Munch goes to Pi Neapolitan Pizza
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Let's talk for a minute about the quarterlife crisis phenomenon.
Munch doesn't mean the analytic definition: that period of transition for the post-adolescent navigating the choppy waters of adulthood, struggling to find place and purpose in the world.
Munch speaks of it in practical applications: that period when one transitions from ripping down Jager shots to ripping down free Costco samples, or when the "Jersey Shore" GTL mantra means not Gym, Tan, Laundry but financial security via Group Term Life insurance.
With a foot planted firmly in each camp, Munch spends a lot of time in the South Side, a neighborhood that caters to both -- where frat bars and dining establishments share a sometimes uneasy coexistence. Rarely do the two elements intersect under the same roof, until now, with the advent of Pi Neapolitan Pizza -- the downstairs space of the fist-pumpin' club, Jimmy D's.
In previous years, that area served merely as a cooling down spot for the brahs getting their creep on upstairs. With the acquisition of what is boasted as "the only coal-fired pizza oven in Western Pennsylvania," in early February the downstairs officially became Pi -- home of authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas.
Munch has made a few visits and can attest that the pizzas are of exceptional quality. Made-to-order in traditional fashion with San Marzano tomatoes and Italian Tipo 00 flour, fior de latte mozzarella and fresh basil, Pi's pizzas come in 16 varieties, from a simplistically beautiful Margharita (tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil: $12) to the Quattro Stagioni (tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, artichokes, mushrooms, roasted red pepper and basil: $16), as well as four different calzones made with the same fresh ingredients ($12.50-$13).
Because the oven heats to 900 degrees, the pizzas are done in a matter of moments. But that was just enough time for Big Shot Lawyer Friend of Munch (BSLFOM) to mow down an Insalate Caprese ($8.50), which he said was "simply outstanding. The chef used the right amount of basil and oil" to complement the fresh mozzarella and tomatoes.
BSLFOM gave enthusiastic marks to his Calzone Diavola ($12.50). Filled with fresh mozzarella, ricotta, roasted red peppers, salami and red pepper flakes, then folded and topped with more mozzarella, tomato sauce, romano, basil and olive oil, it was more of a delicately made pastry than the greasy footballs one typically thinks of with this dish.
Munch had the Quattro Stagioni pizza, expertly made with exquisite ingredients and a paper-thin crust that was near perfection.
BSLFOM thought the pizza to be nearly as good as Il Pizzaolo in Mt. Lebanon, and it put Munch in mind of Il Piccolo Forno in Lawrenceville. Those places are nonpareil in Pittsburgh, so for the comparison to even enter our minds is no faint praise.
But, here's the rub ...
The kitchen is open from 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. We were there at 8:30 p.m. on a Saturday. Although the place was sparsely crowded when we arrived, the NCAA basketball games on the flatscreens were so loud I thought Verne Lundquist was giving play-by-play live from my cochlea.
By 9:30 p.m. the upstairs Jimmy D's crowd had invaded and people were reaching over us for drinks.
BSLFOM nailed it when he said that at present, Pi is "schizophrenic."
Neither Munch nor BSLFOM are complete killjoys, as we're both muddling through our own overextended quarterlife crises. Clubs and nice restaurants both have a place, but not the same place, and that's the problem here.
Pi presents a truly excellent product, and shows outstanding promise, but needs to decide if it wants to become a sophisticated adult or remain like a certain Steelers quarterback: all grown up and still prowlin' around with college kids.
Here's hoping that Pi (and Ben) choose the former. Sooner rather than later.
First Published March 25, 2010 12:00 am