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For some, receiving a five-pound brick of Provel cheese in the mail is a swell surprise. For others, a package from the Unabomber might just be preferable. If you're in the former camp, Paul Fresta can hook you up.
Fresta's new business, "It's a St. Louis Thing" (not to be confused with HEC-TV's "St. Louis thing") offers Provel cheese, whole Dogtown Pizza pies, Pasta House entrees, gooey butter cake mixes, Switzer's licorice, Red Hot Riplets, Gus' Pretzels, Super Smokers BBQ Sauce, and even pints of Gelato di Riso via the U.S. mail. For a former St. Louisan pining for his or her hometown's quirky cuisine, it's an excellent one-stop clearinghouse for dozens of local edible products.
Last November, Fresta started selling these goodies at his web site, but as of last week, he's renting a spot at Soulard Market, too. It's nice to seee the fruits of so many successful St. Louis businesses clustered in one place. (And, frankly, the only thing that might compare is the salad dressing aisle at Dierbergs, which offers the pride of Zia's, Rich & Charlie's, and so on.)
If Fresta's name sounds familiar, that's because his pop, Joe Fresta, is a co-owner of the Pasta House empire. In fact, Fresta the younger sells cannelloni, manicotti, and toasted ravioli prepped in the Pasta House kitchens. ("Of course I'm not going anywhere else for the pasta," said Fresta. "I'd be shot! But the Pasta House is actually the best, though.")
"After high school I lived in three different states for the better part of 20 years," he explained, "and my mom would collect some of my favorite local St. Louis things and ship them to me in dry ice. I've had this idea to turn that into a business forever, and I finally woke up one day and decided to do it."
Fresta reports that he's already shipped foods to Canada, among other destinations, and even had an order from Taiwan.
He's a huge booster of all things St. Louis, and even offers some CDs and visual art by locals, along with the odd Blues, Cardinals, and Rams merchandise at his site.
"Anything that's made here in St. Louis -- as long as it's legal -- crafts, candy made in a kitchen, toys made in a garage, I'm offering the opportunity to sell it in a legitimate online store and a physical location," he said.
Fresta added that if the business takes off, he'd like to look into selling from carts in shopping malls, and hopefully open a brick-and-mortar retail outlet eventually, too.
"I love this city, and I think there's no place better to raise kids," explained Fresta. "This city gets a bad rap sometimes, but so many people make incredible things here, and that's why this is a great city. I want all these products to be even better known than they are."
Feel free to contact Fresta at the phone number or web site below, or on Facebook, he said, to get your St. Louis-made product in his booth and on his site.
Fridays and Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Booth at Soulard Market
South 7th at Carroll streets