The combination of pizza and beer is a beautiful thing.
Sex is also a beautiful thing. And, let's be honest, when St. Louisans are out prowling for tush, booze is often a part of the equation. If two mutually willing canoodlers end up buck nekkid at eve's end, the combination of alcohol and sex, much like pizza and beer, is spectacularly gratifying.
Like most establishments of its ilk, Maurizio's Pizza and Sports Café, situated behind neon windowpanes at 1107 Olive Street, offers beer and pizza. But at the bottom of the menu, a most peculiar dish is listed in a small, boldface font:
"Condoms, 3 for $4."
Better yet, Maurizio's delivers a threesome at all hours: the pizza, the beer and the rubbers. And there ain't nothing like a good old-fashioned ménage à trois.
A months-long investigation by the Riverfront Times has yielded that Maurizio's is, in fact, the only restaurant in the St. Louis area to deliver rubbers alongside its chow, a sensual niche that has left its competition and pro-life organizations scrambling for answers and its more loyal customers chest deep in sausage and pie.
"That's a joke, man," says Marco Lafata, who works at Vito's Trattoria near Saint Louis University, the city's bastion of Jesuit morality. "We deliver pizza. That's all we deliver. Condoms and alcohol? That gets out of control.
"We're like a high-class Italian place here. Maurizio's and other places can deliver whatever the hell they want."
Apparently, local giant Imo's is not thinking about adding rubbers to the menu anytime soon, either.
"It's unsanitary to have condoms with the pizza," says Alexis (she declined to give her last name), an employee at the downtown Imo's at 742 South Fourth Street. "You don't know what they're doing with those condoms. They could touch the condoms and then touch the pizza."
"I can get pizza, draft beer and a condom?" muses Paula Gianino, CEO of Planned Parenthood's St. Louis regional office. "I love it!"
Unlike Vito's, Maurizio's is not a "high-class Italian place." It's never aspired to be. The crew of 30 employees at Maurizio's, opened by owner Steve Scaglione some ten years ago, takes more pride in serving a "wild late-night crowd," according to General Manager Sean Stanton, who his underlings refer to as "Jackie Chan."
Stanton isn't fooling, although sometimes the crowd can get a little too wild. To wit, Maurizio's recently garnered unseemly media attention after a barstool square-off ended in the fatal shooting of a 30-year-old Mark Twain Hotel resident on a nearby street.
But on a Friday at the bar (liquor accounts for roughly 10-percent of Maurizio's revenue) prior to the incident, playful patter centered around the merits, or lack thereof, of Khia's "My Neck, My Back, Lick My Pussy and My Crack," the über-filthy rap anthem that implores gents to cover all the bases when going south in the sack.
"I like it [the song]. I like the beat. I think it's funny," observes bartender Tonya Pettersen, while pouring an exceptionally strong tequila sunrise for a thirsty barfly. "But no, I don't like crack licking."
"I think it's inspiring," adds customer Tom Murphy.
In addition to its no-frills bar, Maurizio's offers a generous, all-you-can-eat buffet of pizza and hot wings that attracts a spectacularly diverse mob of late-night rabble rousers to its checkered tablecloths, most of whom seem to mellow out slightly after a few gnaws of grease.
The pizza, while not spectacular, has a leg up on at least one of its competitors, according to Murphy, who disses Imo's Provelian pie as "too thin, too crispy."
For Maurizio's seven delivery drivers, such as Eugene Messey, a night's business is slow and steady as compared with delivery-only behemoths like Domino's. Not that there aren't some hair-raising moments on the job. According to Stanton, one driver, James, received a $40 tip for emptying a wheelchair-bound customer's catheter while out on a run.
As for frequency of condom delivery, while those who are in the know are eternally grateful for the door-to-door convenience, the rubs don't exactly fly out the door.
So why the apparent consumer aversion to strapping up before gettin' biznizzy? Simple: marketing, or lack thereof. For one, although rubbers are listed at the bottom of the menu, Stanton and company don't go to great pains to advertise their unique offering. There is no armor-clad man on a white horse flinging packaged Trojans at unsuspecting passersby outside the restaurant. The exclusive house brand is, in fact, Lifestyles, and the rubbers are kept out of plain sight in a kitchen closet.
For Danielle Dekock, an employee of Clayton rival Il Vicino, the awareness gap is the rub.
"I think it's [selling condoms] a good idea. If people want 'em, they should be able to get 'em," says Dekock. "If I go to a show downtown, I'll go there late night for pizza and beer. Maybe if I would have known [about the availability of condoms], I would have picked some up."
Although they don't deliver, Il Vicino does sell beer and pizza for takeout. But condoms? No way.
"We're in Clayton, and they [Maurizio's] are downtown," Dekock explains. "They're incredibly conservative here. More than half would raise a ruckus."
Deleen Hodge, a cook and cashier at the Kmart Little Caesar's in Dogtown, feels it's high time the condom scientists went back to the drawing board and developed a better product.
"I think they should have special condoms where you can feel something and be protected too," says Hodge.
Condom dispensers in barroom latrines have become as entrenched a part of Americana as Mother Goose and pecan pie. Although abstinence still rules the day among pro-life organizations, most, such as Missouri Right to Life and Birthright Counseling, now all but wave the white flag of surrender on the contraception issue, instead choosing to focus on alternatives to abortion and the political swordsmanship therein.
Only Branson-based Concerned Women For America dares take on the pizza-beer-condom revolution.
"He's [i.e., Scaglione] either really desperate for business or promoting dangerous and irresponsible behavior," says Missouri State Director Joy Davis. "Condoms are absolutely not effective for protecting against cervical cancer."
That's all fine and dandy, but what of condoms' preventive prowess when it comes to the more direct matters of STDs and pregnancy?
"I don't have rates with me but not very effective," says Davis. "Pizza and condoms is no bargain for women."
So is Concerned Women For America anti-pizza?
"Anti-pizza? I love pizza," chuckles Davis, as her cellphone cuts out.
Much credit -- or blame, depending on where you stand on abstinence-only education -- for the latex movement can be attributed to groups such as Planned Parenthood. But Maurizio's mode of dissemination is refreshingly unique even to issue veterans such as CEO Paula Gianino, who says her group has never so much as tried to educate delivery restaurants, having instead "focused on clubs downtown."
"What we're finding among certain business owners that serve a young, sexually active clientele is that they're informed and trying to do whatever they can to help," says Gianino, specifically singling out the clubs on Washington Avenue. "Clearly, for some people, it's gonna be seen as edgy. But for their customers, they know."
Gianino hails Maurizio's trailblazing maneuver as "a menu offering that can save their customers' lives," but she doesn't feel that the condoms themselves would make palatable toppings, a la anchovies.
"I think that would ruin the idea," Gianino chuckles.
Even naysayers such as Vito's Lafata acknowledge the utilitarian value and dose of reality contained in Maurizio's decision to deliver rubbers to its clientele. At its most literal, Scaglione and his establishment are wryly acknowledging something night crawlers have known for centuries: Drunk people like to get down on all fours and fuck from time to time.