Where can I get Provel cheese or St. Louis-style pizza around FL?
My girlfriend's parents met and fell in love in St. Louis, and she used to spend summers there as a little girl, visiting her grandparents. They all remember the times fondly, and have spoken highly of ordering from Imo's Pizza, a St. Louis-based pizza chain that has its own unique style: thin-crust crispy pizza cut into squares, with a creamy cheese blend called Provel. I think it is a processed cheese in the sense that Velveeta is, but more authentically "cheesy" with a blend of Italian white cheeses and perhaps cheddar too.
Well, for Christmas I surprised them by overnighting two Imo's Pizzas to their house, half-baked and packed in dry ice. They invited me over last night and we all enjoyed them. It isn't my favorite pizza in the world (I prefer good NY or Chicago pizza), but I thought it was a nice change from the ordinary, and they were rapturous. It is waaaaaaay too expensive to treat them like that too often, so I was wondering if there was any local source (Orlando-based ideally, or anywhere in Florida) to get St. Louis-style pizza like Imo's, or just to find the Provel cheese. If so, it would be most appreciated, and it would cement my title of Best Boyfriend Ever.
I too am an Imo's fan but I have not found the cheese blend anywhere else but St. Louis. I order it from time to time from Imo's and have it sent here.
The closest I have ever come to St. Louis style pizza, as I understand the genre, is at Chubby's Thin Crust Pizza, 1537 W Orange Blossom Trl Apopka, FL 32712, Phone: 407-814-2482.
The owner is from the midwest, but not St. Louis. I want to say Iowa or perhaps even Wisconsin.
I don't recall the Provel cheese, which I think I would have remembered.
I remember the thin sliced pie, cutting it in squares, and also that all the condiments had neen chopped rather finely -- like a classic Cobb salad -- before going on top of the pie.
I found the story. It was written two years ago next February and is about several new (at the time) restaurants in Apopka.
This is an except that talks about the pie and about the regional foods from Indiana, which sound similar. No mention of the Provel, however.
"We've bet on the west side of Apopka," says Mike Hays, owner of Chubby's Thin Crust Pizza. Living in the city for seven years has given him and his family a sense of involvement."
"Pizza with a difference
Perhaps the most unusual food item in town is served at Chubby's Thin Crust Pizza, also located to the west of downtown.
Hays imported the concept of thin-crust Chicago pizza from Lafayette, Ind., home of Purdue University. Two restaurants there, Pizza King and Arni's, offer the regional specialty. Hays decided to bring it home to Apopka where he's lived since 1997.
In addition to the way the pizza is cut -- "it's square cut, not sliced like a pie," says Hays -- the thin crust is cooked at 450 to 550 degrees on a stone and "turned three or four times to get the best kind of really crispy crust."
The other difference in this style, Hays says, is that the toppings are all very finely ground together. The cheese, the pepperoni and the sausage "have a homogenized taste, and the flavor is in every bite." Hays says. An Orlando restaurant called Sir Pizza used to serve this style but is no longer in business.
Hays says diners familiar with the product try it and become repeat customers. "One guy came in and bought a 7-inch and then came back and ordered five large pizzas to take to his friends."
Hays has his eye on growth -- he'd like to see three locations within five years -- and he also eventually wants to expand his menu into other Midwest specialties.
Breaded and fried pork loin sandwiches are high on his "products to add" list. And then there's the fruit drink.
That's the name. Fruit drink. It's home made, a combination of fruit, mostly pineapple, and sold at a frozen custard stand in Lafayette known simply as The Frozen Custard Stand.
Hays can't explain the fascination for these specialty foods that his local customers display. "It's an Indiana thing."
Hope that helps. I can't even guarantee he's still open, but his information shows up on a Web search.
While a trip to Apopka is a trek for many of us, it's still cheaper than Fedexing pizzas.
And if you can find a course for the cheese, I suspect he would incorprate it into the mix . . .
