Search
Advertisement
US Food Safety Recalls and Tips
View my food journey on Zomato!

Archive for the ‘Pizza’ Category

Pizza Sauces Compared – Home Cooking

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Pizza Sauces Compared

It literally took me decades to figure out how to make a great pizza at home. Now I prefer my own to nearly any pizzeria.

You have to pick and choose your ingredients, there are so many options in a standard pie, flour, sauce, cheese, meats, veggies.  I’m really picky about Italian sausage and pepperoni brands.

I started making crusts at home, it’s very easy, here’s the ingredients:

  • 2 t yeast (jars work better for me than packets)
  • 4 t sugar
  • 1 T salt
  • 4 C flour (the best is designated as “00” which is used in Italy. Find it at good food stores. King Arthur sells a version, too) but almost any white flour will do.
  • 1 C + more, water water, warmer than your finger
  • 1/2 C EVOO

Eight minutes in the Kitchenaid, a  couple of rising periods, voila!  But you know what? Here’s a shortcut.  BUY THE DOUGH!  Most big groceries and WalMart have it for sale now, around a buck.

For quite a while, (when I don’t make my own from garden tomatos) I was using Contadina, which comes in a squeeze bottle, very convenient, and no waste, because it keeps.

I’ve previously tried Cento, which was satisfactory, pure, simple ingredients and it’s not annoyingly sweet (just a personal preference).  Pastorelli, a local Chicago brand, is outstanding. Also not “sweet” it’s a little thicker, heartier than most brands. I tried one from Italy, Mutti brand, that was very pure and very thick.

This week I was on to Dei Fratelli, made by the Herzel Family Farms in Northwest Ohio.  They’ve been in the biz since the 1920s.  Again, a thicker one, kinda of sweet.  Upside of both Pastorelli and Dei Fratelli is they offer a smaller size, perfect for one large pie. (Mine are rectangular, the size of a large cookie sheet).

Do I have a favorite? Well, I like to support hometown companies, and all things being equal, I’ll go with Pastorelli every time.

Pizza Sauces Compared

My pie

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Dominicks Pizza and Ristorante Review – West Dundee, IL

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Dominicks Pizza and Ristorante Review Dominicks Pizza and Restaurante in a 20+ year old dual-purpose establishment in the Chicago suburb of West Dundee, IL

I say “dual-purpose” as it has two adjacent storefronts in the strip mall on the east side of Illinois 31, just north of I-94. On the right side, you’ll find the entrance to the dine-in restaurant, a smallish eatery serving traditional Italian appetizers and entrees.

There are three rows of tables, maybe 15 in all. Maybe more.  The ambiance is nice. Subdued lighting, tablecloths, linen napkins, abundant cutlery.

A friend suggested it, offered to take me, it was a “special menu” night, but apparently, the regulars knew that they could order from the regular menu, as well, and some did.  I have no complaints about what I ate, but I might have made a different choice from the larger, regular menu. Just sayin’.

I don’t usually go out for pasta. Just not dazzling enough, and I’m at the age where I think everything is expensive, and restaurant pasta would surely fall on that list. I can think of three outstanding, memorable restaurant pasta. The Cafe DeNapoli in downtown Minneapolis, which was open for 65-70 years, now gone. A restaurant in Soho in London. And some no-name place in Bratislava.  Oh. One more. Hong Kong.  Oh, and the Italian Village downtown Chicago is “OK” but getting kinda tired.

But that’s it. I’ve been to Olive Garden once, over thirty years ago, wouldn’t think of going again, chain restaurants are just heating up the equivalent of TV dinners these days, made in some commissary a thousand miles away.

Anyway. Dinners at Dominick’s include soup or salad and fresh bread. Entrees run from $15 – $22 more or less. If you’re going for a tomato sauce, you can choose plain marinara or a red meat sauce.  Both are thick and on the sweet side.  (Tomato sweet, not sugar sweet).

I went with simple, spaghetti with meat sauce. I inquired about meatballs (I like to try them everywhere) and yes, they could add them. At the conclusion of the meal, I found they were $5 for two (in sauce), so I’m at $22 for (generously)  $3 worth of food ingredients.

I did like the meatballs (pix below).  They are large and very dense.  In the cross-section you’ll note some herbs, I’m going to guess these are beef and pork, not highly seasoned, but because of their density, I’m going to guess very little bread crumbs or egg for binders.

In all menu choices, the servings are large and most everybody I noticed took something home (me included, that’s why you have the pic of the meatball). I didn’t take pix in the restaurant, the tables are close, didn’t want to disturb anybody who might be trying to get laid, or telling their spouses they wanted a divorce or were going to jail or whatever couples talk about in quiet restaurants these days.

