District of Pi

$$$$ ($15-$24)
District of Pi  photo
Bill O'Leary/The Post

Editorial Review

Only the wings fly high here
By Tom Sietsema
Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011

Everyone at District of Pi is so!


To see you!

Coby Arzola, the general manager of the St.Louis-based pizza purveyor, says part of what sets District of Pi apart from the pack of pie shops around town is its "culture of hospitality." Indeed, I haven't counted more smiles in one place since the last time I caught a Miss America pageant.

The setting puts me in a good mood, too. Pi's 220 seats are packaged in light-filled dining rooms of exposed brick and mirrors that make the big space feel even bigger. Cheery, red-checked napkins brighten the bare table tops, which are also set with raised pizza stands awaiting the inevitable order of thin or deep-dish pizza. Several visits reveal a scene that is, as a friend aptly stated, "very popular with the ID-tag-around-the-neck" crowd.

You might already be familiar with the product. District of Pi made its debut in Washington as a food truck in February. Construction issues delayed the opening of the brick-and-mortar operation until August.

Cornmeal finds its way into both styles of pizza. The deep-dish version (nine- or 12-inch) mixes cornmeal into the dough; the thin crust (12- or 16-inch) picks up cornmeal from the bottom of its crust. Both models are cooked in 450-degree rolling convection ovens.

And both pizzas, I'm sorry to report, are pretty dull, despite whatever toppings might land on them. Arzola says Pi's "biggest compliments have come from Chicagoans," but, having eaten dozens of slices of deep-dish pizza in the Windy City over the years, I have to think the support group is suffering from a severe bout of homesickness. There is nothing about the stiff, tasteless crust to compel me to eat it. On my last visit, I denuded the deep-dish pizza of its robust tomato chunks and left the rest of the disappointment behind.

Better prospects are mined in the appetizers. Consider making a meal of them: maybe the tender meatballs, tasty with ground pork and beef and a tangy drape of tomato sauce; the garlicky chickpea dip with vegetables; some Thai-style cucumber slices; or, best of all, a flock of chicken wings. Arzola says the cooks marinate the pieces in a Pi-made spice blend for 24 hours and bake the wings rather than fry them. The process makes for a crunchy, meaty, compelling snack.

District of Pi? Better to think of it as District of Wings.