Bringing Us All Together
Vito Meets Sicily: Café Piazza’s story begins in Sicily, Italy, where Vito’s father would take him for the summers. The daily socializing in the piazzas was something Vito would never forget. Even more so, the pizza chefs – or pizzaiolos – and their devotion to the profession stuck with him throughout the years. This is where Vito’s love affair with the pizza world sparked.
Back home in St. Louis, Vito’s aspiration to become a second generation pizzaiolo took off. Growing up with an authentic Sicilian influence, he watched as his father worked the crowd at their pizzeria in South St. Louis. His mother taught him the art of sauce-making with her authentic Sicilian marinara recipe. A method passed down by generations, each batch takes five hours to make. Despite the labor involved, Vito was so passionate about the sauce that he began local production and distribution of Mama’s Sugo – named in honor of his mother. After receiving his hospitality management degree from St. Louis University, his restaurateur journey began. Prior to the inception of Café Piazza, Vito’s Sicilian Pizzeria & Ristorante was his primary focus.
Tim Meets Vito: At age 14, Tim Meinecke started working at Vito’s Ristorante as a bus boy. Shortly after graduating from the University of Missouri with a degree in hotel and restaurant management, he opened Café 32 at the Lake of the Ozarks and Smokin’ Chick’s BBQ in Columbia, MO. When Vito needed a new executive chef at his ristorante, he immediately thought of the talent and energy Tim would bring to the table. Tim accepted, and for the last five years served as the executive chef for the restaurant that gave him his first job. Tim and Vito’s culinary chemistry picked up right where it left off, and with many years of history behind them, it was easy to see how visions of Café Piazza began to simmer. Their excitement about establishing something more than just the typical café continued to grow. Tim and Vito knew they wanted to open an “experience,” not just a place to eat. And so, the concept of Café Piazza ripened into a piazza – a neighborhood anchor, a family-friendly gathering place. Tim is now the executive chef and owner/operator of Café Piazza: an experience that brings people together around pizza.
Mike Meets Tim: Michael Stampfl grew up right here, in Benton Park. He and Tim became roommates in Columbia, MO, while attending Mizzou. They worked together at SkiHi Bar & Grill, and that’s when they discovered they both shared an equal love for working in kitchens and creating beautiful plates of food. Once Tim opened Café 32, Mike went to work for him and they picked up right where they left off. Mike eventually returned to St. Louis and began working at Benton Park Café. For seven years he served as a jack-of-all-trades, executing the brunch and dinner menu as well as training new staff members. A seasoned manager by this time, Mike was recruited to Vito’s Ristorante where he served as sous chef and has recently been serving as executive chef since Tim has taken on Café Piazza. With over 10 years of kitchen history in the making, Mike and Tim knew they could combine their talents and bring it full circle, and Café Piazza is the completion. Mike and Tim continue their kitchen synergy with Mike serving as sous chef at Café Piazza.
And the story will only continue….