I didn’t try the pizza, and I’d like to. Prices for that looked competitive with other joints in the area, about $25 for a 16 incher. And I’d buy some ala carte meatballs if they offered them. The takeout menu is fairly large and includes many of the dinners from the dine-in side, but at a considerably lower price. They do not include salad, and perhaps the portions are smaller. Pretty sure everything there is made in-house.

And that’s what I know about Dominick’s. Dine-in menuTake-out menuOrder online for pick up or delivery (limited area, of course)

Dominicks Pizza and Ristorante Review

Meatball, as big as a tennis ball.

 

Dominicks Pizza and Ristorante Review

Meatball dissected

Dominick's Italian Ristorante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Dominicks Pizza and Ristorante Review

Dominicks Pizza and Ristorante Review

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Papa Murphys 5 Meat Stuffed Pizza Review

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Papa Murphys 5 Meat Stuffed Pizza ReviewPapa Murphys is the result of the consolidation of two mini-chains in the early 1980s. Papa Aldos in suburban Portland, OR, and Murphy’s in Petaluma, CA.

The unique hook for the now global, 1500+ store chain is (as far as I know) the only national chain offering strictly “take and bake” pies.  They make them to your specification at the store, you tote ’em home and bake them.  There was some discussion of them starting to bake in-house, and delivery, too, but as far as I can see, neither has happened.

Sidebar: There was a take and bake operation in my hometown, independent, (don’t remember the name)  long before Papa Murphys started sprouting up everywhere. For some reason, my mom loved the place and the concept. Add to that, it was on top of a generic ‘take and bake’ (kidding) soda store, the “Pop Shoppe” which had a ton of flavors of soda, value priced, under their own name. Wonder what happened to them?  (OK, just found out, they were born, had explosive growth, died, now on the comeback trail)  (Backspace to the link, if you’re interested).

Anyway, Papa Murphys has a fairly large menu choice of toppings, types, and sizes.  I went with the five meat “stuffed”, which is crust, cheese, toppings, another crust, more toppings, more cheese.  This one packs Red Sauce, Canadian Bacon, Pepperoni, Italian Sausage, and Bacon topped with Ground Beef. They are big and they are heavy. There is a 14 and 16 inch size, and either one is priced at about half a comparable pie at local shops around me.

Takes awhile to bake, of course, but it’s satisfying and filling. No skimping on the toppings or cheese. Slightly sweet sauce. “Bread like” crust.  Overall appealing.  Easily feed your family.  Better (IMHO) than the big three, for sure.  They offer a couple sides, salads, and desserts.

Papa Murphys are everywhere. Check the website to find a store near you.  Menu below. Postscript. I went to the store in Woodstock IL (you’d recognize the town, where they filmed “Groundhog Day.”)   I had a coupon, and the owner said he couldn’t accept it, but he’d give me the same deal.  OK.  And he did.

 

Papa Murphys 5 Meat Stuffed Pizza Review

Right from the store

Papa Murphys 5 Meat Stuffed Pizza Review

Out of the oven at home

 

Papa Murphys 5 Meat Stuffed Pizza Review

Menu – click to enlarge

Papa Murphy's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Papa Murphys 5 Meat Stuffed Pizza Review
Papa Murphys 5 Meat Stuffed Pizza Review

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review – An Aldi Product

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review“Mama Cozzi” is Aldi’s brand name for pizzas and related products. They come in a very wide variety of styles, both frozen and take and bake, and are value-priced like most all of Aldi’s products.  I’ve reviewed quite a few of them in the past, read some of them here.

I’m a pizza snob, but I find most of them a tick above “satisfactory.” They are certainly better than Dominos, Caesars, Pizza Hut and 755 of the frozen pizzas on the market.

They had a new one this week, “Tavern Inn” – in the frozen counter, and it appealed to me right away because the package bragged about “one half pound of real Wisconsin cheese,” and you could see the cheese was cut in thick shreds instead of the finely diced method most frozen pies use.  In my personal experience, I have found the former method of chees-ing on frozen pizzas makes for a better, and more even melt.

I thought this pie looked awfully familiar, and since Aldi employs a lot of brand name manufacturers to make their private label products, I would have been willing to bet this was made by Palermo’s in Milwaukee.  It resembles their “P’Mo’s” brand pizza.

But when I looked up the factory number, I found they are actually made by Minnesota pizza company Bernatellos, who labels include Bellatoria, Roma, Orv’s,  Real ‘Za, and “Brew Pub” and that’s the pie that Aldi’s Tavern Inn most closely resembles in appearance. Bernatellos plant is located in a distant northwestern exurb of Minneapolis, Maple Lake, pic below.

