Best Pizza - 2000
Vito's is a pizzeria -- not a trendy, upscale bistro version thereof but the real thing: a place that takes pizza seriously but doesn't get too snooty about it. Takeout is popular, but we like to plop down in the dining area -- especially when The Simpsons is on the big-screen TV -- and take advantage of the fabulous service. Vito LaFata III (who owns the business with his mother, Catherine Maltese, and his siblings, Giovanni, Marco and Anna) is a blur of efficient solicitude, topping off water glasses, taking orders, asking people how they like their food, sprinting back and forth to the kitchen. His pride in the restaurant is obvious, and it isn't misplaced. Thick-crusted but not too heavy, the pizza is deliciously simple, featuring gourmet ingredients unpretentiously presented -- fresh basil and tomatoes, real mozzarella cheese, hand-tossed dough that's made from scratch daily and a peppery, fruity sauce based on an original family recipe. Topping choices -- which range from pepperoni to pesto, from anchovies to artichoke hearts, from crab to capers -- are sure to please the palates of picky children and persnickety foodies alike. When asked to categorize his pizza, La Fata says it's "New York-style with traditional Sicilian touches and a St. Louis flair." When prodded for specifics, he divulges the secret ingredient: amore.