Garage-Born Neapolitan Pizza – Melo’s Pizzeria
ST. LOUIS, MO: (STLRestaurant.News) – Melo’s Pizzeria – We’ve all heard the stories of great music and technology born in someone’s garage. But how about great pizza? The Neapolitan pies they’re baking in a Benton Park garage may be the best in St. Louis. Still in their first year of business, Melo’s Pizzeria, 2438 McNair Ave. (behind Blues City Deli), is garnering rave reviews from customers.
In a city famous for its thin, crispy crusted pizza with translucent Provel cheese, Neapolitan style might seem like an odd favorite. Yet when you consider the importance of fresh sauce and fresh toppings for a quality St. Louis style pizza, you’ll see Neapolitan really is a perfect fit. What is Neapolitan pizza after all, but simple, fresh ingredients: basic dough, raw tomatoes, fresh cheese, basil and olive oil, baked in a screaming hot oven to create a crispy, melty pie? It bridges the gap between classic St. Louis style pizza and the chewy-crusted East Coast style so many non-natives adore. And Melo’s does Neapolitan oh so well.
Melo’s is the brainchild of Blues City owner Vince Valenza and his son Joey Valenza. For years, Benton Park’s favorite deli and sandwich shop has been Blues City 2438 McNair Ave., St. Louis. After buying the building and lot from his landlord in 2013, Vince Valenza began considering his options for developing the brick garage behind his deli. His son, Joey Valenza loved to bake, and the two considered using the garage to bake bread for the deli. They quickly realized it would be near impossible to keep up with the volume of bread and rolls needed.
Meanwhile, Joey had begun making pizza using a kettle bbq grill that he’d rigged to mimic a wood-fired pizza oven. That inspired father and son to convert Blue’s City’s garage into a pizzeria. The small brick building was fully restored. They brought in a beautiful wood-fired oven from Naples. And last December (2015) Melo’s Pizzeria was born.
The restaurant is cozy, to say the least. The blue-tiled oven bears the name “St. Louis The King.” It’s a bold statement in a space too small to park a bus in. The stools lining the front windows and outdoor tables provide the only seating. But cooler weather shouldn’t keep you from trying this amazing pizza. It’s available to go too. But check the website, or call before stopping in as their hours are subject to change.
Melo’s menu is small, but enticing, offering several takes on classic Neapolitan style pizza. Everything is made with simple, high-quality ingredients, flash baked in the big blue oven. It’s not all dough, tomato, mozzarella and basil, although that combination is available in the Pizza Margherita. They make it special by adding extra virgin olive oil and grana (a hard, slow-ripened, semi-fat cheese with a buttery tang, reminiscent of Parmigiano Reggiano). The Victor Street Veggie is a garlicky pizza that includes onion, mushroom and cherry tomatoes. The Veets is their take on the classic pepperoni and sausage combo. All of Melo’s pizzas are topped with grana, fresh and whole milk mozzarella, Romano and fontina cheeses in various combinations and subjected to the magic of the big blue, wood-fired oven.
You need only look behind Benton Park’s favorite Blues City Deli, to find the little garage of heaven that is Melo’s Pizzeria. The customer reviews are still coming in, but right now Melo’s is pushing five-stars. Could Neapolitan style pizza become the new St. Louis favorite? It wouldn’t be the first innovative idea born in a garage, maybe just the first really good pizza.