Pizza Via will open in Central West End in early April

Pizza Via will open at 4501 Maryland Ave. in the Central West End in early April. The pizzeria is the latest restaurant from Scott Sandler, who previously founded Pizzeoli in Soulard and Pizza Head in Tower Grove East, both of which he later sold to separate buyers.

Located on the corner of Maryland and Taylor avenues, the site has been home to a series of pizza-centric concepts over the past decade, including Pizzeria Mia, Cork n’ Slice Wood Fire Bistro and most recently Cafe Ciao. The restaurant measures around 1,600 square feet, but Sandler said that Pizza Via will initially only use part of the available space, enough to seat around 20 diners. “I'm going to start off on the smaller side, but there's room to grow,” Sandler said. The streetside patio affords the option of adding a few more tables outside. “Two or three, maybe four [tables] depending, but not more than four tables for sure,” he said. The pizzeria will also accommodate takeout orders, which Sandler anticipates will make up around half of the restaurant’s business.

Sandler inherited the brick oven that has been part of the space for the past decade, and he said it’s a trusty piece of equipment. “Anything that comes out of the wood-fired oven is really good,” he said. Pizza Via will serve 14-inch pies that Sandler describes as “artisan-style thin crust.” He’s reluctant to get more specific with category labels, but he did say that Pizza Via will be distinct from his previous restaurants. “I don’t want to do the same thing again,” he said. Pizza Via won’t have the same range of vegetarian and vegan pizzas as Sandler’s former pizzerias, but he said there will always be a vegan option at Pizza Via.

The menu will offer about four or five signature pizzas with a few toppings as optional add-ons. Sandler said he’ll put an emphasis on high-quality ingredients, with a base pie topped with crushed San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, a hard cheese like Pecorino Romano, olive oil and basil. “I’m probably going to do a red onion, pistachio and rosemary-style pie with some Pecorino and fresh mozzarella as well, and some lemon on there,” Sandler said. Other pizzas in the works include a hot salami pie and a white pizza with garlic, ricotta and arugula.

With Sandler prepping and baking all of the pizza himself, at least initially, he doesn’t plan on offering a full build-your-own option. “I just really want to make sure it doesn't get too complicated,” he said. “It’s going to be simple, high quality and limited.” The opening menu will only feature pizza, but Sandler said he plans to add a house salad to the menu at some point. Pizza Via won’t sell any alcohol, but a limited range of Italian sodas and other sodas will be offered.

Initially, Pizza Via will be open for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday, with hours most likely to run from about 4:30 to 9 p.m. Sandler said he hopes to eventually be able to open for lunch on Friday and Saturday, as well as for dinner service on additional days. “We can see how it goes with limited staffing and see how that works as the base model, and then maybe at one point get to seven days a week potentially,” he said. “It’s not easy to work a wood-fired oven. You’ve got to find the right talent, so I’ll be doing all the pizzas probably for the first year.”

Pizza Via is currently slated for an early April launch. “I'm getting really close,” Sandler said. “I still have to do some interior stuff and figure out our flow system of ordering and executing in that space … just trying to figure out how it can work the smoothest.”

After several years out of the local pizza scene, Sandler said he’s excited to be back with a concept he believes will bring value to the Central West End (which he noted is currently light on pizzerias). “I like the pizza world. I like the people in it,” he said. “Once I had made my mind up that I wanted to do something, I was just waiting for the right opportunity.”