Chesterfield City Council meetings can be so darn civilized. That isn’t good if you are trying to write opinion columns about local issues.
I attended the June city council meeting hoping there might be some controversy, but I was disappointed. The meeting was over in 17 minutes. It would have been over in 15 minutes, but the Pledge of Allegiance went long.
But, one piece of legislation that was approved in less than a minute got my attention. A liquor license was issued to the Pi Pizzeria joint in the Baxter Bend Shopping Center.
The license was technically issued to Provel Free, LLC, the corporate owner of the Pi restaurants. Not serving St. Louis-style pizzas is one thing. Having the wait staff wear T-shirts that have the word “Provel” in a circle with a red slash across it is another. But when your corporate name on file in Jefferson City is a slam against St. Louis pizza, you might be going too far!
The unique style and flavor of St. Louis pizzas comes from Provel cheese. Provel is a blend of Swiss, Cheddar and Provolone cheeses. It began finding its way on top of pizzas on The Hill as early as 1948. Provel cheese was specially made in Wisconsin and originally sold at Costa grocery (now Roma) on The Hill. The Wisconsin dairy is now part of Kraft Foods.
Parentes, Isle of Capri and Pagliachis were some of the more popular restaurants on The Hill using Provel cheese on pizza after World War II. The other key ingredients for St. Louis-style pizza are a healthy dose of oregano and a sweet sauce. St. Louis-style pizzas are always cut into squares, which is known as "party pizza" in other parts of the country.
Keeping in mind that in 1955 West County pretty much stopped at Lindbergh Boulevard, one of the first St. Louis County pizza places with St. Louis-style pizza was Farotto’s on Manchester Road in Rock Hill. For 25 years, Lou Farotto’s three-table pizza place opened at 4 p.m. six days a week and was mostly a carry-out place. It has since expanded into a restaurant and .
Martha Stewart’s Living Magazine recently claimed Imo’s developed St. Louis-style pizza in the mid-1960s. The folks at Imo’s will readily admit that this is false, but Ed Imo did introduce home delivery and put St. Louis-style pizzas in homes across St. Louis.
I spent 26 years away from St. Louis. The first 10 years were in Kansas City; there I found Leo’s Pizza, which featured St. Louis-style pizza using the Farotto’s recipe. However, Leo would drop the Provel and use mozzarella when he got orders from people staying at hotels who were not expecting thin crust covered with Provel cheese.
Spending 16 years in Washington, D.C. meant every time I returned home the first stop with the rental car was either at Farotto’s or an Imo’s.
Pi seems to thrive on telling St. Louisans how bad our pizza is. That is OK by me and I wish them all the success. People who moved here from out of town need to find a place that sells different pizzas most locals don’t want to eat.