With all of the great pizza places around town, it takes a lot of confidence to open up yet another one. The folks at A Pizza Story, which bowed earlier this year in Maplewood, have that confidence and it's definitely warranted.
Located on the eastern end of Manchester Road on Maplewood's main drag, A Pizza Story has room to spare, with seating that ranges from two-tops and booths to a large community table in the middle of the restaurant, plus bar seating and a few tables outside. In the back is the heart of the operation, the wood-fire oven.
In keeping with the name of the place, many of the menu items at A Pizza Story are named after literary genres or have other bookish titles. The restaurant serves up Neapolitan pies, and the crust is paramount to this style, required to be made from fresh brewer's yeast and baked in a wood fire, among other provisions. It’s a deceptively simple proposition, but one that can easily go awry if proper mixtures and temperatures aren't adhered to. We sampled two of the pizza offerings, the Space Opera ($15) and the Thriller ($15) and it's obvious A Pizza Story has the crust situation well in hand. Both had delicious thin, soft crusts with just a bit of char. Toppings-wise, these pizzas were on opposite ends of the flavor spectrum. The Space Opera has smoked salmon and ricotta, accented with red onion, capers and dill; while the Thriller goes for the heavier, spicier side of things with Spanish chorizo and mozzarella. Of the two, the Thriller had the better balance of flavors, as the subtleties of the mild salmon on the Space Opera were lost somewhat amidst the other toppings. The pizzas are approximately 12 inches around, making them perfect for sharing or enjoying solo.
Pizzas aside, A Pizza Story also has some stellar apps, salads and pastas. The Fried Calamari ($9) features huge, tender squid rings fried up in a light batter with just a hint of pepper, like you'd find on the cod at a neighborhood fish fry. And the Pear Salad ($9), had an abundance of poached pear on a bed of arugula with a sprinkle of pecans for crunch and some bleu cheese for a sharp counterpoint to the sweet vinaigrette. All in all, a fine balance of flavors and textures. The Villains meat board ($9) (the corresponding cheese board selection is labeled Heroes) had a pretty standard selection of charcuterie (soppresata, salami, pepperoni), served up with bits of salted house-made bread, some olives and capers, and a bit of grain mustard—simple and delicious. The Shells Ragu ($13), one of the two pasta options, is also a simple yet delicious dish, just shell pasta and a rich sauce of wine and tomatoes with a bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano on top.
We seriously considered ending things with the Tiramisu or the Bombolini; instead, we went light couple of scoops of Gelato ($5)—one lemoncello and one caramel—courtesy of Chef Francesco Velocci of Gusto Gourmet Creamery.
A Pizza Story recently began lunch service, offering a couple of pizza and pasta options at a reduced price, as well as the rest of the regular menu. With a convenient location and some first-rate pizza and assorted fare, A Pizza Story is a fine addition to the St. Louis scene.
-- 7278 Manchester Road, 899-0011, apizzastory.com.
A Pizza Story’s Shells Ragu
1 lb. round roast
1 c carrots, chopped
1 c celery, chopped
1 c onions, chopped
1 c crushed tomatoes
1 c red wine
Olive oil, as needed
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 T dry herb of your choice (dry thyme or dry sage work well)
Bag of pasta shells
Quarter the roast and season with salt, pepper and dry herb. Sear in a large pot with olive oil until the roast is brown on all sides. Deglaze with 1/3 of red wine, and add onions, carrots and celery. Sauté until the wine is almost entirely reduced, then add the rest of the wine, as well as the crushed tomatoes. Simmer on low heat until roast falls apart, about 1.5 hours. Boil the pasta to your liking, then add the meat and sauce.