By Nancy Stiles
By Cheryl Baehr
By Mabel Suen
By Cheryl Baehr
By Nancy Stiles
By Cheryl Baehr
By Tara Mahadevan
By Cheryl Baehr
Even though everybody has been yelling at us to go into Chesterfield Valley or St. Charles next, our goal is to move back into the city from here -- we've been looking at Lafayette Square and the Central West End, as well as locations near the city limits, like the Loop and Maplewood."
Food often makes me swoon, but restaurateurs seldom do. Dewey's Pizza proprietor David Justice (no, not Halle Berry's ex) had me at hello -- or, more accurately, at "back into the city" -- when describing the game plan for his Cincinnati-based company's procession of pizzerias through the St. Louis metro area, starting with the outpost that opened in downtown Kirkwood in October. "We'll do probably two or three more here in St. Louis. Our goal is not to open fifteen or twenty in every city we go into. The Kirkwood location is only number six in seven years. That's pretty slow growth if you consider us a chain -- which we don't."
124 N. Kirkwood Road
Kirkwood, MO 63122
314-821-7474. Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 4-10 p.m. Sun.
Though Kirkwood marks the St. Louis-area debut of Dewey's Pizza (and the first time Dewey's has embarked beyond greater Cincinnati), its opening here is a homecoming of sorts: Dewey's was founded by Andrew DeWitt, whose father, Bill DeWitt, is an owner of the Cardinals. The younger DeWitt (who was raised in Cincy) caught the pizza-biz bug after college, when he followed his girlfriend (now his wife) to Seattle and landed a job at Pagliacci Pizza, a carryout and delivery chain, flipping dough for $6.50 an hour. About a year later, he returned to Cincinnati and opened the first Dewey's in a Maplewood-like suburb there.
In fact, Justice and DeWitt cite a number of similarities between St. Louis and Cincinnati -- particularly the fact that both cities' pizza scenes mostly suck. Both are dominated by the national chains and one local player of arguable quality: Larossa's in Cincy and our own Imo's, whose cracker crusts smeared with oily Provel cheese have become the hallmarks of "St. Louis-style pizza" -- which, depending on your side of the fence, are either treasure or trash. A handful of indie establishments turn out great product and attract devoted followings chiefly by refusing to capitulate to the St. Louis-style: Black Thorn's towering Chicago-style pies, La Pizza's whole-milk mozzarella and gorgeously fresh toppings, Pizza-a-Go-Go's New York approach and awesome crust.
The uphill-battle scenario was not lost on DeWitt, who (rightly, if you ask me) describes Imo's pizza as "brutal" and "weird." "Honestly, that was one of my concerns coming to St. Louis," he says. "People love this [Imo's] pizza; this guy's got 60 stores. Maybe they won't like what we're doing."
It's hard to imagine anybody, in St. Louis or anywhere, disliking what DeWitt and Co. are doing. Dewey's makes one crowd-pleasing pie. It's gorgeous, for one thing, topped with fresh, radiant, colorful ingredients and a chromelike gleam (yet with nary a drop of extra grease to be found). It's camera-ready pizza.
Taking its cues from pizza styles on both coasts, Dewey's pizzas (sold in eleven-, thirteen- and seventeen-inch pies) boast a thin crust and a plentiful 34 à la carte toppings that run the gamut from workmanlike (pepperoni, anchovies, mushrooms) to hippy-dippy (Amish chicken, pine nuts). The pie's ruler-thin bottom actually looks like a St. Louis-style crust, but blessedly it embodies New York-style's perfect crispness. No cardboard here. The crust along the pie's circumference, meanwhile, is an airy, pillowy delight. I found myself dunking crusts into my glass of red wine as if they were slices of homemade semolina bread.
That's another great thing about this pizza. While it's hardly frou-frou, it merits better company than, say, a six-pack of Schlitz. It goes smashingly with wines or high-end beers -- which Dewey's just so happens to offer. The six whites and seven reds available by the glass or bottle aren't gripping but they are agreeable, and smartly priced between $16 and $26 a bottle: Wishing Tree shiraz, Pellegrini chardonnay, Alamos pinot noir, etc. The eight beers on tap include Sierra Nevada, Fat Tire, Schlafly and the little-known, figgy-tasting Rogue Dead Guy Ale from Oregon.
Half of Dewey's twelve cheekily named specialty pizzas are topped with marinara (referred to on the menu as "red sauce" -- the only element of Dewey's that makes me cringe) and mozzarella. The other six are white pies, most of them covered in a blend of olive oil, minced garlic and mozzarella and fontina cheeses. Again, there's something for everyone. The Dewey's Original, straight-up marinara and mozzarella, showcases the house gravy's unique zinginess. It's not a sweet tomato sauce but a piquant one, spiced with crushed red pepper, oregano, garlic and black pepper and derived from whole, not concentrated, tomatoes. Socrates' Revenge (a white pie with spinach, black and green olives, feta, red onions and tomatoes) is the first pizza I've ever eaten that I'd describe as refreshing -- abundant with fresh yet subtle flavor. The Green Lantern (red sauce, mozzarella, garlic, mushrooms, goat cheese, artichokes and pesto) is near-decadent thanks to those last three luscious toppings, while the Bronx Bomber (red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, green peppers and black olives) really does recall salty, street-food pizza from the Boogie-Down. For a real case of the meat sweats, though, Dewey's offers this winter's "seasonal pizza," the Don Corleone: Stacked high with full deli slices of capicola, salami and pepperoni, the Don is an embarrassment to every one of those chain "meat lover's" pizzas. Compared to the Don Corleone, those pizzas look like they're sprinkled with dog kibble. (By the way, Dewey's gets its sausage and prosciutto from Hill institutions DiGregorio's and Volpi, respectively.) There's even a pizza that tastes more like a burrito: the Southwest BBQ Chicken, unique for its smoked Cheddar and mozzarella blend and its black-bean-and-corn-salsa topping.