Monte Bello: A Basement Pizza Kitchen That's About to Become St. Louis' Worst-Kept Secret

Housemade Italian sausage pizza.
Before coming in to man the oven in the evenings, Nix works a full-time day job at Aardvark USA, his girlfriend Lynn's screen-printing company. His staff currently consists of two waitresses, with Lynn and his mom, now 80 years old, lending a hand every now and then. The hot oven he stands behind is the same World War II-era double-deck steel rig that cooked up large volumes of pizza back in the day.

Nix discusses the differences between Monte Bello's thin-crust pizzas and the St. Louis-style pizzas most of us know all too well. For starters -- pizza purists, take heed -- he doesn't use Provel. Instead, he uses a Hobart mixer to grate four different cheeses with a blend of spices.

While many restaurants use premade crusts, Monte Bello's makes its own. In fact, Nix says he even tried the premade stuff once, and it simply couldn't support the amount of sauce and toppings he likes to put on each pie.

"Basically, using those crusts would require you to use little sauce, not a lot of toppings and not a lot of cheeses," he says. "To me, you're not giving people their money's worth that way. That's not what we're about. We want you to make sure you're getting what you pay for."

Signage from the street.
That said, expect a bit of a wait if you're dining in -- about 25 to 30 minutes until everything melts together into a molten slab of cheesy wonder, cut into bite-size crispy squares and served on a metal sheet tray. The key difference we noted: Everything feels substantial, including a heavier crust and equally bountiful toppings -- certainly no ketchup on a cracker.

"Lynn says they're made with love, but I say I don't make them with love -- I make them with pride," says Nix. "I always try to make them the best that I can."

Nix says he one day hopes to open the bar upstairs again. But for now, he's focusing on the restaurant and getting all the permits squared away to serve beer and wine in the dining room again.

Monte Bello Pizzeria is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m. For the menu and updates, follow it via the Monte Bello Pizzeria Facebook page.

Click through to get a taste of the Monte Bello Pizzeria experience.

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