by Cheryl Baehr
After years in the land of cracker crust and Provel, St. Louis has been recently blessed with two authentic Neapolitan-style pizzerias: the Good Pie (6665 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-899-9221) and a Pizza Story (7278 Manchester Road; 314-899-0011). It's a positive sum situation -- with how delicious this wood-fired Italian pie is, we wouldn't complain if there was one on every corner. However, our recent review of a Pizza Story seems to have ignited a debate: who has the edge on this Italian dish: a Pizza Story or the Good Pie?
For our inaugural "Thursday Throwdown," we decided to settle this debate by pitting both restaurants' classic Margherita pizzas against one another. Using four categories -- crust, sauce, cheese and overall presentation, we analyzed the offerings and are ready to declare a winner.
Crust Classically, Neapolitan-style pizza is wood-fired in a (roughly) 800-degree oven for only a minute or two. This allows the shell to remain soft in the middle while the crust puffs up to a spongy consistency around the perimeter. The high heat is what also accounts for the characteristic char blisters that dot the crust. Both restaurants meet this standard, but the Good Pie's use of levain (a starter) gives the crust and a rich, yeasty flavor, compared to a Pizza Story's lighter-flavored, albeit well-executed crust.
Sauce Crushed tomatoes, olive oil and salt. If there is ever anything else in Neapolitan pizza sauce, it's inauthentic, and both a Pizza Story and the Good Pie respect this standard. Because of their near-identical sauces, this category is a draw.
Cheese According to the body that certifies Neapolitan pizza, both cows' milk and buffalo mozzarella are acceptable when preparing a classic Margherita pizza. A Pizza Story opts for the former, using small, marble-sized balls of the fresh cheese. The Good Pie chooses baseball-sized balls of buffalo mozzarella, sliced into flat ovals. In both coverage and flavor -- the buffalo mozzarella's slight funk works so well with the tomato and basil -- the Good Pie wins this category.
Overall Presentation Both restaurants finish off their pies with a few leaves of fresh basil, baked by the oven, to round out the last of the key Margherita components. The Good Pie's char blisters are larger, though at times too large. A Pizza Story's cheese did not melt as evenly as its competitor.
Winner Both A Pizza Story and the Good Pie serve authentic, delicious Margherita pizzas. However, the slightly yeastier-tasting crust and the use of buffalo mozzarella give the Good Pie the advantage.