Pizza has more styles and regional variations than Baskin-Robbins has flavors of ice cream, but in the Kansas City metro, the iconic New York - style pie (and its cousin, the Neapolitan version) - a thin, pliant crust and a relatively discreet topcoat of cheese - is probably the best-selling. And if New York - style isn't exactly what a few newer places are doing, it's at least a recognizable inspiration in some pizzas that Fat City tasted recently.
When father and daughter Alan and Haley Jeter opened their combination pizzeria and sandwich shop, Geo's Pizzeria (9220 Metcalf, Overland Park, 913-341-7827) in a suburban storefront nearly two years ago, they didn't put the word pizza on the sign out front. "We had a problem with our pizza ovens," Alan Jeter says. "They arrived here broken in pieces. It was a big mess. We opened two months late."
While the new ovens were being installed, the Jeters focused on their deli business. Sandwiches are still the top sellers at lunchtime, but at night, pizza sales escalate. "We had an article refer to our pizza as St. Louis - style," Alan Jeter says, "but that's not the case. We do offer Provel cheese, which is a St. Louis tradition, upon request. But we make New York - style pizza for everyone else."
There's no mistaking the New York intentions at Johnny Brusco's (starting with the restaurant's name), an upstart Georgia chain with three Johnson County locations. (We tried pizza from the one at 8909 West 95th Street, Overland Park, 913-648-6146.) The crust here is yeasty and puffy, though, and the emphasis isn't on simple cheese slices but instead on specialty pies. The menu includes a cream-cheese pizza, a steak-and-cheese pizza, and a chicken-and-ranch pizza - hardly the taste of Brooklyn.
In the heart of downtown Kansas City, Missouri, a new pizzeria has emerged from a familiar joint but with a new name and image. Last year, the River Market wine shop Cellar & Loft (525 Walnut, 816-283-0593) expanded into the former Antonio's Pizza storefront but kept the pizza business intact. Veteran pizza maker Mitch Mey is still here, preparing three specialty New York - style pizzas every day and one featured pizza that changes monthly. "It's still Antonio's pizza, but Mitch creates a combination of what Antonio's pizza was and Cellar & Loft is," manager Dominic Petrucci says.
Several blocks to the south, the saloon called Social, in the historic building formerly occupied by architect Louis Curtiss, is now also the headquarters for Downtown Pizza Co. (1118 McGee, 816-931-3663). This one is a carryout-and-delivery operation, with four sizes of thin-crust pizza in styles both traditional and eccentric (taco pizza, barbecue-bacon cheeseburger). The delivery system is also eccentric. It took a driver an hour to deliver our pizza from about 12 blocks away, and we'd ordered well after lunch. (It's more of a late-night place.)
Here's a sample of reactions polled from a half-dozen Pitch edit staffers, along with a rough estimate of how much time elapsed before the box was empty.
Crust: "Homey." "Chewy crisp."
Sauce: "Oozy and a little sweet"
Gone: In 12 minutes (one medium veggie pie)
Crust: "Powdery." "The best part of this thing."
Sauce: "Salty, like blood"
Cheese: "No, this is the best part."
Gone: There's still a piece sitting out, as though in warning.
CELLAR & LOFT
Crust: "A good chew"
Sauce: "I could have made this at home." "Does that mean you like it?"
Cheese: "Pretty good."
"There should be more of it."
Gone: In four minutes
DOWNTOWN PIZZA CO.
Crust: "A long chew"
Sauce: "Too sweet." "Not sweet enough."
"What's wrong with you?"
Cheese: "This would be really good night cheese."
Gone: We gave it to someone on another floor. Who gave it back. So we finished it. #hungry