One more note.
Looks like, since the cheese is made specifically for Imo's (is it pronounced E-mo's or eye-moe's?) they are the onluy place that sells it.
A 5 pz. bag of shredded Provel is $6, but the bastards require a $75 minimum order.
If you can figure out what to do with 13 bags of Provel and where to store it, or some friends to share it with, it still might be worth it.
Maybe the guy at Chubby's has a source or would consider splitting and order with you.
The Web site is:
I see Yahoo has some other sources available that might be cheaper. You might even get one of our local cheese stores of speciality food importers to get it for you,
Yahoo site is
Its pronounced E-moe's. Provel is a specific blend for Imos so that is why I have always ordered it from them. It amazing how quickly I go through the stuff. We put it on everything from garlic bread to salads. I even have made nachos out of it and those were really good.
That stlouisstylepizza.stores.yahoo.net is the exact website from which I ordered the two Imo's pizzas for my girl's family. I usually am "The Man Who Knows How To Get Things" (especially online), but I just wish there was a cheaper or more local source. I'll definitely point them in the direction of Chubby's, especially since my girl will be taking a class out in Apopka this spring!
re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou
Please report back on what the g.f. finds. I liked the pizza, didn't love it, but thought it was tasty and different. Will be curious to know if the special cheese is in play.
My dining companion, an Italian Jew, has certain standards about his pizza and found the whole idea sacraligious and disgusting. So what? The place has a definite following that loves it.
I grew up in St Louis and lived in Indiana for 15 years. Pizza King (Indiana "style") type pizza is nothing like St Louis style pizza. I love St Louis style and can barely stomach the Pizza King stuff. To me, St Louis style is defined by thin crust, Provel cheese, large cut ingredients and a sweetish sauce. Pizza King has a thicker crust, mozzarella cheese, very thinly cut toppings (like grated in a Ronco vegamatic) and a more traditional red sauce. It doesn't sound like the place in Apopka has St Louis style pizza at all.
Also you can try this website which sells most of the fixings for St Louis pizza, although these ingredients are premium-priced and also have cold-shipping charges, etc. I have ordered here before and not been disappointed but you have to come to peace with the prices.
I don't know anywhere yet in Florida that makes a St Louis pizza but I have only lived down here a few months. However I have never found it outside St Louis so don't work too hard looking for it, most people don't even like it once they do find it.
I swear by it however, and last week in St Louis I did the double, hittling both Imo's and Talayna's on the same trip.
If you live in North Florida, check out Picasso's, they're the only reasonably priced place I've found. Also, Farotto's - whose pizza is 10x better than Imos! - will airmail a dozen pizzas AND toasted ravioli for a fairly reasonable price, and if you can control yourself they should last you awhile.
Dont let Imo's advertising convince you they are the exclusive source. I buy the Provel by the 5 pound block from Vivianos (under $18.00) and Sons a local St louis Italian Specialty grocer. They ship coast to coast for reasonable prices. While you are shopping their website check out the Volpi sausages and the incredible deals on big jars of fresh spices at dirt cheap prices. http://www.shopviviano.com/catalog/
I don't know if this will get emailed to you, but in Jacksonville, FL there is a restaurant called Picasso's (10601 San Jose Blvd, Jacksonville, 32257 - (904) 880-0811) which sells great pizza in general in three styles - St. Louis, New York, and Mediterranean. They also have Pasta House style salads (lettuce, onions, pimentos, and artichokes with artichokes) and GOOEY BUTTER CAKE, which should entice anyone who loves St. Louis.
Hey Lou, I feel your pain. I grew up in St. Louis and now live in Jacksonville, Fl. There is a restaurant called Picasso's that has great pizza. They have the same cheese (provel) that both Imo's and Farotto's use. I use to order pizza from Farotto's and they would make it one day and freeze it to overnight it the next day. Not as good as fresh but better than I could get anywhere else until I discovered Picasso's. It is much better than anything you get in St. Louis and worth the drive if you really want to impress your girlfriends parents. Picasso's will blow them away. They also have homemade toasted ravioli, pasta house type salad, gooey butter cake, and other items that will warm any St. Louis native's heart. There number is 904-880-0811. You will be the "Best Boyfriend Ever".
