• CHRIS SOMMERS had left the Lou for a high-tech job in San Francisco but the pizza gods had other plans for him. Sommers opened Restaurant :€ March 14 in The Loop at 6144 Delmar Blvd. The Greek symbol for Pi, the pizzeria's name, is emblazoned on server T-shirts and the menu, which includes five creative salads, as well as appetizers and dessert pies. RYAN MANGIALARDO is the executive producer of the savory pies, both the deep dish specialty with cornmeal crust and a superb thin variety that uses an award-winning recipe Chris purchased in San Fran. When asked what he will be doing next year on March 14, Sommers said, "Opening another Pi." Sounds like a man with a plan.

• Insalatina di Cappesante Dorate, golden scallop salad, was one of four divine courses served March 13 to diners at the first of the 2008 Scape Celebrity Chef Series. The Levy Restaurant Group flew down TONY MANTUANA, the famous chef/partner of Chicago's Spiaggia Restaurant, to inaugurate the demonstration kitchen. Spiaggia's signature folded crescenza cheese ravioli with truffle butter sauce was followed by lamb chops and platters of bomboloni. Each of the 36 guests got a tiny copper pot of zabaglione to pour over those delicious handmade donuts.

• Heavy digging equipment has been at work on The Hill since the February groundbreaking for the expansion of Vitale's Bakery at Marconi and Bischoff. The new 3,000-square-foot production space is needed for the growing wholesale side of the family business. The new building will blend into the neighborhood with a brick façade and niches for grotto and statues. SAM VITALE and his team of bakers will be making a whole lot more cannoli, pizza shells, breads and dinner rolls in July, when completion is due.

• At an elaborate brunch March 9 at L'Ecole Culinaire, the first Les Dames D'Escoffier International chapter in St. Louis launched its membership drive. Sixty of St. Louis' femme food elite also were treated to words of wisdom and encouragement from the nation's first female Iron Chef, CAT CORA, executive chef of Bon Appetit magazine. LDEI is an international organization of women in food, beverage and hospitality who provide leadership, educational opportunities and philanthropic events for the larger community. Those interested in learning more about the St. Louis chapter should write to Schnucks director of food education KATHY GOTTSACKER at kgottsacker@schnucks.com.

• Guests at a party at Oliva will have a hard time deciding on whether to celebrate inside or out. The new event space developed by Catering St. Louis at Daggett and Kingshighway has beautiful restored terrazzo floors and wood-beamed ceilings inside, and an enchanting courtyard with wood pergola and stone waterfall out. MARK ERKER, Catering St. Louis owner, saw great potential in the 97-year-old tavern for a contemporary, high-end, small venue on The Hill. To complement Oliva's big wooden doors (reminiscent of Napa Valley wineries) and Tuscan villa-style long wooden tables, Catering St. Louis has created a special Mediterranean menu you can peruse online at www.cateringstlouis.com.

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

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