Behind the counter at Missouri Pizza Co., staff toss freshly crafted dough and concoct made-from-scratch sauces and dressings. Chicken wings sizzle in the smoker. A chalkboard menu introduces the specials of the day: signature pizzas, salads, pasta and handmade toasted ravioli.                                      

Located in St. James, Missouri, a town of 4,000 that boasts award-winning wineries and trout fishing, this pizza restaurant attracts locals and out-of-towners alike for its fresh, unique food. Everything from the pizza dough to wings to salads is made on the spot. “We don’t even have a freezer in the building,” owner Bubba Cunningham says. 

Missouri Pizza offers a delicious menu, but the restaurant is more than just a place to eat. It’s not an in-and-out destination – it’s the kind of place that tempts customers to stay a while with arcade games, shuffleboard, foosball and board games. When spring arrives, the large overhead windows are raised to convert half of the space into indoor/outdoor seating and let in the fresh air. But if you can’t make it out to the restaurant, it also delivers to the St. James/Rolla area.

Cunningham takes pizza seriously. When Missouri Pizza first launched, he and his staff tried 17 different types of pepperoni to find the one that was just right for their pizza. They “cold-proof” their dough to add extra flavor, which is a process that Cunningham compares to slow-cooking meat, and then finish it in a wood-fired oven. For those with allergies, alternate crusts are available, including a gluten-free crust made with rice flour and honey, as well as a cauliflower crust.

Along with classic toppings, Missouri Pizza also offers pizza varieties such as chicken alfredo, Buffalo chicken, chicken-bacon-ranch and the Hawaiian Queen, which is topped with Canadian bacon, hickory-smoked bacon and fresh pineapple. The price runs from $7.50 to $14.99, depending on size.

Missouri Pizza’s chicken wings are smoked with oak wood and served with housemade sauces – “nothing out of a bottle,” says Cunnningham. The pasta noodles are made from scratch and smothered in house alfredo or meat sauces. But it’s the salads, Cunningham says, that are “the most underrated part of the menu.” Fresh veggies top bacon or chicken and are finished off with creamy ranch, blue cheese or another favorite dressing.

Customers can top off their meals with local Ski soda from Excel Bottling Co. or choose beer or wine. Dessert options include MO Dough 'sert Bites, or handmade bread balls covered in cinnamon sugar and icing.

Visitors are drawn to Missouri Pizza for the food and the atmosphere. “You don’t need to be fancy, and we always have good tunes,” Cunningham says. “Come give us a shot. We’ll treat you good while you’re here.”

In order to maintain social distancing requirements, Missouri Pizza Co. currently offers no-contact delivery, which can be selected when ordering online or when placing an order over the phone. Customers pay in advance by credit card, and the order is left by the front door for convenient pickup. 

Missouri Pizza Co. is open Monday through Thursday from 11am to 9pm and Saturday from 11am to 10pm.

Missouri Pizza Co., 115 E. Springfield St., St. James, Missouri, 573.265.6672, mopizzaco.com