I refer you to topics/476607, or, if that doesn't work, do a search on "gfr1111" in the search window above for a fairly detailed discussion in early 2008 of IMO's, Florida alternatives, making ultra-thin crust pizzas at home, getting the right cheese, etc. I would supply a link, but my incompetence with computers prevents me from doing so. I am a former Hoosier and I am (and will be) grateful to anybody who can point me to an ultra-thin crust pizza in Florida (especially the west coast) like they make at House of Pizza in Hammond, Indiana. From what I can tell, it sounds like IMO's in St. Louis is the same as what I ate when I lived in northwest Indiana. I'll try the place in Apopka right away and the place in Jacksonville the next time I am over that way! Thanks.
Ponticello's in Spanish Lake Missouri without a doubt, is the "mother" of thin crust pizza with Imos's coming in second and Stefanina's in O'Fallon, Missouri as third. Life long resident of St.Louis and now spending my winters in Florida outside of Orlando. It was great to see in writing someone who was actually looking for provel cheese in Florida! Just the other day we tried asking for provel at the Publix grocery store and no one has ever heard of it (they suggested provolone). We use provel in salads and will have to stock up on our next trip back to St.Louis (soon). Both of our kids (one now in Colorado and one in Texas) demand Imo's when they come back to St.Louis - It is still the very favorite and in front of requests for Steak and Shake hamburgers and White Castle Hamburgers! And by the way, Ponticello's also has onion rings that are the best we have ever eaten. And another thing, we are still looking for a great tasting filet of sole or cod fish sandwich on frendh bread with a decent tartar sauce similar to what you can only find at Garavelli's in St. Louis.
I now have more Provel cheese than anyone else in Central Florida, I'm guessing. My awesome boss drove to St. Louis for Christmas, and I asked her to bring some back for me. She came through, and now I have FOUR half-pound containers of Provel in my freezer, two pounds of the good stuff for whenever I attempt the Imo's copycat recipe.
re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou
As someone stated in the chain above, you can find Imo's-style pizza in Florida about 2 hours north of you in Jacksonville. Picaso's makes one helluva good Imo's-style pizza. Made me nearly weep with joy when I found them.
Now if I could only find a White Castle near here (and NO Krystal is NOT just like White Castle).
I have got to agree with you here. I am a native St. Louisan from North County. Ponticello's is the BEST! I've been in Orlando for a couple of years now and still can't find anything close down here. Whenever we go to St. Louis, we go by Pirrone's on St. Anthony and pick up some frozen half-baked pizzas to bring back with us.
We also took the advice of one person and went to Viviano's for some provel cheese. The price has gone up a little, but they still sell it in 5 pound blocks. We cut it into 8 oz. pieces and freeze it until we need it.
Maybe one day soon St. Louis style pizza will make its way to the Orlando/Central Florida area. If anybody finds anything, PLEASE post the info. Thanks!
I picked up a tub (0.86 lbs) of provel in a grocery store here in Kansas City, MO. (Sunfresh in westport). The package says "Swiss-american, inc, St Louis, Missouri, 63110". Coincidentally enough, there's an Imo's Pizza in the same strip mall as this grocery store. There's also another St Louis style pizza place in town called Leo's, which is delicious.
I too, just moved to Sanibel from St. Charles Missouri and cannot find any good pizza here. It's the provel cheese I miss the most. Saullo's in St. Charles and of course Taylana's and Imo's and Stefanina's were so good. We really miss it. I think we'll have to try ordering Imo's online to get that taste, and I imagine it's quite expensive. I don't know why provel cheese is unique to St. Louis. Seems there would be a market for it here also. I would love to find toasted ravioli in this part of Florida also, if anyone has any ideas. Thanks!
