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Dec 23, 2006 01:35 AM

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.

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  1. 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.

    1. 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 . . .


      1. 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;_yl...


        1. 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.

          1. That 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!

            1 Reply
            1. 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.