Written by Emily Wichmer
The family-run Blues City Deli in the Benton Park district of St. Louis is pulling from its roots as its owners prepare to open Melo’s Pizzeria next door to the deli.
Joey Valenza — whose father Vinnie Valenza owns the deli — said he decided to turn the empty garage behind the deli into a pizzeria that could draw in customers looking for another dining option.
“We had a small space here at the pizzeria end, and we wanted to accentuate the deli’s atmosphere with this space,” Joey Valenza says.
Joey Valenza says he decided to open a pizzeria because of a family tradition — his Italian-American grandfather, Carmelo Valenza, spent Christmases making pizzas for the family. Joey Valenza says he decided to name the pizzeria after his grandfather as a tribute to the holiday tradition.
Melo’s uses a Neapolitan crust for its pizza, which Joey Valenza says he chose because of its texture. He said he spent weeks perfecting the recipe to get a perfect Neapolitan crust that is crunchy on the outside but light and soft inside.
Joey Valenza says the menu at Melo’s is based on his Italian heritage. The Dom pizza packs a complex flavor, featuring fresh mozzarella and Grana cheese with basil, oregano, pepperoni and sausage, while the more simple Angelina pizza uses Grana and Romano cheese, green onion and garlic.
After crafting the dough and toppings, the pizzas bake in an artisan wood-burning pizza oven, dubbed “St. Louis the King.” The oven is imposing, spanning from floor to ceiling in the building and taking up an entire corner of the garage.
Once the pizza has cooked, it’s ready for guests to enjoy. Melo’s has limited bar seating, but during
warmer months pizza lovers can enjoy their pie outdoors next to the deli.
Melo’s isn’t set to open for a few months while father and son see how crowds will work with the deli so close. However, the pizzeria has had a few soft openings to get everything ready for its grand opening.
Visitors can check the Blues City Deli Facebook page for alerts on more soft openings during February and March. Melo’s is slated to open officially five days a week by April.