• “The kitchen was so small!” That was the first thing that Pi restaurant owner CHRIS SOMMERS said when I asked him about his White House adventure. At the request of the President, Sommers, Pi partner RYAN MANGIALARDO, and ANNE SCHUERMANN traveled to Washington to create what turned out to be a White House staff lunch. Anne said she was stunned when it was White House executive chef CRISTETA COMERFORD who came to the gates to let them in. When they checked out the ovens, it was determined that the 10 thick-crust pizzas would be made in the main kitchen, and the 10 thin would have to be made in a smaller kitchen upstairs. Chris said it was nearly comical trying to share ingredients because only a tiny circular staircase connected the two. The pizza boxes were laid out on the polished wood table in the Roosevelt Room, until someone realized they probably should put something down to protect the famous conference table!

Miso on Meramec will debut a new sushi menu May 1. Partners BRAD BERACHA and FRANK ROMANO are very excited about their new executive chef, ELIOTT HARRIS. From Sato in Vail, Tsunami in San Francisco and Abokado in Miami, Harris has spent years rethinking sushi as a creative philosophy. At Miso, expect to find Pan-Latin flavors and other fusion approaches to the Japanese culinary art form. If the new chef sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because he’s a class of 1990 Ladue High grad!  Romano will be flying in the freshest fish to show off Harris’ handiwork. All this fusion energy will go well with the contemporary vibe of the subterranean Clayton hotspot.

Bar Oliver at Starr’s Market is now open Tuesday through Saturday at the Richmond Heights grocery/restaurant. OLIVER ‘BUD’ STARR expanded the space that was a white tablecloth restaurant and built a large, granite-topped bar, put in flat-screen TVs and taps for dozens of beers, and added big, comfy booths in the dining area. The menu has some Cajun flair, with fried Louisiana alligator and grilled oysters as well as a great burger and homemade twice-fried fries. The buy-it-in-the-store-and-bring-it-over-deal, as Bud described it, is complemented by wine flights, five 1-ounce pours for $10, and great old Scotch in sampler sizes, like an 18-year-old Macallan for $10. Maybe in the summer he’ll start making his famous homemade ice cream (remember Oliver’s ice cream parlor on Central?).

• Lift your glass for Lift for Life Gym at the 14th annual St. Louis Microfest. There will be more than 50 local, regional, and international brewers participating, as well as a craft soda tent with 20 different root and birch beers and ginger ales. The two-day event includes chef demonstrations by RICK MARTIN of Free State Brewery in Lawrence, Kan., and TOM COGHILL of Iron Barley Eating Establishment. The Amalgamated Brewing Co. Food Tent will have beer-perfect snacks from the menus at The Stable and Jake’s Steaks. It’s all at the Upper Muny Parking Lot in Forest Park May 1 and 2. Go to stlmicrofest.com for the live music schedule and ticket information. Lift For Life Gym is a nonprofit that runs year-round programs for inner-city kids ages 8 to 18.

Il Bel Lago in Creve Coeur is celebrating its fifth anniversary. Owners CARMELO and FRANK GABRIELE liken their business to a heavyweight prize fight, saying they put on their gloves every day. And Trattoria Branica Restaurant and Wine Bar is throwing an opening party April 28 to celebrate its new location in Kirkwood. The evening of food, wine and music provided by Dawn & Arvell costs $60 per person; all profits from the party go to Friends of the SLU Liver Center.

Got something for Spicy Bits?  Write to Amy Peck Abraham at spicybits@laduenews.com.

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