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Saint Louis–Style Pizza: Show Me the Cheese
Chicago and New York aren’t the only cities with their own pizza traditions. Groupon’s peek at Saint Louis–style pizza shows how this metropolis grabbed a slice of the culinary pie.
Imagine biting into a slice of pizza, the mozzarella stretching in taut, ductile strands from slice to mouth until finally the teeth win out with a snap. Now, if you happen to be in Saint Louis, forget all that. The cheese on a Saint Louis–style pie isn’t mozzarella, provolone, or muenster, and it doesn’t stretch or bounce. Instead, it’s provel: a processed mixture of provolone, swiss, and white-cheddar cheeses. Served atop the city’s signature cracker-thin, yeast-less crust, provel makes a clean break when cut or bitten into; even at room temperature, the stuff is soft and malleable. Fans describe the taste as sharp, buttery, and slightly smoky (indeed, liquid smoke is sometimes an ingredient). Although virtually unknown outside Saint Louis, provel perseveres—a recent NPR report cited some 2 million pounds of it is consumed each year, on salads and sandwiches as well as pizza.
Saint Louis may well have adopted a nonmessy cheese simply because the rest of the slice is so unwieldy. Unlike sparsely decorated New York–style pizza, the wafer-like crust of a Saint Louis pie traditionally supports piles of toppings that would slide right off the point of a wedge-shaped slice; accordingly, it’s sliced into squares. A generous slathering of distinctly sweet sauce ties the dish together, likely influenced by the city’s population of Sicilian immigrants and candy merchants.