Like religion and politics, personal preference in pizza is the stuff over which wars are fought, friendships ruined, and rivalries hardened. Virtually every so-called “great” city in this country has its own namesake pizza style, replete with the “right” way to eat it and curious customs surrounding its consumption. Chicago: you can have your deep dish pizza, with your yeasty dough and redundant layers of cheese. New York: I’ve never understood the allure of your pizza. It must be folded so the cheese doesn’t slide off? It sits under lights for hours, only to be reheated in the oven by the slice? My fellow Phoenicians: you can stand in line for four hours for your Wise Guy at Pizzeria Bianco. I’ll gladly go to Frasher’s, where I can luxuriate in the sublime pleasures offered by the best pizza of them all, “St. Louis Stye.”
What is that, you say? You’ve never heard of “St. Louis Style Pizza?” Consider this: a yeast-free dough, so thin it’s almost cracker-like. A sauce, mildly sweet, that only gets better as the restaurant lets it simmer on the stove. Sausage…big chunks of rich pork punctuated with fennel seeds. And the cheese…Oh God…the cheese. Mozzarella? That’s for amateurs and chains. REAL PIZZA is made with Provel, that glorious processed blend of cheddar, swiss and provolone. Sold in 5 lb. bricks, and not technically cheese (it’s cheese food), Provel is what separates “pizza” from “crap.” With a consistency vaguely similar to Velveeta, Provel cheese melts evenly and coats the roof of your mouth with a plastic-like layer of rich, cheesy deliciousness. St. Louis style pizza is never cut in triangles. Always squares. And the best piece is the tiny one on the corner that you eat when the pizza arrives at your table.
Having spent the first 11 years of my life in St. Louis, and later returning for college, I never knew that any other lame excuse for pizza existed until we moved to Phoenix. I’ve had St. Louis pizza sent via FedEx to satisfy my cravings, but several years ago I came across Frasher’s Smokehouse, which offers pizza as good as any that you’ll find in the Show Me State. A homey hangout for ex-pat St. Louisans, Frasher’s offers all the comfort foods of home: Toasted Ravioli, Mayfair Salad, Pizza, and Gooey Butter Cake.
Have a seat at the bar, where the television will likely be tuned to a St. Louis sporting event and you’d be a moron for ordering anything other than a Budweiser. St. Louis is a working class town built on beer, the kind of place where you say with pride that your dad worked in a can factory and “forty” is pronounced “farty.” Although St. Louis has a deep history and a component of snobbery (West County, Ladue, etc) the essence of St. Louis can be found in neighborhoods like Soulard, South County, the Central West End and the Italian neighborhood known as “The Hill.” The folks at Frasher’s will make you feel right at home, whether or not you’re from St. Louis.
I suggest that you start with an order of Toasted Ravioli, which is just as it sounds. Raviolis, filled with a combination of seasoned meat, and then flash fried, sprinkled with cheese and served with marinara sauce for dipping. My only complaint is that I think the dipping sauce should have meat in it but, otherwise, Frasher’s nails this St. Louis staple, which is offered just about everywhere in town.
Then order “The Original,” a personal-sized pizza topped with Sausage (other toppings are available) and have yourself a cold Budweiser while you wait for this magical melted manifestation of pizza perfection to arrive. Once it does, you will scoff at your friends from New York and Chicago. You will savor the mouthfeel achieved only by the bubbling creaminess of melted Provel. You will feel the crunch of a perfect crust. You will be part of an elite cadre of food fantatics, and you’ll wonder how so much of your life could have been wasted eating such inferior food.
It is without hesitation that I proclaim St. Louis Style Pizza, as produced by Frasher’s, The Best Pizza in the World.