Tasting Table Picks Imo’s Pizza as One of the Best Pizzas
St. Louis, MO/May 23, 2017 (STLRestaurant.News) Best Pizzas – Every pizza lover within 100 miles of the Gateway City is familiar with the classic thin-crust pizza dubbed St. Louis-style. And we all know “the square beyond compare” that is the granddaddy of St. Louis-style pizza, Imo’s. Now, this iconic St. Louis pizza company is getting some national props. The editors at the foodie website Tasting Table have included Imo’s pizza on their recently published article The Best Pizzas in the Country. The list span coast to coast and included everything from deep dish to Neapolitan, chewy New York Style and St. Louis’ unique thin crust.
The Imo’s crust is a puzzle to East Coast pizza lovers, who can’t seem to grasp the concept. While pizzas born in New York or New Jersey are all about the flavor and texture of their chewy, hand-tossed crusts, Imo’s thin crust shifts the focus to the incredible toppings. The editors at Tasting Table describe it this way, “Unlike most other styles, the Saint Louis version swaps yeast for baking powder in its crust, which yields a cracker-like consistency reminiscent of saltines in the best way possible.” Am I the only one who’s tired of reading/hearing this crispy, delicious crust described as a “cracker” crust? A saltine’s got nothing on this crust, which is crispy, but more akin to unleavened flat-bread than any cracker ever made.
The editors at Tasting Table also seemed to appreciate the unique qualities of Provel® cheese, which tops all Imo’s pizzas. The much-maligned, processed cheese is a blend of cheddar, Swiss, and provolone, but with it’s own savory flavor. It was invented by Costa Grocery (now Roma Grocery on the Hill) in collaboration with the Hoffman Dairy Company of Wisconsin (now part of Kraft Foods) in the 1940s specifically for use on pizza. The inventors were looking for a white cheese that would melt really well, but not be stringy they way mozzarella is when diners bite into it. Provel has a buttery texture at room temperature, and a low melting point, allowing it to spread gooey goodness all around the toppings.
One thing the Tasting Table article didn’t mention was the other toppings that go into an Imo’s pizza and helped this mom-and-pop shop grow to around 100 stores over the last 50+ years. St. Louis-style pizza is also known for its rich, slightly sweet tomato sauce, and Imo’s version is no exception. When the crust is this thin and crispy, the sauce becomes the foundation of flavor, so it has to deliver just the right balance of sweet tomato and aromatic seasonings. Then, unlike the pepperoni world of other pizza places, an Imo’s Deluxe is topped with Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, green pepper, and the crispiest bacon found on any pizza. This combination of toppings makes Imo’s Deluxe pizza really special. (Sure, you can get pepperoni too, but this is Imo’s signature pizza.)
The secret to holding all those toppings, which go edge to edge, is in the cut. Imo’s may not be the first thin-crust pizza in St. Louis. And it’s certainly not the first to use Provel cheese, but Ed Imo, a tile-cutter by trade, who founded this iconic pizza company with his wife Margie in 1964, made the square, or tavern-cut pizza famous in St. Louis and the surrounding area. By cutting the pizza into three-to-four-inch squares, the thin crust is able to stand up to the heavy toppings. This cut also has an amazing side-effect, pizza corners. Yes, with a square cut, the round pizza has little triangle-like corners offering a crispy tidbit with a smear of sauce, a smattering of cheese, and a bite of sausage and bacon. It’s the two-bite, go-to piece for pizza lovers in the know.
The Imo’s story goes like this: Ed and Marge Imo, who were Catholic, had a habit of ordering pizza at 11:30 p.m. on Fridays and going out to pick it up, so they could have meat on their pizza as soon as the Friday fast ended at midnight. One night, it occurred to them that it would be even better if they didn’t have to venture out so late, and could have their pizza delivered to them. It was a stroke of genius. The Imo’s opened their pizzeria at Thurman and Shaw Avenues, offering delivery of their favorite, South St. Louis-style pizza to their neighbors. Pizza delivery was a new and welcome concept in St. Louis in 1964. And we’ve been devouring this square-cut, thin-crust, Provel-topped pizza ever since. It really is a St. Louis original, and arguably one of the best pizzas in America.
Founders: Ed and Margie Imo
Imo’s Pizza Executive Office
800 North 17th Street
St. Louis, MO 63106
Phone: (314) 822-0443
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