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Thai Pizza Co in St. Louis: Testing the Universality of Pizza

Serious Eats Chicago contributor Daniel Zemans checks in with another piece of intel from the road, this time in St. Louis. —The Mgmt.

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[Photographs: Daniel Zemans]

Thai Pizza Co.

608 Eastgate, St. Louis, MO 63130 (map); 314-862-4429‎; patsthairestaurants.com
Pizza Style: Thin crust
Oven Type: Gas
The Skinny: A noble but unsuccessful attempt to expand the pizza world
Price: 9" pizzas are $8 each
Notes: Closed Wednesdays

On a recent trip to St. Louis, I was wandering down Delmar in the Loop, when neon lights a few doors down a side street called out to me. I ran over to see if my eyes were telling the truth and was ecstatic to discover a restaurant called Thai Pizza Co. The restaurant is owned by Supatana "Pat" Prapaisilapa, who deserves credit for being one of the first and most successful people to bring Thai food to St. Louis. Thai Pizza Co. is one of six Thai restaurants run by Prapaisilapa in St. Louis. The company's website actually gives Prapaisilapa credit for introducing Thai food to St. Louis, a claim whose veracity I cannot confirm or disprove. As he built up his empire, he stayed focused in the same neighborhood, which sits on the border of St. Louis and University City, very close to Washington University.

Thai Pizza Co. started serving up pizza in 2004, when the space that formerly housed Thai Seafood, another Prapaisilapa venture. The concept is pretty straightforward—take Thai food and put it between a pizza crust and some cheese. Other than the sandwich, there may be no type of food more adaptable to different cultures than pizza. But after my experience eating Korean pizza at Cheogajip and now this one at Thai Pizza Co., I'm starting to question the universality of pizza because this one did not work for me at all.

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There really isn't much worth reporting on the actual pizza. There are twelve different options for toppings and two different crusts, one thin and one thick. I opted for a thin crust with green curry, which included chicken, mushrooms, onions, green peas, fresh basil, coconut milk and bell pepper. The virtually flavorless factory made crust was neither remotely crisp nor pleasantly chewy. The cheese, listed on the menu as mozzarella but actually a combination of mozzarella and cheddar, was the best part of the pizza. That blend, which is standard at The Pizza Company, the biggest pizza chain in Thailand, could work, but here served to completely overwhelm a relatively bland and completely sauceless green curry chicken.

20091021ThaiPizzaSide 2.jpg Part of the conflict between the cheese and the toppings was due to the sheer quantity of cheese, but I can't help but wonder if there are parts of the globe where people have a problem merging their cuisines with a good crust and appropriate cheese (I'm looking at you, East and Southeast Asia). I suppose it makes sense that people who do not ordinarily incorporate cheese into their cooking would have trouble merging the flavors they normally put out with cheese, but it still pained me to discover that the Thai Chicken Pizza at California Pizza Kitchen is leaps and bounds better than the pie I had at Thai Pizza Co.

Despite my experience at Thai Pizza Co. and Cheogajip, I'm holding out hope that either there is East or Southeast Asian pizza that will either shock me with their deliciousness or at least have a taste i can learn to love. Slice readers, I ask you: Have you ever had pizzas you really enjoyed that featured foods from places that don't normally use cheese in their cuisine?

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