Tasting Table’s Best Pizza in America List Includes Imos
St. Louis, MO/May 23, 2017 (STL.News) Imos Pizza — St. Louis’s many outstanding chefs and restaurateurs continue to garner national attention for their culinary excellence. Tasting Table, a website and newsletter for culinary enthusiasts has just named St. Louis-based Imos Pizza as one of the best pizzas in the country. The article called “Amercian Pie, The Best Pizza in the Country” was published May 22, 2017. In it the Tasting Table editors have assembled a list of 26 pizza restaurants across the country that they consider to be the very best. The list includes a wide variety of pizza styles: deep dish, Neapolitan, chewy New York Style, and St. Louis’ unique thin crust.
The Imo’s story is almost as unique as this much-loved pizza. It all began in 1964. A young, Catholic couple, Ed and Marge Imo, observed meatless Fridays for religious reasons. But the South St. Louis couple loved pizza. So, they developed the habit of ordering pizza with meat toppings at 11:30 p.m. on Fridays, then going out to pick it up, so they could eat their pizza as soon as the Friday fast ended at midnight. After a while, they decided the only thing that could make it better would be to have their pizza delivered to them. That inspirational idea led the Imo’s to open a pizzeria i the Shaw neighborhood (Thurman and Shaw Avenues). They were only open and night, making thin crust pizzas topped with lightly sweet tomato sauce and Provel® cheese. Ed Imo had been a tile cutter at the time, so he sliced the pizza tavern-style, into the iconic squares we know today. The Imo’s also delivered their St. Louis-style pizza to their neighbors, which was a new concept in St. Louis and very popular.
The editors at Tasting Table acknowledged the appeal of Imo’s thin crust, remarking on its crispy texture and ability to hold up under a heavy topping load. They also lauded praise on Imo’s use of Provel and its “incomparable gooeyness.” Provel is a processed cheese that blends cheddar, Swiss, and provolone, creating a buttery, semi soft cheese that melts easily, but doesn’t become stringy. Because it’s a processed cheese, it’s been panned by many food critics. But as the Tasting Table editors aptly point out, it’s a signature component of any Imo’s pizza. The creation of Provel is the result of a collaboration between Costa Grocery (now Roma Grocery on the Hill) and the Hoffman Dairy Company of Wisconsin (now part of Kraft Foods). They paired up to create a pizza cheese that would melt well, but have a clean bite, unlike the strings created when biting into melted mozzarella. Provel achieved this, while offering a gooey cheese that works well on pizza.
The combination of thin, crispy crust made with baking soda instead of yeast, the signature Provel cheese, a signature sweet tomato sauce, and other terrific toppings helped this mom-and-pop shop grow over the last five decades. There are now about 100 Imo’s Restaurants in and around St. Louis, with more in the works. Ed and Margie Imo’s children run the company now. And St. Louis continues to devour this square-cut, thin-crust, Provel-topped pizza. It really is a St. Louis original, and arguably one of the best pizzas in America. The Tasting Table editors agree, advising readers: “It’s a style seldom found outside of the city, so make sure to try a slice whenever you’re in the area.” As anyone who’s ever tried “the square beyond compare” can tell you, that’s good advice.