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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Feraro's Jersey Style Pizza

Coming to the Midwest from the Northeast five years ago, I didn't believe St. Louis understood anything about "real" pizza, let alone "good" pizza, until Pizza Club took a trip to Soulard and ate at Feraro's Jersey Style. The [all mozzarella] cheese was gooey, the crust was soft but firm, and a large pizza was larger than 15". What more could you want?

I grew up with a healthy balance of both New York and New Jersey styles of pizza, because I lived in Connecticut and spent some weeks of the summer at the Jersey shore. There is a distinct difference between the two. Both pies are large and circular with slices cut in a wedge. Both are thin, but New York is slightly thinner. Jersey style has a sweeter sauce that's less tangy than that of New York. In the end, both are completely worthwhile in their own rights--it just depends on what you're in the mood for. I hadn't tasted Jersey style pizza this delicious and authentic since the last time I was on the Ocean City, NJ boardwalk. According to Feraro's website, they are run by a mother-son team with a lot of pizzeria experience and ties back to the Garden State. I've only eaten at the Soulard location, but they also have a place in South County.

I can't stress enough how good this pizza is. Since Pizza Club first visited, I've gone back countless times. For once, pizza is not the first thing I ask for when I visit the East Coast, because my pizza craving has finally been satisfied in St. Louis.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Gluten Free Pizza Club: PI

Gluten free Pizza Club is a small and selective branch of Pizza Club where I, your local gluten-free pizza correspondent, tell you what I think of the gluten-free pizza options. The plus side for you is that there is only one place to get gluten free pizza in St. Louis. The down side for me is that there is only one place to get gluten free pizza in St. Louis.

What is gluten? Gluten is a composite protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye, among other grains, and is responsible for the stickiness and elasticity that gives pizza dough it's texture. A small population is reactive to this protein, including myself. While I only have a mild intolerance, I avoid it all costs because it makes me feel like I have a brick in my intestine, which is really an unpleasant side effect.

So, when we talk about gluten-free pizza, we're referring to pizza with crust made without wheat, barley or any other gluten-containing grain. Examples could be corn, potato, tapioca, rice and arrowroot. Xantham gum is typically used as a sticky agent to help hold together the dough. However, in restaurants with gluten free options, there is generally only a thin crust option, which can real limit the tastiness.

So, on to to the pizza selection in St. Louis. Due to economic crisis and poor suburban planning, the other pizza chain that offered gf pizza has closed, and Pi Pizzeria with it's three locations in the Central West End, Kirkwood and the Delmar Loop is it for me and pizza. I've been a number of times, but I've waited to write a review until I have the taste in my mouth. And, as I went back again last night, here's what I've got say.

The pros:
  • The crust is really good. An excellent thin crust, and the specialty pizzas are not diminished by being gf in any way. I theorize they may even taste better than the regular thin crust.
  • 3 kinds of gf beer!!! Wahoo! GF beer is really hard to find, and 3 different kinds is amazing. There's a con associated with this, but still.
  • Nice atmosphere. They've got neat decorations on the walls, and I really love the use of the pizza stands as art on the walls (and on basically everything including the windmill outside).
  • Focus on local, sustainable and green! They use a fair amount of organic and local produce, and they have options for vegans, which in my family is very exciting.
  • Excellent mixed drinks. They've got a bunch of signatures and they're well worth it.
  • Great happy hour specials, and they last all afternoon till 6 and continue after 10 PM. This is stuff like $1 PBRs and $2 rail drinks, and you can sit at the bar and read and no one will bother you. Nice afternoon hang out.
  • Good place to run into people. Granted I've only ever been to the Delmar Loop location, in my neighborhood, but still. There's a lot of people coming in and out of this place.
  • The pizza keeps well in the fridge, and you can heat it up in the oven for a still-delicious next day taste. Very important, because often GF pizza melts away into grossness.
The cons:
  • The GF pizza only comes in thin crust. Pi is known for their deep dish Chicago style, and there will be no partaking in that for the GF among us. Come on, chefs! I'm sure you can get creative enough to make a GF version of the deep dish. Get it together.
  • The GF beer is $9 a bottle. NINE DOLLARS. NINE! That's 3 rail drinks with tips during happy hour. Totally not worth the cost, unless someone else is paying.
  • $24 including tip for 1 thin crust specialty pizza?! Are you serious!? I can buy two crusts from Whole Foods for $5 and make myself a pizza for $7.5 with all the same ingredients. And have a beer for $2. That's hard to justify, friends. Again, get someone else to pay.
  • It's always loud in there, and there's usually a wait. It's great that it's Barack Obama's favorite pizza place, but if you come in for dinner at 5 PM on a Tuesday, you'd hope you'd be able to hear your friend talk to you. On Saturday, there's no hope, and you may have to wait 30 minutes to eat (no reservations accepted).
  • A little bit over rated. Yes, it's delicious. But no, it's not the best pizza I've had, not even the best GF. And it's expensive. But, when Barack loves something, the price goes up, so what can you do?

