St. Louis by the Slice

The Lou hits your eye with a big pizza pie.

The only drawback to A'mis is trying to figure out how much your pizza will cost: A plain thin-crust pizza runs $7.60 (small), $9.70 (medium) or $10.75 (large). The price for toppings is on a sliding scale based on the size and style of your pizza — and there are additional surcharges for New York- and Chicago-style pizzas. I got out my abacus, and for my two-topping, medium New York, I paid about $13.

You won't need the abacus at Pizza-a-Go-Go. You don't have many choices to make: small or large, regular crust or thick, one or more of nine toppings. (Anchovies, yes; pine nuts, artichoke hearts or whatever the flavor-of-the-month is, no.) Prices range from $7 for a small cheese to $17 for a large, five-topping "Special." I chose a large with sausage and mushrooms on my first visit, a small with pepperoni and black olives on my second. Both were fabulous.

This is pizza as Platonic ideal. The crust is exactly what a thin crust should be: thin, yes, but with just enough chewy resistance that the pizza doesn't collapse into a soggy mess; crisp, but not overbaked so that each bite fractures into shards of crust. The sauce is pitched to the right level of sweet and spicy, and the mozzarella actually does what cheese is supposed to do on a pizza, holding everything together atop the crust.

Sicilian spectacular: Skeet Bradley prepares Caito's excellent spinjuine pizza.
Jennifer Silverberg
Sicilian spectacular: Skeet Bradley prepares Caito's excellent spinjuine pizza.

Really, it's all about the crust at Pizza-a-Go-Go. Even before I had my first bite, I could tell it would be perfect. I watched Paul LaFata slide my pizza out of the oven to check the underside not once, not twice, but three times in the final minutes before it was done.

Frank LaFata, Paul's father, opened Pizza-a-Go-Go in Gaslight Square in 1964. It moved to South Grand in 1967, and then crossed to the other side of the Boulevard in 1980. The current location, at the intersection of Scanlan and Ivanhoe (near Jamieson and Arsenal), has been open for ten years now. It's a residential area, which seems appropriate: Pizza-a-Go-Go feels more like a home than a restaurant.

There are tables, of course, with the requisite shakers of grated Parmesan and red pepper flakes, but there's also a fridge in one corner for customers to store six-packs (Pizza-a-Go-Go doesn't have a liquor license), in another corner a piano. The décor celebrates the many loves of Frank LaFata's life: his family, his countries (America and Italy) and his restaurant; the Cardinals, cycling and Marilyn Monroe.

I would add pizza to that list. It seems silly. Who doesn't love pizza? But it's become such a staple of American cuisine that it's easy to forget the virtues of its simple pleasures.

Easy to forget — but easy to rediscover. You just have to get off the couch and out of the house.

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