Ever since I moved back to St. Louis, I’ve been hearing about Pizzeoli. A local food publication ran an article about them semi-recently saying that the owner takes Neapolitan pizza pie-making very seriously. I like people who are dedicated to a craft, and I really like delicious food. So I decided to check out the restaurant this past Friday after work.
I was expecting Pizzeoli to be small, and it is: There’s a small bar out in front, a few tables, and a room in the back to accommodate larger parties. But there’s a warmth that radiates the shop that makes it feel inviting instead of claustrophobic. Maybe it’s the giant, wood fired oven in the back, but I think it’s more than that. Other people must feel the same way, because when I walked in there was a couple on a date nestled into a corner and a family with two young children at a table in the back. There’s a vibe that everyone, as long as they appreciate good pizza, is welcome at Pizzeoli.I sat down at the bar and ordered a beer, and when I looked over I saw a bald man sitting a few chairs down. He looked familiar and I realized from pictures I’d seen that he was the owner. I pretended not to realize this though because I wanted to find out more about the restaurant. I also didn’t want to fan girl out too hard.
We exchanged a few pleasantries but I was too excited to talk. I ordered the Margherita pizza with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. I watched as the guy in back assembled the pie and packed it into the wood fired oven. A few minutes later, he took it out and put it down. The waitress sliced it expertly and brought it over to the bar. It looked legit, I thought, but would it taste legit?
It did. It was not only the best Neapolitan pizza that I’ve tasted in St. Louis, but maybe the best Neapolitan pizza I’ve ever had. Surely, it was the best Neapolitan pizza I’ve tried west of the Mississippi River.
The crust was chewy and thick and the sauce to cheese and basil ratio was perfect. Sometimes, Neapolitan pizza slices are too thin and the toppings slide off the pizza and everything falls apart. The slices at Pizzeoli were substantial enough to hold toppings but light enough to fold.
“How is it?” the owner asked me. “This is some of the best Neapolitan pizza I’ve ever had,” I said. He looked pleased but embarrassed. He could probably see the tears in my eyes.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I tend to gush about things when they’re really good.”
“No,” he said. “It’s nice to see people who appreciate good food.”
Pizzeoli was more than good, though. It was excellent. The pizza was a reminder that a dedication to craft and a passion for fresh ingredients can elevate food to art. I could tell that everyone who worked at Pizzeoli, including the owner, is passionate about this concept.
When you enjoy a meal at Pizzeoli, you’re not only getting a Friday night pizza dinner. You’re becoming part of the tableaux of exceptional dining. I feel lucky that a place like this exists in the city I grew up in.