Not too long ago, Pi was the upstart of the local restaurant scene, serving up its 'unusual' deep dish pizza in a town accustomed to ultra-thin crusts and copious amounts of provel cheese on its pies. During the 2008 election, then-candidate Obama claimed it was his favorite slice, and the spotlight shone brightly on this local pizzeria for a while. Over the years, things have settled down a bit. Some new locations have been added (even one in Washington, D.C.), and Pi has settled into a role as a stalwart fixture on the local dining scene. We hadn't visited in a while, and wondered how Pi was doing now that it was no longer the new kid on the block. Turns out we needn't have worried.
We settled in at Pi's flagship location in the Delmar Loop and started off with an order of Pi Bites ($8). These delicious little variants of the fried cheese stick consist of fontina and mozzarella cheeses, combined with some Volpi prosciutto. They're accented with a touch of rosemary, then breaded and fried and served with some tomato sauce on the side. It's a simple app that could've easily been dumbed down (take cheese stick, drop in fryer, repeat), but instead has taken the high road to flavor.
Kale salads have sprung up on menus all over town of late, and Pi's Kale-ifornication ($6) is one of the best. In addition to the eponymous veggie, it has quinoa, grape tomatoes, pickled red onion for some tang, and toasted almonds for crunchy texture, all topped with a buttermilk dressing that's surprisingly light. No iceberg lettuce and squiggles of provel here (there's also a larger version available for $9).
While Pi also has a thin-crust option, the deep dish is where the restaurant made its name, so we had to order one up. For the uninitiated, the deep dish crust is made from corn meal. It's dense and heavy with a little bit of sweetness, thanks to the corn, and it has a grainy texture. This hearty crust is sturdy enough to support the heaviest of toppings. It's miles away from the 'traditional' deep-dish crust most diners are used to, and that's a good thing. Those who continue to shy away from it do so at their own culinary risk, because it's good—really good. There are plenty of quality topping combos available named after St. Louis neighborhoods, and diners can also mix and match neighborhoods which is what we did, ending up with half South Side Classico (mozzarella, sausage, mushrooms, green peppers and onions) and half The Grove (mozzarella, Volpi sopressata, red chilis, oregano, tomato sauce). There are different 'neighborhoods' assigned to either thin crust or thick crust on the menu, but any can be combined on your crust of choice. There also are plenty of other topping options available for you to customize your pizza. Crust aside, the toppings set Pi apart from the pack: Quality Volpi meats, fresh veggies and herbs ensure that Pi pies are as flavorful as possible.
Rest assured, Pi continues to be a bit non-traditional, and its pizza is still some of the best in town. Good for us!
--Multiple locations, restaurantpi.com