New York may lay claim to the pizza kingdom, but restaurants across St. Louis are whipping up a version that’s truly theirown. Of the St. Louis pizza chains, none are more ubiquitous than locally beloved Imo’s Pizza. Imo’s Pizza began in 1964 with Ed and Margie Imo, a pair of hardworking St. Louisians who wanted to have a comforting dinner of pizza delivered right to their door. Close to 50 years and over 90 stores later, Imo’s Pizza is a staple in St. Louis homes.
Dubbed “the square beyond compare” pies from Imo’s are a St. Louis specialty. However, to say the pizza from Imo’s and St. Louis are an acquired taste is to say the least. A cracker thin, unleavened crust and the use of Provel cheese in lieu of more traditional mozzarella are hallmarks of the traditional Missouri pizza style. Unlike the large triangle slices in New York and the deep dish rounds of Chicago, Imo’s and St. Louis style pizza is served up in squares. Those used to more renowned versions from across America tend to find the crunchy crust slightly tough to swallow, and the cheese a curious processed blend similar to Velveeta, hard to soften up to.
Luckily, I was not one who found it hard to fall in love. Thin crust pizza is my preferred version and I find the Provel cheese to be silky and comforting, almost buttery in both texture and flavor. Bubbled up in the oven and served at high temperatures, the cheese becomes almost a sauce in itself. In my opinion, Provel further enhances the flavor of the other ingredients including a bevy of crisp (never frozen) vegetables, fresh meats and a delicately sweet, oregano laced homemade sauce spread to the edges. The smaller squares frankly make the pies easier to handle and more fun to trade, allowing diners eating together to more easily sample the pies around the table.
Imo’s Pizza may be an acquired taste, but I was certainly quick to catch on. My home is in America’s pizza kitchen, but I often find myself clamoring for the unique pies. Imo’s is not the pizza I grew up with, but rather the pizza I chose to love. More than simply an indulgent treat, I find St. Louis style pizza and Imo’s have the ability to take me back to a place I once called home. The warming and comforting quality of the meal served up on a round silver dish is exactly what the Imo’s first had in mind with their pizza and home forever intertwined.