There are styles of pizza so synonymous with the area they’re from that many outsiders will forever struggle to comprehend. For New Yorkers that’s Chicago deep-dish, for late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, apparently that’s St. Louis-style. Not long ago he had St. Louis native and Mad Men star Jon Hamm on Jimmy Kimmel Live, during which he told Hamm that Imo's was terrible, a "terrible, terrible pizza place." Hamm defended the pizza, noting that the middle slice is the best one, and saying you could "taste the Gateway Arch" and its 11 World Series titles in an Imo’s slice (square cut, of course) and going so far as to say he’d take Imo’s over Kimmel’s own. If you haven’t tasted it for yourself, you’ll need to before weighing in. While its thin and unleavened crackery crust is almost like one you’ll find in a bar pie, it’s generally known to be a bit sweeter than typical bar pies, and meant more than anything else to act as a vehicle for the unique cheese topping that makes St. Louis style unlike any other slice you’ll have ever tried.
Maligned (and often unknown) outside St. Louis and beloved by residents of the city, the key to St. Louis-style pizza is Provel, a white processed cheese said to be a combination of Cheddar, Swiss, and provolone invented in the city’s Italian neighborhood shortly after World War II. Just as you’ll get different stories about who exactly invented Provel, the origin of the style is also debated. Imo’s is widely credited, but Farotto’s, which is said to have opened in 1956, eight years before Ed and Margie Imo opened Imo’s, has its own claim. Whichever story you choose to believe, you can’t deny one thing, Imo’s, with its more than 90 stores, has popularized a unique, love-it-or-hate-it pie you have to try at least once. Menus vary because each is independently owned, but the Deluxe should be pretty easy to find, and is a good place to start: sausage, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, bacon, and of course, Provel.