Melo's Pizzeria Brings Neapolitan Pies to Benton Park

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click to enlarge Melo's Pizzeria is now open in Benton Park. - Cheryl Baehr
Cheryl Baehr
Melo's Pizzeria is now open in Benton Park.

If you thought nothing could possibly make Blues City Deli any better, the Valenza family just proved you wrong. Tucked into a converted garage behind their iconic sandwich shop, the Valenzas' new restaurant Melo's Pizzeria (2438 McNair Avenue; 314-833-4489) adds Neapolitan pies to the family repertoire.


Granted, Melo's is less an addition to Blue's City Deli and more a standalone spot — but that wasn't the original plan. When patriarch Vince Valenza bought the Blues City Deli property in 2013 (until that point, he had been leasing it), his son Joey thought he would convert the garage into a place to bake bread for the deli. An aspiring baker, the younger Valenza had been playing around with bread recipes, which led to experimenting with pizza-making. This quickly turned into an obsession.

"I think it's natural for people who get into real pizza-making to become obsessed," Joey Valenza laughs. "I think it has something to do with cooking with fire. There's something very primal about it." 

click to enlarge Melo's pizzaiolo, Joey Valenza. - Cheryl Baehr
Cheryl Baehr
Melo's pizzaiolo, Joey Valenza.

The Valenzas quickly realized that a pizzeria would be the perfect fit for the garage space, and shipped in an authentic pizza oven from Naples to prove just how serious they are about their pies. "You should've seen us celebrating when this thing arrived," laughs co-owner Vince Jr. 

The blue-tiled, dome-shaped oven, emblazoned with white tiles that spell out "St. Louis the King," takes up a great deal of the restaurant's tiny space. Guests order at the counter and wait for their pizzas at the small wooden counters that line the walls. There are no seats, unless you count the large patio that Melo's shares with Blues City Deli. However, patrons seem to have no problem standing and eating their pies while sipping a beer. 

click to enlarge A classic Margherita pizza. - Cheryl Baehr
Cheryl Baehr
A classic Margherita pizza.

And about those pizzas ... At Melo's you'll find the classics, like the Margherita, made simply with fresh mozzarella, crushed tomatoes and basil, as well as some that have personal connections to the Valenzas. "The Angelina is named after my grandmother," Joey says. "It's the traditional marinara that you'd find in Naples, but we put green onions on it because she used to always put green onions on her pizzas." 

Through January, Melo's is open limited hours — Thursdays and Fridays from 4:30 until 8:30 unless otherwise posted. The Valenzas hope to expand service in February. Judging from the restaurant's already roaring popularity, those extra hours are going to make a lot of pizza lovers extremely happy. 

click to enlarge Melo's features a few traditional pies as well as some soon-to-be classics. - Cheryl Baehr
Cheryl Baehr
Melo's features a few traditional pies as well as some soon-to-be classics.

click to enlarge The "Dom" with mozzarella and Grana cheese, pepperoni and fresh basil. - Cheryl Baehr
Cheryl Baehr
The "Dom" with mozzarella and Grana cheese, pepperoni and fresh basil.


click to enlarge A portrait of the pizzeria's namesake, Carmelo Valenza, keeps watch over the place. - Cheryl Baehr
Cheryl Baehr
A portrait of the pizzeria's namesake, Carmelo Valenza, keeps watch over the place.


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About The Author

Cheryl Baehr

Cheryl Baehr is the dining editor and restaurant critic for the Riverfront Times and an international woman of mystery. Follow her on the socials at @cherylabaehr
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