Riding high on the acclaim and popularity of his Fox Park restaurant, the Lucky Accomplice (2501 South Jefferson Avenue, 314-354-6100)
, chef Logan Ely is preparing to take on yet another project: a new restaurant just down the street called Press (2505 South Jefferson Avenue)
that will be based on a type of pizza he's not sure if anyone has ever done.
"I've said it before, and I will say it again: We like to have fun with food, and we like to play with our food," Ely says. "We had this funny idea that we just acted on right away, and it seems kind of crazy. It was this idea to do this pizza calzone thing called a 'smash pizza,' which seemed kid of catchy. We made four of them and were like, 'Well, let's open a restaurant.' It just seemed kind of catchy."
For anyone who has followed Ely's career since he arrived back on the scene in St. Louis in 2017, the thought of him opening a pizza joint might seem quizzical. Ely's resume includes such esteemed restaurants as the French Laundry in Napa Valley, Blue Hill in New York City and North Pond in Chicago, not to mention the fact that he has cooked everywhere from Copenhagen to Hong Kong and reintroduced himself to St. Louis diners through an elegant, avant garde tasting menu restaurant, Shift (formerly Savage). That he is channeling such impressive experience into a pizzeria would be, on its surface, like Picasso leaving the world of fine art to paint the walls of finished basements.
However, when you dig into the idea behind Press, you quickly realize that it is no ordinary pizza dive. Like the Lucky Accomplice, where his intention to do casual fare has turned out to be one of the most thrilling restaurants in town, Ely's take on pizza involves a complete reinvention of the genre. He and his team begin with the same dough you would use in a traditional pizza or calzone, then stretch it over the bottom portion of a cast iron press (think waffle press without the squares), fill it with various toppings, place more dough on top of that, then smash it between the iron's plates. But Ely is not done there. Once the pressed and filled dough comes out of the press, he and his crew cover it in even more toppings and cut it into triangles. The result is a cheesy, gooey, filled calzone-like concoction that is guaranteed to be the city's go-to comfort food.
"It is a pizza?" Ely asks. "Kind of. Is it a calzone? Kind of? Is it a sandwich? Sort of, but 'smash pizza' just has this ring to it."
Press will be located just to the south of the Lucky Accomplice in a small, brick storefront that Ely is currently in the process of renovating. He says that the space will not be huge, but that it will have enough room for a sit-down dining area; he is also hoping to add a substantial patio that will connect it with the Lucky Accomplice, and he is in talks with an architect to see what is possible on that front. Though he does not have a firm opening date set yet, he is targeting the end of winter or early spring.
With the addition of Press to the Lucky Accomplice's block of Jefferson, Ely hopes it represents one additional step toward making that stretch of south St. Louis more pedestrian friendly. He notes that the city government currently has plans to slow down the vehicular traffic flow in the area to make it more of a destination entertainment and dining district — something that he is happy to do his part to facilitate.
"This is such a historic block," Ely says. "If we can keep adding to it and make it safe and walkable, we will do what we can."
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