In summary, give Pi a try, but when someone else is forking over the dough (and try not to share your GF pizza with them). I particularly recommend the Cherokee Street, which is cheesy and spicy at the same time, or try a simple pesto pizza on the GF, and why not try them out between 11 AM and 6 PM and get yourself some cheap drinks while you're at it!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

La Pizza

First off lets get something straight, I’m not italian.  Nor am I from New York.  But I did grow up in Ann Arbor, which by way of the University of Michigan has almost the per square foot population of New Yorkers as does New York itself, so I feel quite comfortable speaking on the topic of New York Style Pizza.  That being said, La Pizza is as good a New York Pie as I’ve ever come across.  It’s a small establishment that has a home cooked, hole in the wall feel as would befit any of the noblest of “original” pizzerias in the City.  The pie itself is as it should be - round, large, thin and cheesy.  All the slices I tried were great, but I’d like to spend some time talking about the tomato and garlic pie. 

This was one of the best slices I’ve had in a long time.  Cheese was plentiful, whole milk mozzarella (no provel, I’m glad to say) but not so greasy that you needed two napkins to dab it off (one did just fine).  The best part of this however, was the flavor.  Fresh tomato and tons of garlic blended seamlessly into a veritable orgasm of flavors in my mouth.  The tomatoes were fresh and juicy, adding just the right amount of moisture and acid.  The garlic however was really where this slice shined.  Many times establishments will say they have a garlic pizza that if I hadn’t been told before I ate it, I’d be hard pressed to find any such component of the flavor.  Not so with this slice.  The garlic was perfectly balanced with the tomato and cheese - not overpowering, but subtle, with a beautiful roasted aroma and taste that reminded me of my childhood growing up in the green pastures of Northern Italy. 

Ok, so I grew up in Ann Arbor, but we did roast a clove or two of garlic in my house and this pizza was awesome.

Pantera's Pizza

On Friday, April 30 2010, Pizza Club ventured into the bowels of Maplewood to taste the famed Pantera’s Pizza.  After the initial surprise of not being able to get a table (there are none) we opted for takeout and consumption back at the Pizza Club HQ.  Two large pies (pepperoni and deluxe) and a order of garlic cheesy bread were quickly (and cheaply) prepared and taken back to the pad.  Both pizzas were a little disappointing.  I know Pantera’s is supposed to be one of the best cheap pizzas in StL, but I was a little underwhelmed.  The sauce a little sweet and flavorless and the cheese was nothing to write home about either.  

Then there was the crust.  We ordered original, so I can’t speak for regular or thin, but I for one found it bland, doughy and thick to the point that it completely overshadowed the rest of the pizza.  Imagine the lift scene in Dirty Dancing, except Patrick Swayze had gained about fifty pounds.  After just two pieces I was tired of chewing and getting pretty full.  

On the bright side, the pepperoni was thick and had  good flavor.  The most remarkable part of the pizza was that of the bacon.  Instead of chopped up baco-bits or whatever they could scrape together, the deluxe came with actual strips of pan fried bacon, which I thought a nice touch.  Garlic cheesey bread was nothing to write home about either - crunchy and greasy but relatively unremarkable.  The best thing about Pantera’s is probably the price.  I think this may have been the cheapest pizza club to date getting out at less than five bucks per person.  All in all, Pantera’s is like a frozen pizza on steroids that you have to have delivered.  Not bad, but not good enough to go back to.

Pizza Dough Toss Championship of the World

Check out Eat Me Daily with videos from the World Pizza Championship. Here is my favorite video featuring some incredible pizza tossing from Patt Miller.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Point/Counterpoint: Imo's Pizza

Point: Imo’s Pizza and the Hierarchy of Contempt
By Kevinder

Every scientist knows the importance of prefixes. Consider three animals: a dog, a bear, and a horse. Now give each a prefix: prairie dog, koala bear, and sea horse. We’re dealing with a completely unrelated set. Such is the case with “pizza” and “St Louis-style pizza”.

For those of you who have yet to encounter St Louis-style pizza, consider yourself lucky. It’s thin, crispy, bite-sized squares topped with a gooey cheese paste. This in itself I do not have the problem with; it’s the moniker of “pizza” that it has co-opted for itself. If they were called, say, “St Louis-style mediocre nachos”, it wouldn’t be nearly so offensive. You see, some people in St Louis cannot tell the difference! Every time I arrive at a social event under the lure of (adjectiveless) pizza, only to see a giant box of Imo’s, I feel compelled to exclaim “Those double-crossing finks!” in my best Nick Adams voice. This rarely goes over well, especially when my boss is organizing the dinner.

