There's a certain pizza-cooking aroma that we sometimes catch, one that goes back to our adolescent years and early encounters with the ethereal pie. Whenever it comes, we salivate and if we're about to enter a restaurant, it tends to raise our expectations. The expectations aren't always met, however; we've learned that scent is no guarantee of good pizza.
Happily, the greeting by pizza smell when we neared the door of PW Pizza was not a false hype. Located on the ground floor of the building that holds Vin de Set and the event space Moulin, its interior brick walls bear murals of old St. Louis brewery labels, particularly apt because the building once was a brewery. (Imagine how many there must have been in Germanic St. Louis at one time!) Even on a night early in the week, couples, families and solos were busily knocking back the pizza. There are salads, and even a few sandwiches on the menu. But pizza often says “wings” to us, and PW's wings are roasted, a nice change. A dry rub adds to the fun, but the seasoning doesn't make these out of bounds for the hot-pepper-phobic. Most of the time we find that the usual blue cheese or ranch dressing adds little to chicken wings. Not the case here. It was a wow, the ranch dressing laced with chipotle and black pepper, plus the expected tartness. Exceptionally nice, and a superior pairing with the moist, tasty wings.
When it comes to pizza, the number of possible creations is mind-boggling. Three kinds of crust. Six possible sauces. Ten cheeses, including one that's vegan. Eighteen vegetable toppings. And eleven meat/fish offerings for the pizza, but no anchovies. (What's up with that?) Wowsa, nevertheless. Plenty of imagination in the suggested combinations, too, and we went with the Creole Connection on the original crust. The pizza wore tomato sauce, shrimp, sliced chorizo sausage, roasted jalapenos, red onion and monterey jack and mozzarella cheeses. Roasting and seeding the jalapeno pepper tamed its heat to the point where some bites were spicy and some were not; overall it was an extremely successful dish. The crust is pretty much New York style, medium thickness with enough body to do the traditional crust-to-point fold.
Four kinds of calzone, too, including a veggie (their word, not ours, thanks). About the size of Ann's two fists, the dough seemed a little sweeter than that on our pizza, and perhaps was the honey wheat dough. Stuffed full with wild mushrooms, spinach, roasted red peppers and caramelized onions. Oh, and cheese. Serious cheese, herb ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan, gooey and rich, and plenty of flavor from the vegetables. The marinara dipping sauce alongside was so chunky it really didn't cling well to the calzone, defeating its purpose. In addition, its relatively simple flavors didn't add much to a tasty dish.
Difficult as it may be, we strongly suggest enough self-control to leave room for dessert. (Leftover pizza is the real breakfast of champions. You do know the best way to reheat it is in a skillet with a lid? Crisps the crust, warms the cheese. But we digress.) The most unusual one on the menu is the chocolate cake made with Urban Chestnut Stout. Dark chocolate layers covered in a generous coat of thick and equally dark chocolate frosting, all lifted from merely pleasant to remarkable by the inclusion of the stout, which pairs up with the chocolate to deepen its flavor and add some woodsy notes of its own. It also holds down the sweetness. We liked it a lot.
Plenty of inexpensive wine choices and a large beer list that currently includes draft pear cider from Fox Barrel, which makes pear cider exclusively. Good service from an on-the-ball server who answered all questions despite a busy night.
2017 Chouteau Ave
Lunch & Dinner daily
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Good