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Pizza with a side of U.P. nostalgia

Michigan-based Riverside Pizzeria opens its first location in Wisconsin – on Ramada Way in Ashwaubenon

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August 23, 2023

ASHWAUBENON – Many folks that now call Northeast Wisconsin home have roots in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.). 

A new pizzeria that opened recently in the Village of Ashwaubenon has those same roots.

Riverside Pizzeria got its start in Iron River, Michigan, in 1946 when World War II veterans Nello Silvestrini and Leonard (Bob) Scalcucci opened the Riverside Bar.

It wasn’t long before the pair introduced a pizza menu, developing their own distinctive recipe, which continues to be served today.

The pizzeria was acquired by the Fritz family in 1988 and has since been known as the Riverside Bar and Pizzeria.

Today, Tom and Susan Fritz carry on the Riverside tradition in Iron River.

And recently, for the first time, the pizzeria expanded into Wisconsin.

Through franchising, Ryan, Dawn and Joel Ruzziconi – Yoopers themselves – opened Riverside Pizzeria at 2822 Ramada Way in Ashwaubenon.

Riverside, welcome to Titletown
Ryan Ruzziconi said the response the pizzeria has received from Northeast Wisconsin – even before the doors were open – has been nothing short of amazing.

“The community has been great since it was announced on Facebook, back in April all the way through – they have welcomed us with open arms,” he said. “Not only the people who know us for the U.P. but also the Village of Ashwaubenon and the people in Green Bay have been great. I don’t think we could ask for a better reception and warm welcome than the one we got and are still getting.”

Each Riverside Pizzeria pie is baked in stone deck ovens for a crispy cracker crust and topped with an original sweet and tangy sauce. Submitted Photo

When an expansion into Wisconsin was being discussed, Ruzziconi said he and Fritz knew “Green Bay would be a great spot.”

“I’ve always loved Green Bay, I went to college there,” he said. “We were moving back to this area from Detroit in September and Green Bay seemed like the logical place. A number of people here know us because there are so many people and so many families from the U.P. that live here. And just knowing Green Bay, we assumed it would be welcoming – and it has been.”

Tom said he’s often received requests from vacationers to bring a Riverside location to the Green Bay area.

“There are a lot of folks from the Green Bay area that come up here on vacation to snowmobile and ski, and they’ve always mentioned that I should open up a location in Green Bay,” he said.

A bit of nostalgia
Ruzziconi said the Green Bay location has many decor nods to the restaurant’s flagship location in Iron River.

“It’s a friendly spot where you can get a little bit of nostalgia and some great pizza,” he said. “What we tried to do with the pizzeria building was bring a sense of nostalgia for the U.P. and for Iron River.”

Ruzziconi said they’ve accomplished that in a variety of different ways.

“Our bar top is all old photographs of downtown Iron River through the years – from the 1920s all the way to the 1970s and 1980s,” he said.

Ruzziconi said one of the walls sports a mural that shows the ironic Riverside Bar pizza sign and additional black-and-white photographs of downtown Riverside.

“Our hope is when people come in, not only are they getting a taste of the U.P., but they can look around and see the memories of Iron River and all the great things the U.P. and the area up there had to offer.”

Ruzziconi said Riverside Pizzeria isn’t the only U.P./Iron River restaurant that has ventured south into Northeast Wisconsin.

Scott’s Subs – which has a location in De Pere (1325 Quarry Park Drive), east Green Bay (810 S. Huron Road) and Hobart (550 Centennial Centre Blvd.) – also got its start in Iron River.

Riverside Pizzeria got its start as Riverside Bar in 1946. Submitted Photo

“Their original location was in Iron River – actually about four blocks from Riverside Pizza,” he said. “Scott Radloff is the one who started it, but his son Dan – who runs the franchise side of the business now – I grew up with him. So, it’s interesting that U.P. businesses are coming down to Green Bay.”

Since opening about a month ago, Ruzziconi said the response to Riverside Pizzeria has been great.

“It’s been very strong – we’re pretty full most days,” he said. “Our phone lines have been jammed at times. We’ve had a lot of fun with it. We’ve had a lot of good laughs reliving a lot of memories as people come in and talk about their experiences in the U.P.” 

Supportive endeavor
A lawyer by trait, Ruzziconi said though he was looking at different business ventures when he moved back to Wisconsin, Fritz was the “real genius” behind the idea to open a franchise in Green Bay.

“He approached me and asked that since I was moving to Green Bay, if this would be something we’d be interested in,” he said. “We said ‘yes,’ and here we are.”

Ruzziconi said The Fritzes have been supportive throughout the process.

“They’ve been outstanding,” he said. “They’ve been great partners in this, helping us get this off the ground. Obviously, it’s their hard work and their brainchild over the years that has made Riverside Pizza what it is. We’re just following in their footsteps.”

Having done some legal work with franchises at a law firm while in law school, Ruzziconi said he knows that sometimes when dealing with larger franchises, things can get a little rough.

“I think one of the benefits we’ve had is we’ve had a close relationship with them – we’ve been friends with that family for years,” he said. “So, that’s helpful when you start on a business venture like this.”

Tom said knowing Ruzziconis for several years, he had no doubts they were the right folks to head up Riverside’s first franchise location.

Riverside Pizzeria’s first Wisconsin location recently opened at 2822 Ramada Way in Ashwaubenon. Submitted Photo

“We just basically met with Ryan and showed him the operational side of things,” he said. “We went down to Green Bay and helped look for good locations.”

The Green Bay location is Riverside’s first franchise location, however, Tom said “there are plans for more locations if this one keeps going well.”

A long-standing reputation
Ruzziconi said Riverside has been consistently voted the No. 1 pizza in the U.P. and one of the top pizzas in the whole State of Michigan.

“Nobody else makes a pizza like we do at Riverside Pizzeria,” Tom said.

At all locations, each pie is baked in stone deck ovens for a crispy cracker crust and topped with Riverside’s original sweet and tangy sauce.

“Our ingredients are fresh, and we’re always here ready to serve,” Ruzziconi said.

Tom said they cover the entire crust with sauce.

“The same sauce we’ve been using since 1946 – the recipe hasn’t changed,” he said.

Pizzas come in nine, 12 or 14 inches and can be topped with all the go-to pizza toppings.

A 10-inch gluten-free crust pizza is also available.

Foot-long hotdogs and garden salads are also available.

The Ashwaubenon location is open for dine-in or carry-out from 4 to 9 p.m. daily except Tuesdays.

For more information, visit

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