"This restaurant is so good...what's it doing in St. Louis?"
Up until a few weeks ago, my hands-down favorite pizza in the world was at Mario Batali's Pizzeria Mozza. No one was even close. Mozza's pizzas aren't really Neopolitan, but they lean that way with a center so gooey and thin that it makes picking it up by hand impossible. Still, the outer crust is perfectly baked with a slight char and hint of salt and the toppings are as good as they get.
When my friend asked me to join him at Pastaria a few weeks ago, I was expecting a good to very good pie, not unlike Katie's or Pi. I figured Gerard Craft and his crew were up to the challenge of making some good pizza. That first trip, I picked The Holmes($13.95), a pizza topped with tomato, mozzarella, mushroom, prosciutto, oregano and Grana Padano. Grana Padano is like a less intense Parmigiana-Reggiano, but is almost equally delicious.
I devoured that pizza like it was the last pizza I'd ever eat. I swallowed the slices whole like The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did. Dare I say it was better than Pizzeria Mozza's? Maybe. I'm not sure. One of the things I really love about Pastaria's pizza is that it's sturdy enough to be picked up, but just barely. This last trip there, I watched as the Chef de Pizza lifted my pizza up and checked the doneness of the bottom. It was perfect. I'd take a bullet for that man.
Pastaria itself is open and bright, with high ceilings decorated with pictures of Italy, pizza and customized pizza peels. The open kitchen is filled with a battalion's worth of pans and plates, plus the wood fired oven labeled "La Verita". The Truth is right. That thing is spitting out the best pizza in this city.
We were seated and our waiter, an extremely friendly guy, gave us the breakdown of his favorites. Orders were placed and bread was served. Knowing I was going to be eating an entire pizza, I avoided the bread...for about 30 seconds. I blacked out, I guess, because the next thing I knew my bread had become crumbs in a pool of olive oil.
On the healthier side, we got the Shaved Kale salad with chicken($11.95 + 4.95, I think, for chicken). The salad is simple, letting the ingredients speak for themselves. It's just kale, pecorino cheese, bread crumbs and a fantastic creamy anchovy dressing.
Don't get judgmental on me here. I know I said healthy then followed it up with bread, cheese and creamy dressing. I sound like that really fat guy you know who tells you he's on a diet because he's eating salad, then gets the Cobb with ranch. But just look at it below--the dressing is used sparingly, but it works because of its more intense flavor. Same goes for the cheese. It just melds together surprisingly well.
If you get it and you don't like it, you're wrong.
Taking the waiter's recommendation, I tried "The Roman" pizza($12.95) topped with tomato, garlic, BACON, mozzarella, pecorino, and chili. How could that be bad? Garlic, double cheese, smokey bacon and a hint of spice. If you don't like that, you're not only wrong, but you're so wrong that you shouldn't be trusted to make any major life decisions. Or maybe you're a vegan, which also means you shouldn't be trusted.
I think the pictures above and below do a pretty good job of telling you everything you need to know. This is just straight up hardcore, NSFW food porn. It was crunchy, chewy, creamy, smokey and spicy. Plus, you can dip the crust into the chili oil provided on each table.
There are currently 11 pizzas on the Pastaria menu, which means you're probably going to see 11 Pastaria blog posts on here. I can already tell you my next pick: Salume Beddu Nduja (13.95). Spicy sausage, fior de latte, garlic, oregano and honey.
Pastaria has something for everyone. Soups, salads, pastas, pizza and a handful of evening entrees. They have homemade gelato, as well. We grabbed a pint of their Burnt Honey Star Anise on the way out, which was a delicious and gluttonous way to close out the meal. Parking is easy using the attached garage, they can accommodate larger groups and they have a stocked bar. If I were an adult with children, I would force them to have their birthday party here.
Get over there and check it out.
Clayton, MO 63105