Pizza Today - July 2022 - 35

W
hat the heck is St. Louis
style pizza? Did you know
that St. Louis has its own
style of pizza? Yes, St. Louis does indeed
have its own style. Of course, it's not
nearly as widely known as say Detroitstyle
pizza, which was once an obscure
unknown regional style before some
pizza fanatics uncovered it and brought
it to the mainstream. Will St. Louis-style
pizza follow the same fate one day? We
will see. My guess is that it probably
won't. St. Louis is known as a big small
town and small towns like to keep their
secrets.
I am not sure if the creation of the
St. Louis style was deliberate, created
by necessity or created by someone
who didn't know what they were doing
- like the person who stumbles upon
gold. The origins of St. Louis-style
pizza are obscure, but many regions
developed their unique style of pizza
based on cultural characteristics of the
particular area. We must assume that the
style developed in tandem with other
Midwest regional square-cut thin pies.
Like all " party cut " pizzas, it was created
to be a snack. The tavern or party style
cut gained popularity after WWII as a
sharing food offered by local taverns and
bars made extra salty so patrons would
drink more.
What exactly is St. Louis-style
pizza? St. Louis-style pizza evolved
sometime in the late 1940s and is defined
by four principles:
1) Cracker thin crust risen by baking
powder/baking soda or no rising agent
at all. Some places do use yeast but since
the style uses a sheeter or dough press
to the maximum effect, yeast is optional.
The dough is heavily pressed. There is
typically some oil in the dough.
2) The pizza is cut in a square grid
even though the pizza is round.
3) A cooked red sauce on the sweeter
side with lots of dried oregano is used.
4) Provel Cheese, a processed
combination of provolone, Swiss and
white cheddar that is very salty, has liquid
Although round and cut into
squares, St. Louis-style pizza
should not be confused with
Chicago thin or New England
tavern style (bar pies). The difference
being Chicago thin uses yeast. It is also
partially baked in a pan with butter
before hitting the hearth. Although also
thin, it is just a bit thicker. New England
bar pies spread the cheese all the way to
the end of the crust and over it. They are
also cooked in an oily pan first. Neither
of these styles use a " Provel " like cheese.
However, cheeses other than mozzarella
are sometimes added.
Legend has it that Ed Imo (founder
of the famous Imo's Pizza chain that
smoke added and has a low melting
point.
Provel cheese originated around
1947. It's a quick gooey melt (think
Kraft American singles and those
grilled cheeses you ate as a kid). It was
supposedly created by a grocery store
in the Italian Hill neighborhood of St.
Louis. Legend has it that it was created
to avoid the stringiness of mozzarella.
It was also the year another St. Louis
culinary treat was supposedly developed,
toasted ravioli (deep fried ravioli).
Provel is certainly controversial in the
pizza world. Ever since an adventurous
or misguided chef put this processed
cheese combination on pizza in place of
traditional mozzarella, a raging debate
of its worthiness has ensued. Provel
has been the subject of lore as well as a
victim of derision. The jury is still out.
Kraft currently owns the trademark to
the name Provel, but every St. Louisstyle
pizza spot has their own blend
they usually make in house. It is also
considered St. Louis style if it has the
above characteristics but uses mozzarella.
I would say with people I know here
it's 50/50 on Provel's popularity as the
cheese of choice on their St. Louis-style
pizza. Most out of towners who move
here hate it, usually (with good reason, as
most are used to mozzarella).
was established in 1964) cut the pizza in
squares because he was a linoleum tile
cutter, so cutting squares at the pizzeria
was a natural fit. Imo's is by far the
largest chain doing St. Louis-style pizza
with over 100 locations. Imo's is the most
well-known purveyor of the St. Louisstyle
pizza and has become synonymous
with the style itself. Imo's is credited with
the use of Provel instead of mozzarella,
but this assertion is questionable. I have
to say before this article I thought Provel
was disgusting. I spit it out the first time
I unknowably had it. I soon realized
the pizza I ordered for my daughter's
then two-year-old birthday in 2010
had " Provel " on it, NOT mozzarella. It
happens to be the default cheese at Imo's.
I didn't make that mistake again. For
this article, however, I indulged in a St.
Louis-style pizza binge ordering Provel
on my pizza. Being opened minded I do
have to say I have more appreciation and
respect for the style now.
The quality of St. Louis-style pizza
varies considerably depending on
where you go. In my opinion three old
school places are the standard: Farottos
(1956), Monte Bello (1950) and Frank
and Helens (1956) do it best. These
restaurants are still in their original
locations stuck in time. And as far as I
can tell no design elements have been
updated since the 1950s.
If you are not in St. Louis, you can
still enjoy making a St. Louis-style
pizza. Use an all-purpose flour and roll
your dough with a rolling pin extra thin,
as thin as you can. No need for long
fermentation or fancy dough techniques.
Cook your tomato sauce with oregano
and add a touch of sugar. Make your own
Provel with a combo of Provolone, Swiss
and White Cheddar. And voila! It is a
wonderfully different pizza to make and
enjoy with friends and family. Will it be a
menu hit for you? Time will tell.
SCOTT SANDLER is a consultant, speaker
at Pizza Expo and Pizza and Pasta Northeast
and Pizza Today contributor.

Pizza Today - July 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pizza Today - July 2022

Commentary
Digital
Conversation
Mike's Monthly Tip
Man on the Street
Building Blocks
On Deck
Knead to Know
Destination
Makeline Efficiency
Consistency Through Turnover
St. Louis Style Pizza
Summer Cocktails
Inflation Tactics
Rising Stars
Product Showcase
Pizza Today/Yellow Pages
The Marketplace
Reader's Resource
Expo Spotlight
Pizza Today - July 2022 - CT1
Pizza Today - July 2022 - CT2
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Cover1
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Cover2
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Commentary
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 4
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 5
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 6
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 7
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Digital
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 9
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Conversation
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 11
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Mike's Monthly Tip
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 13
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Man on the Street
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 15
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Building Blocks
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 17
Pizza Today - July 2022 - On Deck
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 19
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Knead to Know
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 21
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 22
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 23
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Destination
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 25
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Makeline Efficiency
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 27
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 28
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 29
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Consistency Through Turnover
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 31
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 32
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 33
Pizza Today - July 2022 - St. Louis Style Pizza
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 35
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 36
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 37
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Summer Cocktails
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 39
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Inflation Tactics
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 41
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Rising Stars
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 43
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 44
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 45
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 46
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 47
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 48
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 49
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Product Showcase
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 51
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Pizza Today/Yellow Pages
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 53
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 54
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 55
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 56
Pizza Today - July 2022 - The Marketplace
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 58
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 59
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 60
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 61
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 62
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 63
Pizza Today - July 2022 - 64
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Reader's Resource
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Expo Spotlight
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Cover3
Pizza Today - July 2022 - Cover4
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