By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief
This is not your father’s Hugo’s pizza.
That was the message Paul Hampton sent me last week with a link to a story about a new St. Louis restaurant that is opening soon in Midtown.
Hugo’s Pizzeria is the name and the story from Feast Magazine said “the debut menu features a variety of specialty pies including a pizza with garlic oil, mushrooms, Fontina and rosemary. Twists on traditional toppings include a variety of housemade pepperoni options including French duck, Buffalo chicken, vegan, spicy beef and a house version made with grass-fed beef.”
Paul is correct. This is not your father’s Hugo’s. In fact, it’s not your mother’s Hugo’s and it’s not your Hugo’s.
The Hugo’s that Paul and I are referencing is the old Biloxi restaurant that served straightforward Italian food and the best pizza south of Chicago. It’s one of my all-time favorite restaurants.
This was the place that began the tradition of French dressing on pizza, and the wildest toppings, if you want to call them wild, would be shrimp and anchovies. I usually went for the large sausage or meatball along with a cheeseburger po-boy, a plate of onion rings and two Barq’s.
Grass-fed was never a concept when I was introduced to the Biloxi Hugo’s during my Catholic elementary school days in the 1960s. Had it been a concept, I probably would have spit out grass-fed food. What 12-year-old in their right mind would have wanted grass in their food?
At 65, I grasp grass-fed and I’m sure the grass-fed and not grass-fed food at the St. Louis Hugo’s will be very, very good. I hope to go there someday and erase the memories of my worst pizza experience, which was in St. Louis more than 20 years ago.
Patty, Kristin and I went to a restaurant on a Saturday evening in the classic Italian neighborhood of The Hill. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but the place was so packed we had to wait 90 minutes for a table.
I had no doubts the pizza would be great because this appeared to be a popular restaurant, but things started going downhill on The Hill when we had a very mediocre salad before our large pizza arrived.
I wish the pizza had never arrived. It was terrible. Cheap American cheese. Cheap white cheese. Wafer-thin crust. Cheap pepperoni. Pupperoni would have been preferable.
This was easily the worst pizza experience in my life. It was shockingly bad, and Patty and Kristin felt the same way.
All these years later, we’re still dealing with a form of PTSD called Pizza Traumatic Stress Disorder. Maybe the St. Louis Hugo’s will be the cure. I know the Biloxi Hugo’s would be.
Editor’s note: The image with this post is a photo that Hugo’s Pizzeria in St. Louis published on its Facebook page in March. The restaurant will be opening soon, but it has no relation to the old Biloxi Hugo’s except in name and the love for making pizza.