I’ve been told by natives that St Louis-style pizza grows on you with time. I believe psychologists refer to this as “Stockholm syndrome”. Over the course of their lives they’ve been constantly bombarded with propaganda from the number-one purveyor of provel-covered dreck, Imo’s Pizza, and the more susceptible St Louisites begin to acquiesce that St Louis-style pizza is okay. That it’s good, even. A few even start to prefer it over legitimate pizza, and the brainwashing reaches the point that Imo’s can actually get voted “best pizza in the city”. Horrifying, isn’t it?

When a newspaper food critic expressed entirely reasonable disbelief at such an outcome, Imo’s actually ran a televised attack ad against him. For those keeping score at home: If you tell Domino’s they suck, they reply with “Sorry! How can we make out food better?” Tell Imo’s they could be better, and you get an elaborate, well-funded “Fuck you!”

The ad derisively stated that the food critic probably just came from Chicago. Ooh, snap, what a dis! He came from Chicago; he’s probably got high culinary standards! You know all those Chicago elitists, probably wearing their turtleneck sweaters and sipping their mochaccinos and going to poetry slams and stuff; they just don’t get it, do they?

Yeah, I don’t get it either.

Counterpoint: Imo's Pizza or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Provel
By Nick Speiser

I love Imo's Pizza! I could eat it every day, and I wish I was eating some right now! I worked there in my youth, and most other high school kids work there, too. I can't remember the first time I ate Imo's, but I bet it was a religious experience of sorts.

Imo's is thin, crispy, bite-sized squares topped with a gooey cheese paste! Doesn't that sound delicious? It also has a nice tomato paste sauce, and I like it best with pepperoni. Imo's, much like the rest of St. Louis, doesn't claim to be anything it's not. Imo's isn't Chicago deep-dish, it's not New Haven brick-oven, and it's not a floppy NYC pie. I, for one, think that there is room in the pizza pantheon for St. Louis style pizza. I always have room for pizza.

A lot of people don't seem to like provel cheese. That's fine, my friend. I would suggest that they ask for their next pie to have mozzarella instead. It is a common mistake to think that St. Louis style is synonymous with provel. This is untrue. While it is traditional to use provel, it is not mandatory by any means.

It is a fact that some people love to hate Imo's. Why do they spend time and energy hating something that gives me and many others so much pleasure? Why are they so offended by my enjoyment? And most of all, why are they so often hot on my heels to get a piece when I order a pie for delivery?

Although people say they don't like Imo's, I think it's often something else that they are getting at, some sort of hole in themselves, perhaps. For example, my malcontent friend hates that it is called "pizza" instead of "mediocre nachos." What is in a name? Don't let names get you down! Best of all, I bet he loves mediocre nachos. (Quote from Kevin: "I like bland things.")

No, I think Imo's haters are actually suffering from some form of homesickness. They think things should be like they were when they were young, and they are confused and infuriated by the new and unknown. Over the years, I've noticed that people who enter into the Imo's experience with a childlike perspective of wonder are usually pleased. However, worldly, close minded people are often disappointed. Washington University students are the worst in this regard.

Anyway, I love all sorts of pizza, and there is a special place in my heart for Imo's.

Friday, April 9, 2010


On the evening of April 8, 2010 Pizza Club rallied the troops and headed out for Lemmon's in south city. I had heard one man say Lemmon's has the very best pizza in town, so I knew I had try it out. Lemmon's is the sister-bar to Blackthorn Pub, so I expected delicously spicy deep-dish pizza.

We ordered 1 big "Chicago Style" pepperoni and 1 big "Chicago Style" red pepper and garlic. It is a bit of a stretch to call it Chicago style because, while it was deep dish with enough cheese to choke a horse, it also has several unique characteristics. First, the sauce is not on top as is traditional in Chicago. Second, it was a double-deckered pizza with two layers of crust, sauce, cheese and toppings. I was pleasantly surprised by this outcome. Upon the first bite, the distinctive layering gives the diner an interesting realization that this pizza is more than what meets the eye.

The pizza was deliciously heavy; The two pizzas fed 9 people. I really enjoyed the spicy sauce that Lemmon's used, as well as the copious amount of cheese. The crust proved to be more doughy than desired, which I think is the result of the double layered crust. Overall it was a pleasant experience that I would repeat anytime.

Other miscellaneous things to know about Lemmon's are that they serve pitchers of beer, host trivia night twice a week, allow smoking, and host bands and djs pretty often. They are a 1am bar.