Famous for ‘Pizza Fries’ since 1978
Cruising Grand Avenue through Rothschild, Wis., you would never know you're within smelling distance of a legend. Papillon's Pizza is situated unassumingly in the Shopko Plaza, which is the birthplace of a Wisconsin favorite that many try to replicate, yet never come close to: The Original Italian Fries.
Don't let the name fool you. Italian Fries—or more affectionately known as "pizza fries"—have nothing to do with potatoes. They also bear no resemblance to the puffy cheese bread you'll see on countless appetizer lists.
"My dad was actually just messing around in the kitchen, trying different things," recalls owner Jennifer Wage. What started in the late 1970s carries on today: freshly made dough rolled out thicker than it is for pizza, brushed with garlic butter and baked in the oven. Then they're sliced into wide strips, hence the "fries."
There's nothing like picking up one of these bad boys. The weight of a half-inch layer of mozzarella making the fry sag even closer to the steamy marinara you're about to dip it into; the density of the dough so satisfying to bite, it's almost like you stacked three thick al dente noodles on top of each other. Though Pizza Fries initially came without cheese, the cheesy version easily remains the favorite.
“We shred the cheese ourselves," says Wage, "so it holds a lot of the moisture. There's a drying agent in (pre-shredded) cheese, which makes it totally melt different."
Just trust there's only one place to devour majestic garlicky strips of dough suffocating in cheese, then take on a pizza as your second course with no qualms. Papillon's is where you earn your Wisconsin wings.