Pi Pizzeria offers tasty options for gluten-free and vegan students

| Contributing Writer

Laura Harvey | Student Life

Diners at Pi Pizzeria on Delmar Blvd. enjoy sidewalk dining on The Loop. Pi’s gluten-free crust was deliciously savory.

Students with dietary restrictions will be glad to know that Pi Pizza offers a variety of options that are as delicious as they are safe and healthy.

The restaurant, whose closest location is at 6144 Delmar Boulevard, has four locations in the St. Louis area. However, its multiple locations don’t deprive it of its independent and local feeling. Just a casual glance at the diners reveals everyone from hipster couples complete with ironic mullets to conservatively dressed elderly couples and WUSTL students.

But let’s get to the good stuff. The pizzas are broken down into two categories: thin crust and Chicago-style deep dish. From there, one can choose from many chef-created blends of toppings inspired by local neighborhoods or create their own pizza. For those without restrictions, the topping options are endless, from seasoned local ground beef to preserved lemons.

However, those who are gluten-free or vegan will rejoice knowing that the restaurant takes their diet seriously and provides tasty options. Vegan cheese and meat substitutes are both available, as is gluten-free thin crust.

Made specially for the pizzeria by French Meadows Bakery, the gluten-free, vegan crust is not the average flimsy base, with a texture closer to Styrofoam than any recognizable bread product. Instead, its texture is solid, a crunchy crust with a sturdy center. While perhaps a bit bland compared to a traditional crust, in the world gluten-free it does not disappoint.

“There’s nothing different about it, but what I will say is it feels almost healthier,” freshman Natalie Johnson said about the crust.

The kitchen staff uses separate prep areas, ovens, and cutters to prepare its gluten free items, which lowers the risk of cross-contamination for those with Celiac. The wait staff was also sensitive to the issue and familiar with the struggles of maintaining a gluten-free diet. While I have experienced many waiters being somewhere along the range of clueless to dismissive, my waiter’s understanding of my diet put my fears to rest. Also, he made sure to note that the kitchen was careful with whatever allergy a diner might have, be it nuts, gluten, or even something less trendy at the moment.

Now for toppings, because everyone who knows that the toppings make up for what a gluten free crust might lack. I sampled four different menu options: Central West End, Maplewood, Kirkwood, and the Delmar. Each offered a unique but harmonious compilation of ingredients.

The Central West End was a mouth-watering blend of mozzarella, goat cheese, onions, grape tomatoes, prosciutto and arugula. While the arugula felt like a flavorless afterthought, the other toppings created a mildly sweet balance, with both a crunchy and creamy textures providing a substantive base.

The Maplewood provided a nice spice, based more in a depth of flavor than an overzealous heat, with its blend of mozzarella, fontina, cherry peppers, and house-made spicy sausage. The garnish of fresh basil added a tinge of freshness that relieved the heaviness of the other flavors.

The others at my table raved about the Delmar, with its tangy barbeque sauce, and the Kirkwood, a new pizza to the menu, which the waiter compared to a meatball sub.

At Pi Pizza, there were no culinary disappointments. Instead, only its relatively high price, about $15-$20 per person, and its distance, a one hour round-trip from the Clocktower, were its only weaknesses. To anyone on campus with a dietary restriction, be it vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free, I urge you to try Pi Pizza, provided you have the time and a bit of spare cash.