Handmade pizza, sandwiches and burgers
As soon as regulars smell the aroma of fresh-baked pizza filling the restaurant, owner Jarrod Phillips is already filling their drinks. No need to wait for them to order in this small-town gathering spot. He knows what they want. That leaves ample time for good-natured ribbing, story sharing and life updates between bites.
Jarrod and his wife, Brenna, have been serving their friends, neighbors and constituents — he’s the mayor — for more than 25 years at Primo’s in downtown Canton. They specialize in hand-stretched pizza, sandwiches, hamburgers and ice cream treats.
Jarrod left his rural roots to go the University of Missouri. “Mizzou was just a little too big for me,” he says. “I’m from Lewis County and just wanted something a little smaller.”
He transferred to Culver-Stockton College in Canton to pursue a business administration degree. During his sophomore year, Jarrod opened a small sandwich shop. He ran the restaurant through college, growing into bigger locations. In 2000, he bought the local pizza joint and moved Primo’s to a former downtown drugstore.
Pizza is what Primo’s is known for. “Pizza is the kind of food that people can gather around and share,” Jarrod says.
Jarrod bought the dough recipe with the restaurant, and Brenna and her team in the kitchen make it daily. Their most popular are traditional pies with names rooted in Missouri history and lore.
The Mo-Mo is named after the famed Missouri Monster and uses just about every ingredient in the kitchen. A base of marinara along with pepperoni, ground beef, Canadian bacon, bacon, sausage, onions, green peppers, mushrooms and black and green olives are loaded onto dough. The pizza is topped with mozzarella cheese and baked. “A lot of places have traditional supreme pizzas with about five or six toppings where ours has 10,” Jarrod says. “That’s what sets us apart. It’s a very substantial pizza.”
Primo’s meat lover’s pizza pays homage to the 33rd president. The True Man’s Pie has all the meat from The Mo-Mo but none of the veggies. “It has the smoky taste from the bacon and the pepperoni adds a little bit of spice. To me it’s just a good all-around pizza. And you don’t have to worry about finding green pepper or something in there,” Jarrod says with a laugh.
The remainder of Primo’s pizzas are more nontraditional. The chicken Alfredo pizza features an Alfredo base topped with grilled chicken and mushrooms. The cheeseburger pizza comes with a cheddar cheese sauce and ground beef, bacon and onions. Other pizza options include chicken bacon ranch, Buffalo chicken and taco.
If you can’t wait for your pizza to cook, there are plenty of appetizers on the menu. Pizzeria staples such as cheese breadsticks and toasted ravioli are popular. However, if you’ve brought an appetite or a few hungry friends who aren’t afraid of a little heat, try Adam’s Plate of Death. The dish was created by Jarrod’s longtime friend Adam LaFala and starts with nearly 1 pound of curly fries that are covered in cheese sauce and topped with Buffalo chicken, bacon and grilled jalapenos. “The name draws people in,” Jarrod says. “And you’d be surprised, we have everyone from college students to grandparents who eat the whole thing.”
Burgers and subs are perfect for the lunch crowd. Brenna uses fresh bread baked for their 10 sandwiches. The menu offers classics such as a BLT, roasted turkey and grilled chicken subs. The most plentiful sub is the Primo Plus with ham, turkey, roast beef, bacon, spicy pepperoni, provolone, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.
Primo’s is known for their smash-style burgers. Fresh beef is rolled into 1/4-pound balls ahead of time and thrown on the hot flattop to order. An oversized metal spatula smashes the patties down as flat as they will go, ensuring a tasty, crusty exterior and juicy, flavorful interior.
For a little spice, try the Chipotle Burger. Two patties are topped with beer-battered onion rings, pepper jack cheese and chipotle ranch dressing between freshly toasted buns. “It’s got a little bit of a kick,” Jarrod says. “The onion ring helps offset the pepper jack and the chipotle ranch isn’t overpowering. It’s more ranch flavor than spice.”
Primo’s offers 19 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream. The Hawkshaw sundae is a popular way to end your meal. It starts with a chocolate drizzle on the inside of the dish and three scoops of vanilla ice cream. That’s covered with marshmallow topping, more chocolate and chopped nuts. “Ice cream is something that’s part of the nostalgia of the shop,” Jarrod says. “I served soft serve when I first opened in 1997 and there’s been some form of ice cream in this building since it was a drugstore.”
Being intertwined with Canton has led to the Phillips doing much more than serving their customers. “We’ve been through the 2008 recession, COVID, floods and tornadoes,” Jarrod says. “The people who come here to eat are the ones next to you tying sandbags or who you see at funerals. That’s been the neatest thing to me is being able to interact and get to know everyone who stops by.”
Specialties: Appetizers including breadsticks and Adam’s Plate of Death. Sandwiches including the Chipotle Burger and Primo Plus. Pizza including The Mo-Mo, True Man’s Pie and taco.
Price: Appetizers from $5.99 to $9.99. Sandwiches from $6.99 to $8.49. Pizza from $9.39 to $16.79.
Details: Open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Sunday. Cash and credit cards accepted. Nonsmoking. Located at 107 N. Fourth St. in Canton. Contact at 573-288-1072 and www.primoscanton.com.