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St. Louis style pizza in Tampa?

Hi Chowhounds,

Can anyone recommend a place in Tampa that approximates true St. Louis style pizza? You know what I'm talking about - the cracker thin crust (cut into squares) with provel cheese bubbling on top!

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  1. Never found anything so I just order from Imos and have them overnight it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Suzie

      How dare you mention Imos. Now I'll be craving it all week.

    2. Domino's has an "ultra-thin" crust, which gets the crust part of the equation correct (absoutely amazingly). Unfortunately, the rest of the pizza is typical chain fare: a dearth of garlic, oregano, basil, allspice, or anything else which would add flavor to the pizza.

      I grew up in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago, and the best pizza I ever had (well, okay, it's a tie with Wolfgang Puck's pizza in the bar at Postrio in San Francisco) was at House of Pizza on Indianapolis Boulevard (U.S. 41) in south Hammond, Indiana. As of 2005, the last time I was in Indiana, it was still going strong. When I described the nature of the pizza to other people elsewhere and in Florida, however, no one had a clue as to what I was talking about. Then I saw a Food Network special on pizza and, finally, I learned that this style of pizza is called "St. Louis style" pizza. But when I have mentioned "St. Louis style" pizza to pizza conniseurs, they still have no idea what I am talking about. I am delighted to find someone on the board who knows what it is and has found it elsewhere. It must not be as rare as my experience leads me to believe. I am sorry I cannot be of more help in your search. My parting question to "Suzie," of course, is: Where is Imos located?

      1 Reply
      1. re: gfr1111

        In St. Louis. It is what the original poster is describing. http://www.imospizza.com/

      2. Yep, Imos is the local chain in St. Louis! Give it a try gfr1111 if you are ever there. Ordering it overnight is a little spendy for me, but I may have to make the occasional splurge.

        I have broken down and ordered the Domino's thin crust from time to time but I never feel good about it afterwards.

        1 Reply
        1. re: panicattack

          I am the same way about other thin crusts too panicattack. There is just nothing like Imos. Its not a bad deal if you do it once in a while. I think its actually 2 day shipping and its all included in the price. I have also ordered the toasted ravioli from them as well. Never had any major problems with shipping but a couple of times the dry ice was gone and the pizza wasn't as frozen as it usually is but it still baked off perfectly and tasted just like having it at Imos.
          gfr111 - its truely a cracker crust. Thin crust pizzas do not compare. I don't think they put any yeast in the dough.

        2. This is the first I've heard of St. Louis style pizza, so I'm no expert, but the first thing that came to mind was the pizza at Pane Rustica in Tampa. They make it on a super thin crust that is crisp like a cracker, quite dry (light on sauce, that is, very light), and loaded with flavorful toppings like caramelized onions, sausage, gorgonzola, etc., also quite dry so the crust doesn't get soggy. The toppings don't sound like what you're looking for, exactly, but they're tasty pizzas... Pane Rustica is on Macdill near Bay to Bay.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Miss E

            St Louis pizza is more than the ultrathin, crackery crust. It is topped with a concoction called provel cheese, a processed provolone/mozzarela, and most of the toppings are placed under rather than over the cheese. Huge pizzas in area because they are so thin, and cut into squares rather than wedges.

            Imo's is a quality St. Louis chain. My favorite is Cafe Manhattan in Clayton on Hanley -- I don't know if they ship. Frank & Helen's on Olive was a favorite when I was in high school, but in more recent tries they've slipped.

            1. re: nosh

              The cheese is provel but its actually a blend of processed swiss, provolone and cheddar cheeses.

          2. Last Christmas, I ordered two Imo's Pizzas for my girlfriend and her family off the website, since her mom grew up in St. Louis, and they all had fond memories of Imo's. I got to sample it with them, and it was interesting -- nice and crispy, with the cheese remaining in a gooey liquid form almost the entire time. It wasn't nearly as filling as most pizza I've had, but it would be a great snack food every now and then.

            Unfortunately, I investigated local sources for that kind of pizza, and there was nothing around here (Orlando) or anywhere else in Central Florida that I came up with. You can't even buy Provel cheese locally -- you have to order it online, and the shipping can get prohibitively expensive (same with the pizzas themselves).

            I did track down a recipe that is supposed to approximate the Imo's Pizza style as closely as possible, right down to "faking" the Provel cheese. I'll post it here if you and anyone else are interested, but I haven't tested it yet to see how close it comes.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

              This is what I have but I haven't tested it either. I always find it easier just to order it.

              1. re: Suzie

                BWAH HA HA! That's the exact recipe I found. I can't think of too many others that add liquid smoke to the cheese blend. I keep meaning to try it... one of these days.

                1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                  Hi...this blog came up when I did a google search for St. Louis-Style Imo's Pizza, and I felt I had to comment. Being from St. Louis, but now living in another state, I tend to order a couple of pizzas each time I go back to visit. I let them cool, then put them in ziplock bags in the freezer & transport them in a cooler until I get back to my own place. It's much cheaper, obviously, if I'm already going to be in the area, to do it that way than to spend the money for the dry-ice shipping. Anyhow, I am thrilled that there is a recipe out there that supposedly will duplicate the original. I printed it off & will try it within the next week or so. I'll try to make a point of letting you know whether it really tastes like the original, or if I end up with a poor knock-off. Thanks, at any rate, for posting the recipe. I've searched for something like this...off & on...for over a year. Best of luck!