This post has made me very homesick!
I did not realize that Straub's was online. My husband would like to thank you for the lightening of his wallet!
I live in St Louis, my brother who lives in Lakeland, FL now sent me this link. Every grocery store in STL carries provel cheese, check with Schnuck's, Dierbergs, Straub's($$), and Shop n Save- those are the majors ones. The Hill is the Italian section of STL and there are many family run grocers there. Also, any self respecting restaurant in town would have it. The 1st and last stop my brother makes while back in town is at Lou (or Joe) Baccardi's. He usually takes a couple of pizza's back on the plane with him. My good friend who now lives in Dallas always takes provel back with her, usually to the dismay of her neighbors. If you're not from STL, you usually just don't appreciate it. It's thin when melted and sticks to your teeth, it doesn't string like mozzarella, and the pizza is super great cold for breakfast the next day. IT IS great on salads too, usually it's in the form of what looks like thick spaghetti noodles and that's how you find it in the grocery stores. Imo's will always be my favorite, you can't beat the Italian sausage- man i'm hungry for a few squares now!!!!
I checked with various cheese suppliers in Florida and they do not carry provel cheese or ever heard of it. It apperars that St Louis is the only area that receives this cheese produced in Wisconsin. It is actually a process cheese made of Provolone, Swiss, and White Cheddar. Brothers Joe and Lou Parente' are credited with the innovation of Provel cheese in the 1940s and 1950s. Marge and Eddie Imo didn't open until 1964 and popularized the St Louis style pizza to the masses. I order my provel online from John Viviano & Sons. The website is shopviviano.com ( don't forget to add some italian sausage to the order ) For more info on the history of StL pizza, there was a book released in the fall of 2008 called Saint Louis Italians and it really brings back some great memories. I've been in Florida for 17 years traveling the entire state and still searching for a pizza pie even close to St Louis style. No luck.
Hi all~ I have been in Tampa,Florida for 32 years now.I grew up on Imo's and cusanellis pizza as a kid. Sadly,there is no provel in florida.I talked to (Toots),the inventor of provel some years ago. He was in his 80's then,it was 10-11 years ago. During that time,they actually opened up an Imos's pizza on Dale Mabry in Tampa.It was the real deal,Just like what you find in St.Louis! I used to go down there twice a week from plant city! It lasted for less than a year-the guy pulled out ,because he only made around 200k profit. Now I have been going to a new place around Brandon called Marco's,maybe not new but new to the area.It's pretty good,they use a cheese blend that is tasty,have a thin-crust,and even cut it in squares!
norincoz71, Glad to hear of someone else who lives locally and grew up on Cusanelli"s and Emo's . What I really miss is Helen's Pizza and was saddened to hear that she closed her doors because of the flooding and took her recipes with her. To alot of us growing up in Lemay and Mehlville that was the pizza to get. I left in 79 and have only been back 3 times but when I go, I make it my mission to fill up on all the great food in St. Louis. Cusanelli"s isn't the same after the new owners took over but it's still there. The one recipe that i did get while working for Rich and Charlies was the salad and all my friends ask for it all the time. I am going to try and get Publix to get in Provel since Kraft owns the company that makes it and it shouldn't be hard to do. I am going to try Marco's. Hopefully it will be good. Thank for the tip.
There is a restaurant/ Bar in Clearwater Beach just behind Island Way Grill that makes a pizza close to Imo's. They do not use Provel cheese though. I have the recipe for Imo's I found online and it's ok. The Pasta House salad recipe is awesome. Everyone I know in Orlando that has tried it loves it. Gotta love those pimentos. I miss the Smoke House off Chesterfield airport road. Great sandwiches and homemade jerky.
