Surrounded by the smell of rising dough and crushed Italian tomatoes, St. James resident Bubba Cunningham is working to perfect his personal recipes after touring some of the most notorious pizza spots in the United States. With floured hands and a brick oven, Cunningham is bringing big flavors back to his home town.

Surrounded by the smell of rising dough and crushed Italian tomatoes, St. James resident Bubba Cunningham is working to perfect his personal recipes after touring some of the most notorious pizza spots in the United States. With floured hands and a brick oven, Cunningham is bringing big flavors back to his home town.

Cunningham said he and his family have always been enthusiastic eaters, and he’s strived to do as much home cooking as possible while balancing his work life at his family’s clay mining company. After talking it over with his brother, Cunningham decided to devote his life to something he’s always enjoyed, making homemade, and well made, pizza.

After making the decision to open up his own restaurant, Cunningham spent his time experimenting with different flavors and speaking to those who know food best, traveling as far as New York to see how the best pizza chefs prepared their work while developing his own philosophy on the pizza pie game.

“I’ve done research,” he said. “You always try to see how things have always been done…but we have some pretty unique ideas.”

Cunningham said while he was looking at the best ovens to craft his pizzas, he was mentored by an expert who showed him the difference between doughs that had been prepared in slightly different ways. Cunningham said that learning to let the dough rest in the fridge for days made a difference— it was an eye opening experience.

His love of good food comes from having traveled with his family, specifically his brother, over the years and finding the hidden gems around the nation where food was taken seriously. From there, food became a passion and is swiftly becoming his career. In early 2017, Cunningham and his brother decided they had to get to work.

“I’ve always kind of wanted to own a restaurant,” he said. “I never really for sure knew what [food] I wanted to do. I thought barbecue, a steakhouse, and then it kind of dawned on me that pizza was the way to go.” With the knowledge he’s gained from traveling and speaking to the local chefs, Cunningham is working to bring the big city flavor he’s developed to his home town, slicing his own pepperoni and prepping his dough in an enormous mixer.

“I grew up in St. James. I lived here the majority of my life…I love this town and I want to do as much as I can to give back to it.” Cunningham said he wants his restaurant to focus on Missouri and have roots at home. He said he wants to strive to have as much of his produce purchased locally as possible with exception of his tomatoes, which he said will be flown straight from Italy.

With construction on the restaurant underway, Cunningham is still tweaking his recipes and making every detail perfect, a mindset he said he’s also inherited from his family.

“I’m not going to do things because that’s the way things have have always been done,” he said. “I will try 30,000 different dough recipes till I find the perfect one.” Cunningham said his prep time will probably be a couple of hours each day in order to open up the right flavors. He said the flavors are going to be different, and hopes the community will respond well to them.

“I don’t want to be too crazy, but I want to be different.” he said.

Cunningham also said the community is one of the most important ingredients for his pizza, and is excited to welcome them once construction is finished. His dream is to create a space where the community can gather together to enjoy each other’s company, and maybe catch a Cardinal’s game. His upcoming restaurant, Missouri Pizza Company, is expected to open up in early May. If you happen to catch Bubba Cunningham on the street of his home town, he’ll gladly stop to speak about the flavors he’s studied and is eager to share with his local community.