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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Eni's Pizzeria Brings Pizza with Balkan Flair to Princeton Heights

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 9:26 AM

click to enlarge Eni's Pizzeria is now open in south city. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • Eni's Pizzeria is now open in south city.

Brahim Mehmetaj has built a successful life for himself that has nothing to do with the restaurant business. A civil engineer by training who owns a Farmers Insurance agency, Mehmetaj's day job keeps him plenty busy and puts food on his table.

However, when considering what to with the other half of the Princeton Heights building that houses his insurance business, Mehmetaj felt the pull to honor his family's legacy of pizza making. In that spirit, he renovated the space, turning it into Eni's Pizzeria (6203 Gravois Avenue; 314-207-7797), which fired up its oven for the first time last month.

"I come from a family of pizza-makers," Mehmetaj explains. "It dates back all the way to my grandfather in the former Yugoslavia. Until now, it was my cousin in Germany who was known in the family as the pizza guy."

Named after Mehmetaj's son, Eni's Pizzeria features a selection of wood-fired pizzas based on old family recipes. The menu is simple — twelve different pizzas and three salads — and is meant to appeal to the families who live in the neighborhood.

"I'd like the business to go well, but really, I'm doing this for my family and the  families around here," says Mehmetaj.

click to enlarge Brahim Mehmetaj honors his family's roots at Eni's Pizzeria. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • Brahim Mehmetaj honors his family's roots at Eni's Pizzeria.

The pizzeria is meant to be a welcoming place for parents and children, with an atmosphere that supports a neighborhood pizzeria feel. The warm, open room boasts a beautiful stone wall, electric fireplace and ample seating. A bar that serves beer and wine takes up the back part of the restaurant, just in front of the kitchen, though Mehmetaj notes this is not meant to be a "hang-out" bar.

Eni's pizzas are on the thin side — though not St. Louis thin — and are individual-sized portions. Variations include everything from a Hawaiian pizza with hamburger and bacon to a classic Margherita with homemade sauce and fresh basil.

Mehmetaj's signature dish, "Eni's Pizza," comes topped with olives, green peppers, spinach, tomatoes and smoked beef — a traditional, Balkan meat that is the texture of excellent homemade jerky. It's a delicious substitute for the ubiquitous pepperoni.

Everything at Eni's Pizza is made in-house — the dough, the sauce, the smoked beef — and Mehmetaj is proud of the fact that he preps all of the accoutrements every single day. "See how this is crisp?" he asks, holding up a green pepper. "I cut this every night. We never use anything from the previous day."

Eni's Pizzeria is open every day from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. except for Monday. Click through for more photos.

click to enlarge Eni's pizzas are cooked in a wood oven. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • Eni's pizzas are cooked in a wood oven.

click to enlarge The bar at Eni's Pizzeria. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • The bar at Eni's Pizzeria.

click to enlarge The cozy dining room is welcoming to families. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Cheryl Baehr
  • The cozy dining room is welcoming to families.
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