Saint Leo restaurant on Oxford Square is a hot spot

Published 6:00 am Sunday, July 17, 2016

By Allen Brewer

After several years of planning, Emily Blount has finally opened her fist restaurant, Saint Leo, in the heart of Oxford. The old fashion wood-fire oven pizza restaurant, located on the east side of the Square, offers a newer, fresher taste for local pizza lovers.

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Opening on June 30, Saint Leo offers Oxonians a little slice of Rome in Mississippi.

Blount has lived in many different places, including New York, but when she moved to Mississippi she missed not having traditional wood-fire cooked pizza. After seeing that Oxford didn’t have the types of restaurants to make the kind of pizza she liked, she decided to open her own.

With the help of Howorth & Associates, family and friends, Blount was able to renovate the old building into a pizza restaurant. The convenient location allows for clear visibility for customers and a view of the Square.

“I just wanted to create a place that was comfortable and sophisticated,” Blount said. “I wanted it to be a place I would want to hang out in.”

Much of the time before the doors opened was spent crafting the new menu. Blount and her chef’s believe in traditional Italian food with fresh ingredients. Many of the cheeses used on pizzas are made in the restaurant, such as mozzarella and ricotta.

Marco D’Emidio, a pizzaiolo at Saint Leo, has helped bring his Italian influence to the restaurant. A former pizza artisan in Rome, D’Emidio uses the techniques he learned from his family in Italy to handle Saint Leo’s pizzas.

Basic ingredients are gathered from local farms and producers in the surrounding areas for pizza toppings. The restaurant is always looking for new, fresh products to get the best possible source for its customers.

“I think it is important for anything to have fresh ingredients,” Blount said. “An Italian philosophy is to eat things locally and with simplicity.”

To make a traditional wood-fire oven pizza, Pizzaiolos first make the dough by hand, set it to rise and then roll it into balls. The dough will set for days to mature until chefs choose to use it for an order. The pizza dough is then pressed, covered with toppings and baked in the pizza ovens for a few minutes.

Saint Leo also offers pasta, homemade bread and other appetizers. Brunch is served on the weekends with local favorites like pork jowl and eggs. The restaurant also has a fully stocked bar.

The restaurant is open Monday through Wednesday from 11a.m. to midnight, Thursday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1a.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The restaurant can host 72 guests within its 1,100-square-foot dinning room. No reservations are required, but they do request notification for parties of 10 or more.

Saint Leo can also host private events and off-site catering in its mobile wood-fire pizza oven.

All of Blount’s planning has finally paid off and now the Saint Leo has opened its doors.

“I am happy to have people finally inside eating,” Blount said.