pizza via photo by michelle volansky

First Look: Pizza Via in the Central West End

After 10 collective years of running Pizzeoli in Soulard and Pizza Head in Tower Grove East – though he’s sold both of them –  Pizza Via owner Scott Sandler comes to his new restaurant at 4501 Maryland Ave. in the Central West End with a few new ideas.

He’s thinking artisan crusts, he’s thinking nuts. “I love nuts on pizza,” he said and went on to talk about a marriage of ingredients that isn’t on the menu yet, but possibly will be soon. Specifically, ricotta, basil, a little rosemary, hard Italian cheese and pistachios. 

The star of the show in this 1,600-square-foot space is the brick oven, a blazing inferno fired by oak wood that heats to 700 degrees. Simplicity is key here, from the “Pizza” sign to the blue-and-red Pizza Via logo (designed by Sandler’s 16-year-old daughter), along with the dusty blue walls, red chairs and a minimal, five-strong list of pies: Queen Margherita, King pepperoni, White Knight spinach, Earth Mother vegan with a walnut pâté, and plain white pie with ricotta, pecorino and basil. There’s also cheese for the kids. “I’m interested in consistent, quality pizza served in a timely manner,” Sandler said.

When we asked him when pizza first figured in his life, and what accounts for this “passion,” we were surprised. “Pizza Hut,” he said, but thankfully expounded a little. “I hated it. I’d go to friends’ birthday parties and I’d pack my own PB&J.” When he was older, the local Pizza Palace in his New Jersey hometown left an impression. “Mediocre ingredients, but OK overall.”  More recently, Sandler took a trip to Naples, Italy, and conducted  some “research” at L’antica Pizzeria de Michele. Founded in 1870, this pizza restaurant has a total of two pies on its menu. This, for Sandler, was worth paying attention to: Business has been so brisk at that restaurant the last 154 years, that it now issues tickets to temper the crowd.

So, with almost a lifetime of field work under his belt, Sandler is fine-tuning, further honing his craft. And it’s likely that, nestled in this residential nook not far from the cathedral, and just far enough from the CWE “strip,” Pizza Via may capture a solid corner of the market.

Pizza Via seats 24 inside and 12 more on its pleasant patio out front, where he plans to grow his herbs. Pizza is available until it sells out, which it did its first three nights of business. Sandler said a liquor license is in the works, but may be a little while yet. For now, they have both still and sparkling bottled water, cans of Coke, Diet Coke, Italian soda and apple juice.

The pizzeria is open Wednesday through Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. or until it sells out.