Thursday, September 29, 2011

Saint Louis versus Chicago #1: Pizza

While on a recent trip to Chicago, and stopping off at a Chicago style pizza place, Giordano's, they had a new item on their menu.  They called it Chicago thin crust style pizza and claimed to be famous for that as well.  They described it as being a thin, cracker like crust, that was generally cut into squares or a pattern called "party cut".

Well, there is an issue with that above statement.  The issue is that I thought that Saint Louis invented the cracker thin crust pizza that was cut into squares called "party cut".  So, Chicago, let's take a look at what the internet can find for us.

I think if we look at where pizzas originated, it would take forever but the pizza that we are familiar with didn't come about, even in Italy, until after 1540 or so.  Tomatoes are native to the Americas and so it could not have gotten to Europe until the Spanish or another country brought it there.  The Italians, Greeks and other cultures had flat bread foods with different toppings, but the tomato or tomato sauce could not have shown up until after the 1500's.  This is the pizza that is important to us and in this search.

The best example of what I can call thin-crust pizza was invented in a restaurant called Aurelio's Pizza in 1959, in Chicago.  It was a thin, cracker-like crust, and had cheese and toppings go all the way to the edges and was cut into squares instead of the normal triangular cuts.

While I still can't find any evidence of the first thin-crust pizza in st. louis or when it was first made, I do know that it has a signature ingredient which was invented solely for the use on st. louis thin crust style pizza.  That ingredient is called Provel.  Provel cheese is a mixture of Chedder, Swiss and Provolone and was trademarked in 1947.  Since it was trademarked in 1947, almost 12 years before the first instance of thin-crust pizza showed up in Chicago, it could be said that St. Louis had the thin crust pizza first.

Some of the pizza chains still around in Saint Louis are Cecil Whittaker's (which was founded in 1983), Imo's (which opened in 1964), Faracis's (which opened in 1968) and Rigazzi's (which opened in 1957).  If restaurants are serving Saint Louis style or thin crust pizza, at least 2 years before Chicago claims to have invented it, then I do believe, that Saint Louis wins this one.

So, Chicago, when you list your thin crust pizza, that has a cracker-like crust, and is cut into squares, please list it as being Saint Louis style.  Thank you.

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