Provel is a pure, unforgettable St. Louis, one of those foods that transports people back to when and where they first ate it. Much like other evocative foods, its origin is less than simple. According to Enjoy your mealProvel was trademarked by a Chicago supplier of imported meats and cheeses in 1950. Yet others say it was the brainchild of Wisconsin dairy and St. Louis Italian grocer Costa’s. Grocery.
Whatever the source, one thing is certain: Provel is a unique material. Ask someone who knows cheese what its ingredients are and you’ll probably get a different answer each time, but NPR explains that Provel is a combination of cheddar, Swiss and provolone tinged with notes of liquid smoke. Once melted, it’s reminiscent of Velveeta, becoming a smooth, even layer floating over the super-thin, crispy crust of St. Louis-style pizza and red sauce.
Though Provel’s origin is murky, according to NPR, Imo’s Pizza is the place most credited with putting cheese on the map by making it the de rigueur sauce for St. Louis’s signature pie. But Imo’s isn’t the only place that uses Provel to good effect. Throughout the St. Louis area, it can be found cold in Italian salads and melted on sandwiches like the grilled, open-faced gerber sandwich made with garlic bread, paprika, ham and Provel, says Sauce magazine.