High-brow pizzeria opens eyes of one formerly ignorant pizza lover
|Rant & Roll
by Cory Blackwood
There is a scant supply of really worthwhile pizzerias in the St. Louis area. Mass-produced chains seem to dominate the region, leaving most of the independent pizza joints without enough money to make a successful establishment.
There are some small local places have infiltrated the chains' strangleholds on the city, giving St. Louisans a taste of real pizza, not the cardboard, greasy taste of the giant chains, and not the joke billed as St. Louis style pizza. (This is where I make enemies with St. Louis style pizza fans, so I apologize in advance.)
St. Louis style pizza is not pizza, it is basically a cracker with a bizarre blend of cheeses that creates Provel cheese. Provel's main quality is the amazing ability to stick to the roof of your mouth while searing any skin that was once there. Plus, St. Louis pizza is cut into square shapes. Call it what you will, but it isn't pizza.
I was never a pizza aficionado, until I got a job at a little pizza joint down in the Delmar Loop. Last March I started working at Racanelli's, a New York pizzeria, as a driver. Since then, friends have stopped eating pizza with me under almost any circumstances. See, once I started working at Racanelli's with some of the best pizza cooks in town, I realized what I had previously assumed was good pizza was actually junk. The three Racanelli brothers, Johnny, Sammy and Vito quickly taught me what real pizza was, the real way to eat pizza, and many other tricks of the trade.
There are methods to follow when making a true pizza, from simple things like ALWAYS cutting the pie like a pie (triangles people, NOT square!) to putting the toppings on top of the cheese, not underneath, or else you can't call it a topping. The only kind of cheese that goes on a pizza is mozzarella, anything else just isn't right.
One truly sad thing I found is that those annoying Pizza Hut "New York style" commercials actually got one or two things right. They were right in showing a slice of pizza folded in half, and they were right in saying true New York pizzas are big. Then they foul everything up by saying how big their large pizza is -- 16 inches. I have to laugh at that, because a 16 inch pizza was a medium at Racs, and that wasn't including the store pies -- all 22 inchers.
People would come into Racanelli's, explain that they were from some part of the New York area; The Bronx, Long Island, Manhattan, wherever, and then exclaim their love for the only true New York-style pizza in St. Louis. The New York moniker wasn't just a gimmick. The Racanelli family grew up in the Bronx. Sammy went so far as to have "Da Bronx" tattooed on his chest over a Yankees symbol. The sign of a true fan, I've always said, is a tattoo.
Anyway, here's my brief summary on pizza: Imo's isn't pizza at all, but some other late night snack. It's not bad, but it isn't pizza. Toppings go on top. Giant chains have no character, and relatively no taste. Lastly, and most importantly, I have to admit one thing. Pizza is like sex, even when it's bad, it's still pretty good. Unless it's Pizza Hut, of course.