Frozen pizzas invaded the CPC on 4/4/09.
Review submitted by El Presidente.
This meeting had a dual purpose. It was primarily a meeting to discuss the future of the Chicago Pizza Club and how to improve it for you, our devoted readers. But it also gave us a reason to trash Dan's house and cook 10 frozen pizzas. These were all bought at Dominick's except for the Lou Malnati's pizza which I picked up from one of their pizzerias (Malnati's is not available in supermarkets). The total cost for these pizzas came out to $71. We cooked all of the pizzas as close to their indicated temperatures as we could, but a few were off by 25 degrees due to time and oven space constraints.
Here is the lineup:
- DiGiorno mushroom medley, portabella and button mushrooms with creme fraiche and roasted red onions
- Lou Malnati's deep-dish to-go pizza with pepperoni
- Home Run Inn with sausage and uncured pepperoni
- Gino's East deep-dish sausage
- California Pizza Kitchen white pizza (spinach, garlic, fontina cheese, parmesan, romano, mozarella)
- Newman's Own with uncured pepperoni
- Freschetta 4-cheese
- Palermo Rustica 6-cheese (white cheddar, asiago, romano, provolone, mozzarella, parmesan)
- Tombstone Deluxe (onion, mushrooms, green pepper, and sausage)
- Reggio's cheese deep-dish
I thought the Gino's East pizza was terrible. It was just bland, which is NOT the case at the restaurant. The sauce was comparatively good and was a good counterpoint to the cornmeal crust. The Reggio's was a cheese pizza and this was a good thing. I found it to be so salty that any meat would have made it inedible for me. Lou Malnati's, Gino's East, and Reggio's are local Chicago restaurants that offer frozen versions of their products. I have only been to Lou's and Gino's and their frozen pizzas pale in comparison to the offerings at the restaurants, and I think it's an easy assumption that the same holds true for Reggio's. I thought they were all disappointing. The cook times for these three were 40 minutes, 35 minutes, and 30 minutes respectively.
Perhaps my favorite pizza of the night was a new product from Newman's Own (12 minutes). They have recently entered the frozen pizza business and they seem to know what they're doing. The crust was crisp, the cheese and sauce had a strong garlic component and a good distribution of toppings, including some really sorry-looking pepperoni. Say what you will about what most places offer at their restaurant, but this pepperoni (and all the other ones we had tonight) was chewy, too salty, and should not be put on any pizza. Palermo's pizza (20 minutes) is put out by the Milwaukee chain of the same name. This six cheese pizza had a great flavor - I thought it was the best topping of the night. I'm used to seeing 4 cheese pizzas, but these guys are clearly going for the glory with 6 cheeses. I felt the crust was too thick and spongy, but this was still one of the better pizzas. The DiGiorno pizza (12 minutes) had excellent toppings as well. The mushrooms tasted better than a lot of mushrooms you get at good pizzerias. I really thought the creme fraiche was unnecessary and just added a layer of flavorless glob underneath the great mushrooms. This was in the flatbread style and the crust was appropriately thin and crisp.
The biggest disappointment of the night for me was the Home Run Inn pizza (20 minutes). I am a big fan of their restaurant product and had fond memories of a few frozen pizzas in my childhood. Those memories are dashed thanks to a sauce that is so artificial I could taste the metal can it came in, cheap, rubbery meats, and a bland crust. Tombstone (17 minutes) needs no introduction. We've all had it, either at kitchenless bars, dorm rooms, or on lonely Saturday nights. This Wisconsin product had a great set of commercials a few decades ago and is probably the best-known frozen pizza. The deluxe had the worst meat of the night. It was just gross. The only positive I can say is that the crust was crisp and didn't let the toppings spill all over me. I was able to salvage it with lots of Tabasco sauce, but that's because all I could taste was the hot sauce. I'll at least commend them for being consistent. This pizza hasn't changed.
Even before this meeting, I already knew that I would hate California Pizza Kitchen (11 minutes). I hate it from every angle: I hate their stupid toppings, I hate their attempts at making pizza healthy, I hate California, and I hate people who tell me it's the greatest pizza they have ever had. This white pizza had chunks of spinach that were visually unappetizing because they were clumped and soggy. It was also very salty, but not in a good way. I think Phred may have ended up with the last bite of my piece. Freschetta (19 minutes) was in a tough spot. The 6-cheese pizza from before set the bar high and this 4-cheese Freschetta pizza was no comparison. It had a lot of sauce, but this was actually terrible since it made it hard for me to get the cheese combination flavors. The crust was light and fluffy with some decent chew, but it was drowned in the sea of terrible sauce.
The lesson here? When possible, go to the restaurant to eat pizza or at least get delivery - the frozen product does not compare. There were a few that put more attention into the quality of ingredients and this was evident. I would be happy to have those as a late night snack, but they're still nowhere near as good as any decent restaurant.