Pizza Memories

While reading all about the world of pizza in St. Louis in the new February issue of St. Louis magazine (click HERE for link), I recalled a few personal memories of pizza.

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As a child in Birmingham, pizza was a rare treat. I recall one place put their pies into a bag to be carried horizontally. One night, my dad let me go in to the joint and pay for the pizza. Unfortunately, I carried the pizza vertically. Everything slid off the surface of the crust into one greasy pile at the bottom of the bag.

As an adult, the radio station I worked for in Davenport, Iowa, had a basketball team. We would face off against high school faculties. Then after each game, team members always went to a local Pizza Hut for pizza and beer. Good times!

After visiting a college friend in Chicago and tasting that city’s deep-dish pies, I was excited in the 80’s when Pizzaria Uno went national. They opened in Philly. I loved it but my wife did not. We moved to Dallas and my son and I had their stuff there. Shortly after we moved to St. Louis, Uno opened in the area but their product was not quite as good as I had remembered from Philly and Dallas. The chain has since closed all of its St. Louis stores.

On the day we moved into our home here in St. Louis in 1988, a neighbor sent over a pizza. After the movers left, we unpacked and were exhausted and hungry. The pizza was greatly appreciated. But when we opened the box, my son had a strange reaction. He was puzzled by the Imo’s thin crust pizza, unlike anything he’d seen before. He later became a huge Imo’s fan and actually worked at an Imo’s briefly.

In the mid 90s, I took several Imo’s pizzas to country music star Vince Gill before he was to perform at Six Flags. He was immensely grateful. Vince is a notorious Imo’s fan who never fails to give an onstage shoutout to Imo’s anytime he plays here.

Just a few years ago when I was hosting mornings on KLOU radio, my teammates and I had a quick on-air chat about our favorite pizzas then moved on to the next element of the show. Suddenly the phones went wild as listeners wanted to chime in on their favorite pizzas. It reminded me that people are passionate about pizza.

(photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/oxborrow/2920481239, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

Tasting Event Strategies

If you attend events like this week’s Iron Fork at Union Station or June’s Saucy Soiree at the Four Seasons or St. Louis magazine’s A-List party in July in the CWE, you need strategies.

What do you want to sample? I enjoy trying things that are new and unfamiliar. Tasting longtime favorites is enjoyable, but a unique offering from a newer purveyor is more likely to produce a lasting memory.

How much do you want to eat and drink? I try to avoid getting quickly stuffed. Bread and beer are filling. If you get, say, a piece of brisket on a bun, toss the bun and enjoy the meat. Should you pick up a food sample that is less than delightful, you don’t have to eat it all.

If you choose to booze… there will be wonderful beers available. But I try to limit beer consumption at tasting events because, for me, it is more filling than wine.

How do you know which of the longer lines are worth the wait? Ask people. Almost all attendees love to talk about the foods they’ve enjoyed most.

Is it okay to get seconds? Generally, yes, although I don’t recommend it—for two reasons: (1) Each restaurant has a finite supply of food. (2) When you’re waiting in line for another taste of something you liked, you’re missing out on trying something different.

How do you avoid being overwhelmed by it all? Take notes. A quick memo to yourself on your phone’s notes app can help you recall highlights. Taking pics of the best-looking offerings also helps aid your recall. Many participants will have business cards or menus for you to pick up.

Remember that while these are food and drink events, they are also people events. Offer compliments to the folks whose food and beverages make you happy. Take a moment to greet old friends you encounter as you rush to the next food station. Honor the preferences of the person(s) you’re attending with.

Should you run into the people who have organized your tasting event, be sure to offer thanks for all their efforts. It’s a big job!

For full details of Thursday night’s Iron Fork tasting event, click HERE.

Saturday: Panel Show; Many Topics

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Our panel for Saturday’s show:

George Mahe of St. Louis magazine

Ligaya Figueras of Sauce magazine

and Jim Bafaro, former STL radio newsman, now working to help business startups in STL.

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Among our topics:

Why no STL cheftestants on Top Chef?

Cupcakes—pure wonderfulness or overrated?

Lengthy restaurant menus—how many choices are too many?

Listen at 11:00 a.m. on 590-AM, KFNS! And via KFNS.com.

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