the 1970s," Johnson continues. "We've got great dough. We've got a wonderful sauce with a secret spice recipe we were fortunate to get. We let it mature, so by the time we serve it, it pops with freshness, but it also pops with flavor."
With Al's time-tested recipes in their pockets, and favorites like the Big Al's Special still dominating the menu, the team is able to extend their brand while staying true to tradition. They now offer a deep dish and stuffed crust option, as well as a gluten-free crust.
"Our cauliflower crust is absolutely amazing," boasts Johnson. "We're able to address the need and still provide a very high-quality product."
But new options don’t mean fan favorites are going anywhere. Yes, the Big Al’s Special still dominates. Yes, you can prove that pineapple belongs on pizza with Al’s Original Hawaiian: a perfect balance of sweet and savory, with salty ham, the juicy bite of fresh green peppers and succulent pineapple.
Of course, it can't be just the pizza that has couples getting their engagement photos taken at the restaurant.
"At the end of the day, you can't just deliver a beverage and a pizza you have to deliver an experience," explains Johnson. "The thing with Big Al's, the great product is the glue that makes the atmosphere and the people that much better."