Founded in 1964 by a tile maker as an edible canvas on which to practice his square-cutting, Imo’s original St. Louis–style pizza features a thin, cracker-crisp crust topped with homemade sauce and Provel cheese, then sliced into squares. The love child of a culinary fromage a trois between cheddar, Swiss, and provolone cheeses, Provel melts into a soft, creamy pool reminiscent of the delicious dairy lagoons tucked away high in the Swiss Alps, and can be enjoyed on Imo’s pizza for its minimalistic beauty or as a blank canvas for a DIY pizza experience ($12.38–$14.76 base price for a large). Pile on any of Imo’s 14 fresh toppings—including pepperoncini, hamburger, Canadian bacon, and jalapeno—or indulge in one of its popular specialty pies (less than $20 at either location). The all-meat pizza combines sausage, hamburger, bacon, Canadian bacon, and pepperoni, while the veggie deluxe (mushroom, onion, green pepper, and tomato) hosts a stately garden party in one’s mouth.
On street corners from Texas to North Carolina, Johnny Brusco's Pizza serves up piping-hot slices of New York, and that's not whistling Dixie. It's not even kazooing Yankee. The franchise boasts a lineage that stretches back to 1965, when pie-smith Johnny Pace opened up his pizzeria just outside of Syracuse. Though the menu stays true to Johnny's classic style, today's crust-tossers aren't afraid to switch things up in modern style. Gluten-watchers can dig into a flour-free variant of the crust, and their specialties include such daring choices as a cream cheese pizza, a Philly-esque steak and cheese, and a zesty gourmet pie with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, and artichokes. Outside of the round stuff, diners might select a summery strawberry-pecan salad, a classic plate of bruschetta with pesto, mozzarella, and marinara sauce, and a finger-licking dessert of cinna-knots.
Wheat State Pizza!’s whole-wheat or white crusts host homemade sauces and flavorful jumbles of more than 30 toppings. Like the Christmas list of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, the menu includes 15 types of specialty pizza ($10.99–$19.99), each of which can be constructed atop a hand-tossed or thin crust. A velvety blend of alfredo sauce, chicken, mushrooms, mozzarella, and bacon tops the chicken carbonara, and the Mediterranean sails taste buds to the Old World aboard a fleet of green olives, sundried tomatoes, and crumbled feta cheese. Diners can opt to build their own pie ($8.99–$16.99 for one-topping pizza; $1.29–$1.99 per additional topping) from eclectic ingredients such as pepperoni, cashews, and avocado. A medley of dessert pizzas ($7.99–$15.99) layers wheat crust with classic ingredients such as cream-cheese frosting, apple-pie filling, and Betty Crocker break-dancing.
Granite City Food & Brewery, a casual family restaurant founded by hospitality experts, has an on-site brewery and a menu stuffed with more steak, seafood, pasta, flatbread pizza, burger, and sandwich options than Abe Lincoln had dollar bills stuffed in his top hat. Gourmet pub-grub appetizers and many other generously portioned dishes are listed alongside the beers that bring out their flavors. The intoxicating taste of the inebriated vodka mussels ($12.99) is suggested alongside Northern Light––a light creamy beer––and the juicy, tender meatiness of a 14-ounce New York strip ($25.99) is advised along with Brother Benedict’s bock––a brownish German-style lager. Others among Granite City Food & Brewery's six specialty brews are the Irish-style Broad Axe stout, known for its nose of roasted chocolate and coffee notes, and Duke Of Wellington, an IPA with muscle-bound malt character and a deep-seated dislike of Napoleon.
At two locations, The Other Place’s staff fires up ovens to bake pizzas, italian subs, and sandwiches to a golden brown—the color of Pharaoh’s mask after he eats a chocolate bar. Atop hand-made pizza crusts made from a 40-year-old recipe, the kitchen team layers toppings such as italian sausage, salami, and sun-dried tomatoes, lubricated by tomato, alfredo, and barbecue sauce. Submarine-shaped bread holds italian meats, veggies, and toppings. In both eateries’ dining areas, more than 50 TVs stream sports games. The Other Place also often entertains guests with karaoke—America’s most underappreciated sport, and the one with the least funding in most school districts.
Michael Garozzo entered the dining business early, working as a busboy in his hometown of St. Louis. His young mind raced with dreams of opening a restaurant of his own, which came to fruition in 1989, when he opened Garozzo’s in Kansas City’s Columbus Park neighborhood. Since then, the restaurant has bloomed, and he had opened three additional locations across the greater Kansas City area.
Garozzo’s menu of Italian specialties is highlighted by the signature spiedini di pollo, a marinated chicken breast rolled in italian breadcrumbs, then skewered and grilled. The dish is served in four presentations, which include the Gabriella, with fettucine and spicy diablo sauce, and the Samantha, with fettucine, artichoke hearts, and alfredo sauce. Adding to the exclusive ambiance is the restaurant’s own branded wine, served at each location. Garozzo’s popular house tomato sauce, diablo sauce, and italian dressing are also available in grocery stores across the city, and its distinctive pastas can be purchased in many high-end local wig shops.