Wisconsin weather has a way of keeping everyone on their toes and during this time of year it is not rare to experience two seasons in one day. As I am writing this snow is falling onto the autumn leaves surrounding Elkhart Lake’s village square. Witnessing the season change here is bittersweet. The shift into colder temperatures means the long winter is coming. It also means that downtown becomes quieter. And the quieter months are something many locals not only look forward to but desperately rely on to recharge after marching to the beat of summer’s busy drum.
A very important part of recharging in Elkhart Lake includes enjoying what the village has to offer during a less crowded time of year. This year there are some very welcome additions in the heart of town to enjoy as the seasons change. East Rhine Street has gotten an upgrade that locals and visitors have been dreaming about. While other restaurants include pizza on their menus, there hasn’t been a place fully dedicated to the art of pizza in downtown Elkhart Lake. As of August the new business owners Laurie and Avni of Harry’s Pizza e Vino have opened their doors, making it the first artisanal Elkhart Lake pizzeria.
Considering the building was once where my friends and I would scarf down Subway sandwiches over lunch hour as teenagers, my jaw dropped and I smiled wide when I entered the building for the first time. The fact that we can now enjoy 96-hour fermented, hand-tossed Roman style pizza dough baked to perfection and raise glasses of Italian wine over candlelight is a delightful upgrade. My friends and I have grown up since our school lunch hours and it turns out that the 111 East Rhine Street interior and cuisine has grown up too.
The antique metal ceiling and elegant wooden bar are timelessly romantic and the first thing that came to my mind when taking it all in was “Eating here while the snow is falling will be magical.” Our group started our dinner off with a celebratory round of Aperol spritzes. One person at our table ordered an Old Fashioned and after the first sip reviewed it as “phenomenal”. Whether you’re looking for Italian-inspired spirits or the comforts of a traditional Wisconsin bar, the staff at Harry’s will take care of you.
After we finally narrowed down our selections from the impressive variety of pizza options, our table was filled with an Italian sausage pizza, a pesto pizza, and one corn pizza within minutes. (There was a corn pizza skeptic at the table but they were converted after one bite.) Our spritz glasses were replaced with glasses of the house Ripasso. Throughout the meal familiar faces continued walking in through the door which made our inaugural dinner at Harry’s even more memorable.
As if we hadn’t already been satiated and served with the utmost care, our server brought us each a pour of housemade limoncello. The true grand finale was the house-made nocino, an Italian bittersweet liqueur made from walnuts, that we couldn’t resist tasting after seeing the jar of it when we walked in. As for the nocino, ladies and gentlemen, we have officially entered the time of year where this liqueur can shine. It is the perfect ending to a meal during the seasons of falling leaves and falling snow.
In addition to Harry’s Pizza e Vino satisfying Elkhart Lake’s long standing craving for pizza it also happens to be conveniently situated right between the village’s two newest retail locations. If you find yourself enjoying an afternoon in the village anytime soon, do browse through AspenOak’s beautiful selection of homegoods, gifts, and holiday decor and the book selection at Gifts of Grace before sitting down to your pizza. And if you happen to step into Harry’s on a busy night, you can easily grab a glass of wine across the street at Vintage Elkhart Lake or a beer down the street at the Brown Baer while you wait for a table.
For those of us raised in this little village there is always enjoyment in returning to old haunts, but there is also something special about the opportunity of looking back through time and appreciating how the community has grown and changed too. It takes a lot to start something new and when new businesses bloom in Elkhart Lake it feels like all of us do too.
Meet The Author
Kate Vollrath was born and raised in Elkhart Lake. After several years of working and adventuring in Anchorage, Alaska and a year studying in Italy, she has returned to her favorite freshwater shoreline. Wisconsin will always be home. The incredible local culture, extraordinary community, and summer Sundays on the water are what keep her rooted and returning no matter where life takes her.