The Best Pizzerias in St. Louis
18 local spots to find the perfect pie
Photograph by Greg Rannells
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Years ago, I worked in quality control for a pizza chain. Five days a week for almost two years, my job was to taste and compare pizzas from unit to unit. The funny thing? I never tired of eating it and crave it to this day. So more recently, as St. Louis has seen a rise in the number—and quality—of its independent pizza parlors, no one’s been happier than me. With this culinary pleasure in mind, I hereby salute not only the latecomers to our city’s collective pizza party, but also several of the classic pizza joints…those that may never be topped. —George Mahe, Dining Editor
Pizza is like dry cleaning: It’s a business driven by endless coupons. Only the elite can avoid the jump into that unsavory scrum. And so it is with Vito’s. Here, the dichotomy of the pizza crust has been mastered—it’s simultaneously crunchy and chewy—and devotees willingly pay full price to marvel at the feat. And is it so hard to leave a bead of sauce near the crust’s edge, a savory gift to better enjoy it? Mmm…indeed not. Stick those pizza coupons in a drawer, folks, and save ’em for some less-than-perfect pie.
3515 Lindell, 314-534-8486, vitosstl.com.
Katie’s Pizzeria Café
The Town’s Top Toppings
Start with a glass of decadent red wine, or perhaps a pull of microbrew from the taps. Linger over a fried-artichoke salad whose delicacy belies its name, or prosciutto-wrapped spring rolls imbued with all the sharply contrasting, mouth-filling flavors the name suggests. Lust over the cannellini-bean dip. Move on to a main course that includes Italian sausage, leeks, parsnips, pancetta, asparagus, squash blossoms, shrimp, goat cheese, fontina cheese, mozzarella cheese... Oh, by the way, those are the toppings for Katie’s pizzas—utterly unique, incredibly tasty pizzas (many of them technically white pies) that push the very limits of pizza-making. The same can be said for those adult bevs and apps, by far the best of any pizza parlor around.
6611 Clayton, 314-727-8585, katiespizzeria.com.
Frank & Helen’s Pizzeria
Topped With Nostalgia
Frank & Helen’s is one of those been-around-forever, never-changed-a-bit local joints that’ll give even the recently initiated an unshakable case of deja vu. It’s famous for two things: “broasted” chicken, which many a regular will request time and again without ever knowing just what broasting is, and pizza. Pizza that’s cooked on pizza stones, rendering the crust terrifically crispy. Pizza that you can order extra-thin, thin, or thick, topped with Provel or mozzarella or cheddar or Parmesan or even Gorgonzola—yet, in the foggy recognizance of collective memory, most folks’ll tell you that Frank & Helen’s serves St. Louis–style pizza and none else. That’s just the wistful yearning for another visit.
8111 Olive, 314-997-0666, frankandhelens.com.
Pushing 50 With Pride
Pizza A-Go-Go has been around so long, it remembers when Gaslight Square housed nightclubs, not condos. That was the shop’s original location, but it’s been a South City stalwart for decades. As has its pizza, which defies our collective obsession with categorization: Though the thin-crust kind is popular here, it’s not St. Louis–style, but not quite New York–style either. The crust is only as sturdy as it needs to be to support a saucing of tangy tomato, a proper amount of melted mozz, and whatever blue-collar toppings you like. Has anyone ever named a style of pizza “American Pie”? Let’s call this that.
6703 Scanlan, 314-781-1234, pizzaagogo.blogspot.com.
A Side of “That’s Amore!”
Say the magic words “No Provel, grazie, mozzarella per favore,” and prepare for a slice of stone-baked satisfaction. A family-run, strip-mall joint in St. Peters, Francesco’s uses ingredients that are particularly fresh and flavorful. Texas stockyards have less meat on them than the sausage, pepperoni, bacon, and ham Deluxe here. On weekends, waiting for a table can make an NPR pledge break seem swift, and in-house karaoke’s painful, but the pizza’s worth it.
435 S. Church, St. Peters, 636-397-1883.
JFires’ Market Bistro
Defining “Illinois-Style” Pizza
Once again, JFires’ gets our vote for Best Pizza Served in a Two-Century-Old Illinois Farmhouse. A spectacular wood-fired oven here brings forth tasty pizzas with a pillowy, chewy thick crust. Toppings like shrimp scampi and barbecue chicken with smoked Gouda are inventive without being absurd. Go with the combination of Gorgonzola and fontina that’s drizzled with roasted-garlic oil. It’s a splendid combination of taste and texture.
725 N. Market, Waterloo, Ill., 618-939-7233, jfires.com.
Best Downstairs Pizza Since Rossino’s
Like having dinner in your St. Louis uncle’s rathskeller, a night at Balducci’s offers family and fun and pizza with a supermodel-skinny crust—though the hand-tossed, deep-dish version has its acolytes, too. Pies arrive hot, tricked out with generous sprinkles of oregano and basil and a pleasing blend of mozzarella and Provel. A tangy sweetness distinguishes Balducci’s tomato sauce, one that flavors without overwhelming. This is the place for a pie topped with perfectly seasoned sausage.
12527 Bennington, 314-576-5024, balduccisstlouis.com.