I have no idea if this chain is even being read by the original poster, as it started nearly 4 years ago. I stumbled on to it by accident while searching for something else. I am a St. Louisan born, raised and current resident. I understand the obession with Provel! You can by it in large blocks in most any local grocery store. (Don't waste your money buying the little bags with Imo's name on it - it's all the same.) If you are still searching for the makings of Imo's pizza - the chain bottles and sells (locally) their pizza sauce, the cheese and their salad dressing. If I were looking for this in FLA, I would try contacting one of the local grocery chains (below) and see if someone can ship to you from the store. In my experience, the good folks at Straubs are very helpful and have even offered to order special products when they did not have it on their shelves...I would start with them to see if they can assist you in obtaining the ingredients you need.
Shop 'n Save
re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou
WE are originally from St. Louis too and missed provel cheese too. Fortunately our chain grocery store will do special orders for customers. Check with your local grocery store and see if they do special order. We have Dillions (Krogers) in our area. The great thing there is no min. order what you don't want they put in the deli section with other cheeses. Must have been popular because now they carry it in all the stores. YEAH!!! Its a little expensive $8.99 a pound for provel ropes but so yummy and convenient. There is also a website for St louis Cravings they sell STL dressing , provel cheese, Ted Dewes, and frozen IMO pizzas. Good Luck
Good Luck Cafe
1910 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605
Pizza World has a st louis style pizza with provel cheese on it. It tastes just like the real deal and its cheaper. They were having a special a couple weeks ago 8.99 3 topping large. I don't know if they sale it there or not but, its worth asking. Google PIzza World, I'm not sure where you guys are but, they have other restaurants in different states. They also have tons of other types of pizza.
1308 10th St, Saint Cloud, FL 34769
Just had a friend mail me an Imo's to Fla. - I got the recipe on line and will try to order the cheese from viviano on line. Now if we could only make Ted Drews Custard. (first job in high school. My second was at Rich and Charlies original. Richard was the at the front and Charlies was in the kitchen!) Those salads are the best!
Glad I found this thread.
Thanks for the Viviano's link.
I'm heading back to Nevada after being gone from STL for almost 5 years. Didn't realize how much I missed our local specialties.
I'm taking back 10 lbs of Provel, a dozen bags of Red Hot Riplets and some gooey butter cakes. I've had several St Louis style pizzas and toasted ravioli's and even a St Paul sandwich.
BTW, I've found gooey butter cakes can be ordered online from both:
LOL.. at all these pplz.... Provel cheese is not an "IMO's" special product it was just the cheese they used to get famous. It was originally made on "Dego Hill" in St. Louis MO. To get provel u gotta live in St. Louis or the counties close to it. Farthest away I have found it is in Cape (1-2 hour drive from St. Louis) . So they call Missouri Missery but hey we got the bombest cheese on planet earth!
Also: IMO's dressing is pretty awesome for some italian dressing that u pay like 4 bucks an ounce for but on the hill (dego hill) u can buy the same exact blend by the gallon for 4 bucks.
Local schnucks make their own provel but it just isn't quite as awesome as what u get on "the hill" it's a bit more dry and not as tasty, perhaps your schnucks could call the schnucks on "Arsenal" in St. Louis and request the recipe it is a corporation afterall. As for the PP yes Viviano's is the best place imo for Provel cheese they are starting the franchise workings but as of yet it hasn't gone to far beyond city limits based on the demographic. Another St. Louis specialty to look for is Volpi Genova Salami ZOMFG the most amazing food, better than squeeze cheese!!!!! People don't really appreciate how special one specific thing is untill it's gone if u feel me :)
<3 St. Louis never leavin no matter what cuz we got some food of the GODS!
I have a recipe for St. Louis style thin crust pizza. I have the recipe for the crust, sauce and spice blend and I also have the pizza cheese. If you are interested you can call 573-301-7960 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I also have the recipes for St. Louis style Gerber Sandwiches if you are interested.
