O'FALLON — Pizza is Alex Prifti's life.
"This is me!" said the 61-year-old of his one-man operation he simply calls Alex's Pizza.
Working out of a small store in a strip mall along U.S. 50, he's drawing a lot of attention for his New York-style pies. He's a whiz at tossing the thin crusts that come out crispy-yet-still-foldable.
"That's they way you eat 'em in the Empire state -- you fold 'em in half," said Casey Edwards, 29, a New York transplant who now lives in O'Fallon. He has eaten pizza from Alexa's twice. "He knows how to add the right amount of sauce and cheese and he makes this cool Lasagna Pizza that's to die for!"
The specialty Lasagna Pizza ($12.95 for a 12-inch or $13.95 for a 14-inch) has marinara sauce, mozzarella, ricotta cheese and green peppers on it.
Alex says it's one of his top three sellers, along with Alex's Deluxe, which includes cheese, sausage, ham, pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers and onions. Rounding out the list is the Meat Lover's, topped with cheese, sausage, ham, pepperoni, bacon and ground beef. Both, as well as a veggie pizza, come in 10-, 12- and 14-inch sizes and are priced at $10.95/$13.95/$15.95.
Other specialty pizzas include Chicken Pesto, Chicken Wings and White Ricotta pizzas.
You're welcome to make your own version with plenty of topping choices, from $6.95 for a small cheese to $12.95 for a large two-topping. Want more? Additional ingredients are 75 cents to $2 each, depending on the pizza.
Alex escaped from Albania in 1980, came to the United States in 1981, and lived in New York for a couple decades, running various restaurant and catering businesses. Italian food has always been his specialty.
After a divorce, he ended up in St. Louis three years ago, where he knew other Albanian immigrants. He came to the O'Fallon location of a former Pizza World to stand in for a man who wanted to bid on equipment in an auction.
"Instead of buying it for him, I bought it for myself," Alex said. Now, he leases the space and has little free time to do anything but make pizza. He also makes gyros sandwiches ($4.50), salads ($2.99/$4.95), calzones ($4.95), stromboli rolls ($5.95, filled with mozzarella, ham, salami, pepperoni and mushrooms) and Hippie Rolls ($5.95), which are like a stromboli roll, but stuffed with sausage, green peppers, onions and cheese.
Alex prides himself on making everything from scratch, from dough to sauce, which he promises is flavorful, but mild enough not to give you heartburn.
Working alone, he will make 60 to 70 pizzas on a Friday night, he said. Calling ahead is always a good idea.
His special on Sundays has been a big hit, said Marty Francis, of Shiloh. The 47-year-old said he's ready for football with Alex's Sunday-only pizza deal: Two large one-topping pizzas for $22.
"We are spoiled by his pizza now," said Marty. "Best crust I've eaten. This Sunday being Super Bowl, we're going to order more."
711 Highway 50, O'Fallon
What: Takeout hand-tossed, New York-style pizza. (There are a couple tables for dining in.) No delivery.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays (winter hours) and 4 to 8 p.m. Sundays.
Information and orders: 622-9404
Handicapped accessible: Yes.