Support Local Journalism. Join Riverfront Times Press Club.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Critic's Notebook: Good Pie Pizzaiolo Ryan Skyles On Learning to Cook in Italy

Posted By on Thu, Apr 24, 2014 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge Head Pizzaiolo, Ryan Skyles, slicing the prosciutto. To the left, butcher and pasta maker, John Messbarger | Jennifer Silverberg
  • Head Pizzaiolo, Ryan Skyles, slicing the prosciutto. To the left, butcher and pasta maker, John Messbarger | Jennifer Silverberg

Ryan Skyles was living in Italy when he got the call from Mike Randolph about the Good Pie (6665 Delmar Boulevard, University City, 314-899-9221). "I was working in a hostel in Rome, near the train station, when Mike called. He said he was opening the Good Pie and asked if I wanted a job. At that point, I was homesick and ready to come back. OK, actually I was out of money."

The Good Pie pizzaiolo didn't set out to Italy with the intention of learning about pizza. During his year in Rome and Tuscany his experience of classic Italian pies came from eating them, giving him enough information to discern what makes them so special. "[In Italy] it's all about simplicity," Skyles explains. "American pizza gets heavy. It's all about three kinds of meat and extra cheese. Italian pizza, our pizza -- this sounds funny -- is healthy."

See Also: Good Pie or Great? A Neapolitan pizza fanatic finds out

So how does one go from a pizza consumer to a full-fledged pizzaiolo? "The training was intense," Skyles says. "I didn't serve a single pizza to a customer for three months. It takes a while to get comfortable. You have to learn how to maintain the fire, feed the wood. You have to be fast and efficient. You can only make three or four pizzas at a time. Luckily they only take 90 seconds to cook."

Asked about how it was working with a famous Stefano Ferrara oven, Skyles didn't hide his enthusiasm. "There are maybe only ten or fifteen in the country. They're handmade in Italy, and it's a generational thing. Father teaches son how to make them. It's pretty much the Ferrari of pizza ovens."

In addition to the oven, Skyles says that the key to the Good Pie's pizza is the dough. "We made a lot of changes when we moved from Midtown. The dough was the most major one," he explains. "We used to use dry yeast, but now we use levain [a starter]. It makes such a difference. My girlfriend is gluten-free, and she can eat it."

Skyles can talk at length about the technicalities of his pizza, but he was quick to dish on his favorite pizza. "The Margherita," he says without hesitation. "It's how to judge a place on its pizza. You can taste all of the important aspects of the pizza -- the sauce, the crust, the cheese. It's simple. I love it."

Read my full review of the Good Pie here.

Follow Cheryl Baehr on Twitter at @CherylABaehr. E-mail the author at [email protected].

Tags: ,

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

January 19, 2022

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In St. Louis

© 2022 Riverfront Times

Website powered by Foundation