Monday, January 20, 2014

Monte Bello Pizza and How I Screwed Up My Back

Sal and I have these great friends we see about once every other month. Typically, we get together for a pizza date, talk about old games, music and the ridiculous people in our life. We hadn't seen them since long before the holidays and made a pizza date at a place called Monte Bello pizza.

The four of us are sort of connoisseurs of pizza. We've been to probably 90% of the pizza joints in the greater St. Louis area. So we decided to take up the challenge of going to a place that none of us had been. We found Monte Bello pizza on several top 10 lists, the Yelp and Google reviews were all really high, and the best part was, it was close to our house.

Sal and I drove directly there after work last Friday, with a bit of hunger already sitting in our stomachs.

The restaurant looks like a house. We almost drove right by it. But this excites me. Typically, the more health codes a pizzeria appears to break, the better the pizza is. As we approached Monte Bello, our noses were filled with delicious smelling toasted raviolis and baking pizza crust. We were getting excited.

Our friends got to the place about 15 minutes before Sallie and I did. They already had a table and water. The entire place had maybe 20 tables, half of which were filled. There were 3 people in the carryout line. Sal and I both thought, "Oh good, this shouldn't take too long."

First thing I noticed was the clientele all appeared to be 50 years old or older. And they were weird people. Like the sort of people when asked, "How was it?" They'll give you the run down of every food item they had and what they thought about it.

And the the chairs sucked. They were like some sort of hybrid church pew folding chair that sat about 4 inches too short for a tall person like me. But, it's a pizzeria in a basement. It's expected.

We sat for 20 minutes before anyone came to get our drink order. A table of 10-12 people behind us got served first. They technically arrived right before Sallie and I, so I guess that's OK, but they also seemed to know the people working in the back. This is when the favoritism started.

Waters came, the server left, we didn't see her again for another 20 minutes to take our food order. It was a simple order, 2 orders of toasted ravioli and 3 pizzas. We waited another 50 minutes.

During this, I went to the restroom. You had to walk to the back of the house and up some stairs. I was greeted with a men's bathroom that was about 30 degrees warmer than anywhere else. I think it was directly above the oven in the kitchen. The door didn't latch. The knob wasn't lined up to connect with the door frame right and the lock wasn't anywhere near adjusted where you could slide the bolt into the hole. There was one toilet and one urinal that had a printed piece of paper that said, "Do not use" on it.

Just to check in, we've been here for 90 minutes, it's 7:45. The server comes out of the back to tell us that they are out of toasted ravioli. We're all bummed out, and in our hunger pains, order mozzarella sticks. As the server goes back to the kitchen to put in our new appetizers, Eric comments something like, "I hope these aren't those crappy frozen mozzarella sticks."

Right as his comment ends, a food runner comes from the kitchen carrying 4-5 orders of toasted ravioli to the table of 12 behind us. Their order went in literally seconds before ours did. Dammit!

We wait another 10 minutes, and sure enough, we get crappy frozen mozzarella sticks. We're too hungry to care by now.

Our water is empty. The server sees this and brings us a half pitcher of water to split between 4 people. Seriously, you can't fill the pitcher up all the way with your tap water?

Finally, at about 8:15, the pizza comes out. Now I was watching them make the pizza the entire time. (Hoping to catch the toppings we ordered being put on one) It's store bought sauce, store bought cheese, some store bought toppings. They might make the dough and I know they make some toppings, but there's nothing super special about it. They supposedly can fit 12 pizzas in their ovens at a time.

In the 2+ hours we've been in this place, I've seen maybe 12 pizzas go out. I just can't figure out the math of how it took so long.

The pizza came out on normal baking sheets you buy from Target. They were sort of cut a squares, but it's like they cut the pizza down the middle and sort of off centered it so that it would fit on the baking sheet.

And the pizza was only OK. I make much better pizza at home. We still scarfed it down as if we hadn't eaten in 3 days.

The server comes to bring us our check and we all have our cards out and ready to go. We weren't going to let her leave without taking the card because we didn't know how long it would be before we saw her again. She even made the comment, "Oh, you all are fast."

She brings back the card, it's one of the few times I didn't leave a good tip. As we're putting our coats on, the server comes back and makes an accusatory comment, "Most people call ahead so that they don't have to wait this long," and then hands us to-go menus.

We stood outside the place for five minutes, unsure if the past three hours of our lives actually happened. It just seemed like a TV show. I was waiting for Aston Kutcher to pop out and say, "Here's the good pizza you expected and it's on the house. You got Punked."

So the next day, I pop out of bed. My back is terribly sore from sitting in those crappy chairs for so long. But, we go to the gym, I stretch, I'm feeling OK.

Later that afternoon, I'm calibrating some brew equipment for next weekend. I'm literally staring at water boiling and bend down to adjust the flame. I feel as if all the muscles in my lower back twist around my spine and pain shoots through all my limbs. I can barely move.

I text Sal to come help me and we waddle back into the house. I'm out for the count. Heating pad, laying on the floor, unable to help myself with anything.

It's now the third day of dealing with this and my back is still sore. I haven't thrown my back out since high-school.

In conclusion, screw Monte Bello.