Back in Jefferson City on a mission to put on a new dealer there, it turned out that the product that I had intended to demonstrate to said dealer didn't get delivered (thanks to Saia Freight Company) before I got there. Without the product, I couldn't do a proper demonstration. Trying to make the best of a situation, I still held a meeting but I don't know if my points were effective enough without having the product on hand. Dejected and needing a cold beer, I went back to my hotel in downtown Jeff City. I talked to a young lady at the front desk and asked her about the pizza at Prison Brews that looked pretty good the first time I had eaten there a few weeks before. (Click here to see my entry on Prison Brews.) She said, "Oh, if you want pizza, you need to go over to Arris' Pizza. It's the best around, by far. " And she said it wasn't far from the hotel. A walk or a drive, I asked. She said I could probably walk to it, but since it was a cold and blustery night, I drove over.
Arris Pardalos was born in 1935 in a village near Mount Olympus in Greece. After his family moved to the United States, they settled down in Central Missouri. It was the early 60's and Arris Pardalos had a pizza recipe that he wanted to share with the public. Finding that Jefferson City had a scarcity of pizza parlors, Arris - with the help of his brother, George - opened Arris' Pizza Parlor in 1961, just across from the Missouri State Capitol building. George went on to open the G&D Steakhouse and Arris was joined in the business by his wife, Georgia.
The popularity of Arris' pizza allowed the restaurant to grow from a small location to adding two more buildings next to the original Arris' Pizza Palace. As the years went on, Arris' Pizza Palace franchised other Missouri locations in Springfield, Osage Beach, Fulton and Columbia. Pictured at right is Arris Pardalos and - I believe - his great-nephew (George's grandson) George Pardalos who now runs the day-to-day operation of Arris' Pizza Palace in Jeff City. (George Pardalos, along with his wife, Olga, also operates Arris' Bistro and Liquid Lounge in Jefferson City.)
It was about a five block drive from my hotel to Arris' Pizza on a unseasonably cold evening. Had it been warmer, I would have just made the walk. Instead, I pulled up in front of the original Arris' Pizza Palace on West High across from the Missouri State Capitol building. (see map) I entered the building and was met by a couple young women at the hostess stand. There weren't very many people in the place and I had my choice of sitting either in the main dining room (below left) or the bar area (below left). I said the bar area would be fine.
I was to a booth in the corner of the cozy and warm bar area. Soft Greek jazz music was playing in the background. The hostess dropped off a menu and it wasn't long before the bartender/server, Amanda, came over to greet me. "What 'cha gonna have to drink, hon," she asked me in a down-home Mid-Missouri way. I ordered up a beer. "You got it, hon," she said as she went to get me a cold one. I immediately liked her.
Arris' Pizza Palace has a lot more to offer than their thin-crust Greek-style pizza. They also offer a number of Greek entrees including souvlaki and chicken Sharas (marinated chicken breast in Greek dressing and grilled), pasta dishes, sandwiches - including gyros and subs, salads and traditional Greek appetizers along with appetizers such as chicken wings, toasted ravioli, breaded mushrooms and jalapeno poppers.
But I was there for the pizza. When Amanda came back to drop off my beer, she said, "You know what your gonna get, hon?" I told her that I wanted a small pizza (10") with sausage, pepperoni and mushrooms. She asked me what kind of crust I wanted. "Crispy, not so crispy, light or traditional," she gave as options. I just said that I wanted just what they're known for. "Traditional," she said. "OK, hon, I'll get that out for you."
About 15 minutes after I ordered, Amanda came out with my pizza. I could tell from the first look at it that I would thoroughly enjoy eating this pizza. It was the typical Greek-style of pizza - rolled edges, thin crust, party-cut slices with thick balls of sausage on top of each slice. It immediately reminded me of Steve's Pizza Palace in River Falls, WI, and Alex's Pizza Palace in Rolla, MO, both outstanding Greek-style pizza places. (Click here to see my entry on Steve's Pizza Palace and click here to see my entry on Alex's Pizza Palace.)
From the first bite, I could tell that this was definitely a great pizza. The sauce was light, but tangy. There was just enough mozzarella cheese on the pizza to be noticeable, but not overpowering. The crust was lightly crispy, but not cracker thin and brittle. The mushrooms were there, but not anything special. The pepperoni was salty and had a little spicy kick. And the sausage had a great taste with each party-cut slice. It was a great pizza and it easily passed my "Does it taste good with a beer" test.
The four best pieces of any party cut pizza are the ones left in the middle - or the "honey pot", as I like to refer to them as. There's no crust and all the ingredients sort of slide toward the middle. It's also where the grease collects and the cheese coagulates. The "honey pot" pieces on an Arris' pizza were just outstanding.
After I took care of the bill with Amanda, I took a look around the place. I was taking pictures of some of the colorful murals on the walls and a woman who was standing with two of the young ladies at the hostess stand brusquely asked, "Are you trying to steal some of our ideas?"
Now, I don't like to tell people that I'm doing a blog, but I thought her question was a little rough and rather defensive. I just told her that I liked to take pictures of places where I eat on the road. With that, one of the other young ladies standing there came over to where I was and told me that the murals were all painted by an art professor from the local William Woods University. She pointed out a mural of Arris and his family, as well as ones that depicted Greek villages and ports. They were actually very colorful and beautiful.
With my three-topping pizza and three beers, my bill before tax and tip came to just over $20 bucks. It was a great pizza and - I thought - a pretty good value. Arris' Pizza Palace has been in business for over 50 years and I was told that the pizza ovens they use are probably the originals giving their pizzas more of that signature taste. It's my guess that while the other Arris' Pizza locations are good, it will be tough to beat the pizza at the original location in Jefferson City.