                  1. re: ButterflyGirl

                    I also have brought back St. Louis pizza when I return home to L.A. I order mine from Cafe Manhattan, and get a pepperoni, mushroom and sausage. The sausage is crucial, as it provides a thick bumpy surface. I freeze the pizza, then break up the squares. Form a block of four -- the bottom layer properly crust side down, then the next upside down so they are face to face, and repeat. Now you see why the sausage keeps the cheesy surfaces from sticking to eachother. The blocks are now somewhere around 3 or 4-inch cubes, and can be wrapped and stacked. Refreeze them hard. Now I find that in the eight hours or less that it takes to get door to door on my flight I can return them to the freezer with no ill effects.

            2. The only thing close is Guido's Pizza Cafe in Spring Hill, FL. about 40 miles to the North on 19

              5 Replies
              1. re: Mister johnny

                Ok...so I tried the Imo's pizza recipe tonight. Overall, it turned out pretty good, but there are a few variables I would alter based on the outcome, in case anyone decides to try making this pizza at home. My huband (also from St. Louis) liked the pizza & said it was good and a lot like Imo's except that the crust wasn't as crispy. I used one of those pizza pans with holes in the bottom to allow for making the crust more crispy because I think it would be very difficult to bake homemade pizza directly on the oven rack. I should also note that my oven is one of those "gormet"/European-style ones that heats from the top instead of how most ovens heat from the bottom, which might have played a factor. Anyhow, I would probably recommend using a fork to prick the crust, once it has been rolled out and placed on a pizza pan, and then baking it by itself for 5(?) or so minutes before adding the toppings. Pricking the crust will prevent it from having huge air bubbles (which sometimes happens if you bake crust without toppings). I also made a "mini" version on an aluminum pie plate using some extra dough. (Since the recipe said it would make two 12" pizzas, I calculated the area the crust recipe should cover at around 72 sq. inches, and since I used a 16" pizza pan, which was only around 50 sq. inches, I didn't want to use all the dough to ensure I achieved the desired crust thinness.) I baked the "mini" pizza's crust for a little while before adding the toppings & the crust was much crispier. I also think it tasted much more like Imo's. At any rate, I definitely think the recipe is worth trying. A couple of other "hints" or "ideas" I would pass along include:
                Use a blender/food processor to mix the sauce. Simply measure the ingredients & blend. The sauce was tasty for sure and very smooth in texture!
                Buy the cheeses in blocks (we got ours at Sam's Club) and grate it yourself if you can't find it pre-shredded. Those varieties don't often come shredded.
                I didn't have any dark corn syrup, so I used Mrs. Butterworth's. It worked just fine.
                Do not substitute tomato sauce for tomato paste. The paste is thicker and adds flavor that couldn't be achieved with sauce.
                Best of luck to all of your Florida folks!

                1. re: ButterflyGirl

                  Thanks for sharing your tips! I will get around to making it one of these days.

                  1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                    I think I will still just order them once in a blue moon, lol.

                    1. re: Suzie

                      I've never had but was following the thread cause love pizza and interested in this "new" type. But after reading BG's post, I gotta admit I don't have enough math skills to figure out the size pan needed :).

                      BTW, all kidding aside, my hats off to BG for making the attempt and posting it in such detail. Definitely a dedicated hound!!

                  2. re: ButterflyGirl

                    My husband tried the recipe a few nights ago. Results were similar to those reported by ButterflyGirl. Sauce and cheese toppings tasted great and similar to Imo's. However, the Imo's crust was not captured. I don't think he tried ButterflyGirl's suggestion of pre-baking the crust. Also, he baked the pizza on top of a regular baking sheet. Overall, while not as good as the real thing, it was still some tasty pizza. We are going to buy a pizza stone and try the recipe out again.

                2. Paul's Pizza in Safety Harbor may come close. It is Chicago style thin crust, very similar to what you are describing. It is on McMullen Booth Rd south of the bridge in the Publix plaza. Give it a try.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: G8R Dan

                    There's Ledo Pizza on North Dale Mabry that might make something that qualifies. I'm no expert on St. Louis style, but I went in there once and left without buying anything because I like a thick crust.

                  2. GUESS WHAT!!! i still live in STL and get STL style pizza all the time... in fact ive got some Imos leftovers in my fridge right now... i hear these people talkin about Cafe Manhattan...are you talkin about the one near Ronnies because if you are Ive got a story....i was eating there one day and it is like a diner so i found it weird that they had pizza on the menu but i ordered it anyways....i ate it and was so surprised at how good it was and how it was just like Imos I never knew until just now that they were known for their pizza.... so I just wanted to say be jealous that i get to eat STL style pizza all day everyday and to all those who have never had it; i highly recommend it
                    (also try Imos salad its AMAZING!!!)

                    1. Charlie and Millies Pizza,
                      (727) 391-5661
                      10953 Seminole Blvd
                      Largo, FL

                      I am open to all types of food. It doesn't matter where I am from, but we really enjoy this pizza. and the cold beer! Cracker thin!

                      1. Great to find a location in Jacksonville to get a "St. Louis Style Pizza". Will have to give it a try. Having lived in Florida for ten years the first thing my wife and I do when we visit St. Louis is head for either a pizza or a White Castle. By the way if you are in the Kansas City and looking for that "Provel" taste go to Pizza West in Shawnee Mission. Phone # is 913-422-9010. The place is run by two brothers who were brought up on 'SLSP". Very good.

                        1. I recently was brought to Pinocchio's in Palm Harbor by my St. Louis native father. Their Chicago style is the closest he has found in 50 years of Florida searching. We also had their thin crust NY style, which I preferred. They have the best garlic knots I've ever had! I wish I lived closer so I could work my way through the menu. My only complaint was they use canned mushrooms on the pizza.


                          This is where Lucky Dill was years ago. You'll see "pizza" on the sign before you see "pinocchio's".