After the debacle of my first visit to Pi earlier this year (read about that here), and the subsequent fall-out of my visit (read about that here), I can say that owner Chris Sommers did bend over backward to make up for the mistakes that were made on my original visit. Recently, we were in St. Louis for a couple ballgames and we had dinner at the original Pi restaurant in the U City Loop on Delmar (see map).
If you haven't read the original posts - or don't have the time to click the links to go back and see what happened - in a nutshell, they screwed up my pizza at the Pi location in the Central West End. And they kept making it worse as they went along. As one commenter wrote, "They should have just made you another pizza instead of trying to fix the one they screwed up." Well, that's sort of how I felt. I knew the problems I encountered in my first visit was an anomaly and I was going to eventually re-visit Pi at some point. But I had no idea as to the fire storm my original post would cause.
A regular "Road Tips" reader will link some of my St. Louis entries to the great restaurant forum - Eat at Joe's - in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He linked the original post on Pi and the comments from the readers were somewhat explosive regarding my experience at Pi - both on the "Eat at Joe's" forum and on "Road Tips", as well. One of the commenters on the Post-Dispatch forum was Pi owner Chris Sommers. He was sincerely embarrassed for the situation and promised to have each of his employees read my entry and have it discussed at weekly meetings at his three restaurants.
Through the gentleman who linked the original 'Road Tips" post to the "Eat at Joe's" forum, Chris Sommers sent me an e-mail that once again offered his apologies and invited me to come back to Pi and have a large pizza, four beers and a free dessert on him. After a recent Cardinals game, our friends Scott and Marcia, Cindy and I went to Pi for a late dinner after a long day.
We had parked at the Delmar Loop Metrolink parking lot and took the light rail system to the game earlier in the day. By the time we got back, it was after 11 p.m. It was still warm out and even though the large outside seating area in front of Pi looked inviting and very comfortable, we all voted to eat indoors in the air conditioning.
There are two dining areas in the original Pi location. There's a main dining area with a bar sort of cordoned off by a half wall next to it. Another large dining room is off to the side of the main dining area. The decor is sort of a mix of contemporary stylings and art deco. Behind the bar is a large photograph mural of a bamboo forest. Cindy said, "That looks like some of the bamboo forests we saw on Maui!"
The restaurant was not very busy as the hostess sat us at a table in the main dining room and gave us our menus. She told us our waiter would be with us shortly. We sort of looked through the menus and I was thinking that a cold beer would taste pretty good since it had been a while since I'd had my last one at the game. I remembered that Pi only serves beer on tap - primarily Bell's, New Belgium and Schlafly products - - and I saw that they had the Bell's Two Hearted Ale on tap that evening. That sounded damn good at the time.
After a couple three minutes, the hostess brought us all a glass of water and set them on our table. A couple more minutes passed - no waiter had shown up. They didn't appear to be *that* busy and I began to worry that possibly - just possibly - we were in for another somewhat horrific experience at Pi. I commented to the group, "Notice anything weird about this place?"
Marcia immediately said, "Yeah, no one's come over to greet us or take a drink order." She also commented that she didn't think it was busy and wondered why no one had come over.
A couple minutes later, a lanky young guy by the name of Elliott came by the table. He sort of let out a breath of air and said, "Folks! Sorry for the wait! It seemed like all of my tables wanted their checks at once! What can I get you folks to drink?" Scott and I got the Bell's Two Hearted Ale and the girls got iced tea. Elliott said he'd be right back with our drinks and to take our order.
We decided that we were somewhat hungry, but not overly hungry. Scott proposed that Marcia and he would get their own small pizza and I said, "Look, a large pizza will give each of us a couple pieces. That's all I need."
Scott said, "Oh! OK! Well, that's all I really need, too." We looked through the list of toppings that are available on a Pi pizza and three of us - all except Cindy - wanted mushrooms. Cindy said that she could pick the mushrooms off her slices.
Marcia wanted some sort of meat on the pizza - sausage or pepperoni. I said, "We can get both!" And Cindy proposed putting some roasted garlic on the pizza. OK, we were ready.
When Elliott came back with the drinks, I told him that I had a letter from Chris Sommers, detailing the free pizza, beers and dessert. He stood there for a moment, read the letter and said, "OK, then! What can I get you?"
We ordered up the large, deep dish pizza. He said, "We're not that busy in the kitchen right now so we should be able to get this out pretty quick."
After Elliott left to put in our order, Marcia observed that he didn't even flinch after reading the letter. She said, "I was fully expecting him to say, 'Now, what's this?' or say, 'I have to go get a manager'. He just read the letter and said, 'Well, OK!' I was sort of expecting that he would have to get the OK from someone higher up before he took the order."
Given that Chris Sommers commented on the "Eat at Joe's" forum that my original blog entry would be required reading by any who worked for him, I said, "I half expected someone to come over to the table and say, 'Oh, so it was YOU who wrote about your experience at the West End Pi." I certainly hoped no one at Pi would make a big deal about this. Elliott handled it beautifully.
As Elliott said, our pizza didn't take much more than about 20 minutes from the time we ordered to the time we got it on the table. This time, it did have all the toppings that we'd ordered and it was piping hot out of the oven.
While I don't overly care for the San Francisco-style corn meal crust on the Pi pizza, I really do like the fresh ingredients - including the chunky tomato sauce they have on their pizza. Marcia really liked the large chunk sausage on the pizza. "This is really good sausage," she remarked. And the garlic was very pungent and forward, but didn't detract from the overall taste. It was a wonderful addition to my three staples of toppings that I get on pizza.
Scott and Cindy both said they liked the pizza, although Cindy's somewhat spoiled when it comes to a good deep dish pizza. "It was good," she said. "But we've had much better pizza in Chicago."
That late in the evening, two pieces of pizza was all I really needed. I had a couple beers while Scott nursed his one beer along for the meal. Elliott came back with the dessert menu - a number of ice-cream based desserts were available that evening. But we all decided that the two pieces of pizza each were enough. Besides, it was just coming up to midnight and we were ready to get back to the hotel. As I said, it had been a long, hot day. So Pi saved on one beer and one dessert from their generous offer to try their pizza again.
After telling Elliott that we weren't going to get dessert this time - even though it would have been on the house - he cleared the remaining dishes off the table and took them away. He came back a moment later and said, "OK, folks - the meal is on the house! I'll be sure to tell Chris that you stopped in!"
I knew that as successful as Pi as been in the nearly 2 1/2 years it's been in existence that my first visit was a minor bump in the road. Sometimes it helps to complain that things aren't going well and sometimes it's good to have a travel/food blog that points out that the problems you faced during a visit. I've never had as much attention lavished upon me since my first visit to Pi and I certainly appreciate the gesture put forth by Chris Sommers. The next time I go to Pi, I'd really like to try one of their thin crust pizzas. I can just imagine they're pretty damn good. And I hope the service will be as exemplary as what Elliott showed us that evening.