April 2009

PizzaWTEIKC | 18 Apr 2009 03:10 pm

4950 Main St, Kansas City, MO‎ – (816) 561-7746

Wood fired crustThe newly-refurbished shopping corridor between 48th and 51st on Main St. includes updated quarters for three great Midtown lunch spots: The venerable Accurso’s Deli, Planet Sub (straight outa Lawrence, yo), and the fledgling Spin!, purveyor of Neapolitan-style pizza, salads, panini, and their own gelati. There are actually four locations, but the one on Main is the flagship. A friend with more of a taste than I for the town’s new crop of business-casual lunch spots insisted I try Spin!, and it did not disappoint. I had never filled out a frequent diner card on a first visit to anywhere until now, if that says anything.

Part of my initial skepticism about Spin! was that inside it sure looked like a chain restaurant – at that, one doing everything possible to look trendy. This self-consciousness extends even to the text on the menus (and the walls, come to think of it), written in a bold sans-serif made to look urban-hip, like someone poured acid over the letters and then photocopied them a few times to create streaks. Tossin' the doughA minute detail, I know, but with this sort of typography appearing so many other places lately, one would think it cliché by now. This and other visual cues, like boxy, retro light fixtures, made me wonder if I was at a ‘concept restaurant’ where they deconstruct a well known cuisine, either by inventing a new way of cooking it, or pairing it with unusual side dishes (à la the “Asian fusion” craze of a few years ago). In any case, after discovering what a great product they have in just the food, so much of the ambiance seemed unnecessary.

I hit my waitress up for as much information as I could get without appearing too nosy. I really wanted to know if this is a locally-owned business. She claimed it is, and that while the owners have plans to expand “to another state” (apart from their presence in Kansas and Missouri), they are not on a track to franchising. Margherita pizza and the 8 color saladThat’s what I was told, anyway. A slick-looking operation of this scale does not bloom over a year’s time without serious bankroll.

More has been written about Spin!’s atmosphere and origins than I care to do here, but the pizza itself is worth a second mention. This is just about the closest representation of Neapolitan-style pizza I’ve eaten so far in Kansas City. The requisite stone oven does not appear to be wood fired, but if you look carefully you can see it does have plenty of fire. So, pizza comes out with a crackery bottom crust with that smokey, burnished look you’d expect to see on a proper wood fired pizza. We tend to forget pizza, at its root, is all about the crust – it’s just a glorified flatbread. Meatball pizza and Sonoma saladBut they’ve nailed it. The mozzarella Spin! uses is a perfectly fine match for the crust, though my friend pointed out that at least on the margherita it would be great to see them use a truly fresh variety. For people who know their Neapolitan pizza, it’s pretty easy to tell the quality of each ingredient on this, one of the most authentic varieties of the dish.

In general, all ingredients at Spin! are of noticeably high quality. Roasted grape tomatoes have prominent roles both in salads and on pizzas. And the salads themselves are creative and include both common and more exotic ‘greens’. I keep ordering the “8 color salad” with (as stated on the menu) “Romaine, red cabbage, red butter lettuce, roasted grape tomatoes, radishes, celery, green onion, gorgonzola, toasted pinenuts, Red Wine Vinaigrette or Cucumber Buttermilk Dressing.” Ask for dressing on the side, as the salads tend to arrive goopy when you leave it to the kitchen to decide how much dressing is enough.

It’s also worth mentioning that Spin! is a surprisingly economical lunch option. The “Pizza Mia” combo of a personal-size pizza and salad will cost you $11 after tax and tip, and you might not make it out without a to-go box. Spin! ambiancePerfect for non-dessert eating cheapskates like me, although my friend can never get out without the gelato. Spin! also offers a pizza-friendly (and very affordable) wine selection, thanks to their collaboration with Cellar Rat Wine Merchants.

HumorWTEIKC | 02 Apr 2009 10:51 am

The site sometimes needs a bit of levity.

CommentaryWTEIKC | 01 Apr 2009 07:15 pm

I dread having to go inside the Apple Store (doesn’t matter which one). But I needed an Apple product yesterday, and didn’t want to go online, pay shipping, and wait a few days for it to arrive. So I went, asked someone for help finding the item, and was told (snottily, like I’m supposed to know) that I have to talk to someone in a different-colored shirt for help. (Um, okay there, sport, I’ll play along.) So I did that. Then I was told I have to see yet someone else in order to buy the damn thing. Then that person said how I want to pay determines who handles the transaction and in what part of the store. (The people working the “Genius Bar” looked annoyed when I first approached them to pay for my item, on the assumption that the desk sure looked like a checkout stand.) Anyway, then they couldn’t tell where my receipt was supposed to have printed among the various receipt printers supposedly scattered throughout the store. The employee seemed to have trouble just finding one of those printers. So she dismissively said they’d just e-mail me a copy and walked off. ARE YOU SH*TTIN’ ME?? I’ve never seen a more disorganized, service-unfriendly operation.

You're stupid.The Apple Store is a textbook example of what can go wrong when the ethos of ‘think different’ is applied to running a storefront operation. Within Apple’s collective consciousness, the way they do business probably makes perfect sense. But from this customer’s perspective, it is wasteful and unintuitive. On my last visit, there was probably twice the number of employees the store really needed to handle an already high customer load. Why can’t someone with the expertise to answer technical questions also be the same person who quickly rings up a sale and (easily) locates my receipt? And why do patrons have to wander around like idiots trying to figure out how to pay for something when the only thing that remotely looks like the checkout stand is not the checkout stand?

This strange division and excess of labor might be easier to accept were it not for the attitude. Not at all unlike the stereotypical elitism of designer clothes salespeople, employees in the Apple Store have that same air about them: “I’m not sure you’re cool enough to own this.” Those two facts alone could easily account for Apple’s low market share just among personal computers. Not only are you paying more to support a bloated sales force and flashy, costly packaging, but you’re paying more just for an idea, that is, for the designer computing lifestyle you hope Apple might deign sell you.