I buy my Provel cheese from Vivianos in Fenton, Mo. They also have a place on "The Hill" in St. Louis. I buy 5 lb. blocks and freeze them. Then I make my own St. Louis Pizza like Joe Bocordis from Eureka. Yum.
You can make Provel yourself by combining equal parts of grated sharp Cheddar, smoked Provolone, and Swiss cheeses on top of your pizza. The history of the cheese suggests that it is made specifically for shipment to the St. Louis area and is not widely available elsewhere. It will probably end up costing you more than it is worth to try to ship it to wherever you are from someone in St. Louis especially since the three component cheeses that it is a blend of are widely available everywhere.
Just like Imos. The owner was from St. Louis
10503 San Jose Blvd
Jacksonville, FL 32257
Bob is wrong Provel cheese is not made by or just for Imos. It is pronounced Emos, like Sesame St.
You can buy Provel on Amazon,
According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch food critic Joe Bonwich, Provel was invented specifically for St. Louis-style pizza more than a half-century ago by the downtown firm Costa Grocery (now Roma Grocery on the Hill, a primarily Italian St. Louis neighborhood), in collaboration with the Hoffman Dairy Company of Wisconsin (now part of Kraft Foods).
The trademark on the Provel name, first used in 1947, is currently held by the Churny Company, Inc. of Glenview, Illinois. Churny is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Kraft Foods.
With its wafer-thin crust; thick, sweet tomato sauce; gooey Provel cheese; and signature square slices, St. Louis-style Pizza is unmistakable. Adding cornstarch to the dough absorbed moisture and allowed the crust to crisp in a conventional oven. Because cornstarch has no gluten, it also helped to keep the crust tender.
We doctored a simple pizza sauce by adding sugar, tomato sauce, dried oregano, and fresh basil. The fresh herb wasn’t typical, but it gave the St. Louis-Style Pizza a flavorful lift. Smoky, melty Provel cheese was difficult to find outside the St. Louis area. We crafted a respectable substitute with American cheese, Monterey Jack, and liquid smoke.
Makes two 12-inch pizzas
We like to use a baking stone (also called a pizza stone), which heats evenly and helps crisp crusts, but if you don’t have one, bake the pizzas on an inverted, preheated rimmed baking sheet.
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 cups shredded white American cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
3 drops liquid smoke
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. MAKE SAUCE Whisk together tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, sugar, and oregano in small bowl; set aside. Toss cheeses with liquid smoke in medium bowl; set aside.
2. MIX DOUGH Combine flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Combine water and olive oil in liquid measuring cup. Stir water mixture into flour mixture until dough starts to come together. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 3 or 4 times, until cohesive.
3. ROLL DOUGH Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, place pizza stone (or inverted baking sheet) on rack, and heat oven to 475 degrees. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, press into small circle and transfer to parchment paper dusted lightly with flour. Using rolling pin, roll and stretch dough to form 12-inch circle, rotating parchment as needed. Lift parchment and pizza off work surface onto inverted baking sheet.
4. ASSEMBLE PIZZA Top each piece of dough with half of sauce and half of cheese. Carefully pull parchment paper and pizza off baking sheet onto hot baking stone. Bake until underside is golden brown and cheese is completely melted, 9 to 12 minutes. Remove pizza and parchment from oven. Transfer pizza to cooling rack and let cool few minutes. Assemble and bake second pizza. Cut into 2-inch squares. Serve.
MAKE AHEAD: The dough can be made in advance. At the end of step 2, tightly wrap the ball of dough in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
EASY AS (PIZZA) PIE
St. Louis-Style Pizza has a paper-thin crust. Here's how we transfer the dough from countertop to oven without tearing.
Anyone out there still looking for Provel cheese? Schnuck's grocery store sells it by the pound in their delis. I go thru St. Louis all the time since my extended family still lives there. I am searching now for anyone who would overnight just the cheese, as I didn't like Imo's Pizza at all when we lived in that area. But I love Provel cheese.