So popped this one in the oven, had picked out a combo sausage and pepperoni style, don’t know if there are others, didn’t look. It was done sooner than the package predicted for cook time, and I gotta say, I liked it.  Really.

It’s a cracker thin crust, in fact if you look at the bottom, there are bumps and docking marks that almost makes it look like a matzoh. About the same crunch as well. Ths sausage chunks are good-sized, important to me, and either the sausage or pepperoni had some nice heat to it, which I also like. The sauce leans a little sweet for my personal taste, but tolerable, and the “half pound of real Wisconsin mozzarella?”  Magnificent. Truly.

Aldi has been known to have some pizza styles that have come and gone, hope this isn’t one of them.

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Out of the box

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Out of the oven!

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Bernatellos Minnesota Factory

 

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

Mama Cozzis Tavern Style Pizza Review

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Mama Cozzi’s French Bread Pizza Review – An Aldi Product

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Mama Cozzi's French Bread Pizza ReviewAnother Aldi product this week, actually did this one some time back, didn’t write it up. Mama Cozzi’s is the brand name the Aldi grocery chain has cooked up for their frozen and fresh (take and bake) pizzas.

I’ve tried a lot of them, including the one I wrote about directly below, and a “Mega Meat” thin crust previously. All of these are a terrific value, price wise and are mostly pretty good product.

Aldi contracts out all of their manufacturing, and this product is made by Better Baked Foods, out of North East, Pennsylvania, a burg parked between Cleveland and Buffalo.  They started in 1970 and have since built a large operation, which in addition to private label manufacturing, also has some of their own brands which was recently acquired by Minnesota pizza giant Schwans (Red Baron, Freschetta, Tonys). (Better Baked plant pictures below).

The French bread pizza comes in a two pack, different varieties, I chose pepperoni this time, and it’s not a microwave product. Given a choice with junk that gives you either option, I’m gonna pick a conventional oven every time, anyway.

The bread was crispy, the sauce benign, I liked the pepperoni, wished for more cheese, but overall, I was happy with it compared to “national brands.” It holds its own.

Like all Aldi products, it is value priced.  Aldi is currently on a tear in the US to have more fresh products in the store, remove product from cartons, and nicer lighting. The German chain currently has 10,000 stores worldwide.  There’s probably one or more near you.

Mama Cozzi's French Bread Pizza Review

Out of the box

Mama Cozzi's French Bread Pizza Review

Out of the oven

Mama Cozzi's French Bread Pizza Review

Pennsylvania Factory

 

 

Mama Cozzi’s French Bread Pizza Review

Mama Cozzi’s French Bread Pizza Review

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Red Baron Deep Dish Singles Review

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Red Baron Deep Dish Singles ReviewI like to check in with the mainstream frozen pizza choices once a year or so.  See if they’ve improved, changed at all.

For the most part, I don’t care for any of them, with the exception of hyperlocal brands like Vito and Nicks in Chicago (absolute #1 favorite), and for the pies at Trader Joes that are made in Italy and France and actually taste like they came from a pizzeria.

Why can’t US manufacturers do that?

So I saw Red Baron Deep Dish Singles the other day at a dollar store.  For a dollar. Thought I’d give one a whirl. Red Baron is a brand of Minnesota’s Schwan Food Enterprises and was introduced in 1975. It’s made in a plant in Marshall, MN (pictured below).

I am dubious about almost any food that says it can be cooked in EITHER a microwave or conventional oven, and 99.9 % of the time I’d opt for the oven.  But since they market these as microwaveable, thoughtt I’d give that a shot.

Spoiler alert:  it was horrid. In appearance, taste, and texture.  I suppose they’re acceptable for kids for a quick after school snack (except for the nutritional value part), and especially for a buck.  But if I was looking for a quick snack for a buck at the dollar store, I’d rather have White Castle burgers, which actually DO microwave well and are done in one minute.

That’s all  I learned that Red Baron frozen pizzas are every bit as awful as the last 5-10x I tried them. I see no need to try again.  (Right now, I’m eating a Screamin’ Sicilian All Meat Pie, and they aren’t so bad).  One of a half dozen brands from Palermo, in Milwaukee.

Red Baron Deep Dish Singles Review

Out of the box

Red Baron Deep Dish Singles Review

Colonel Kurtz: “The horror, the horror.”

Red Baron Deep Dish Singles Review

Marshall, MN Factory

 

 

 

 

 

Red Baron Deep Dish Singles Review

Red Baron Deep Dish Singles Review

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Quad Cities Style Pizza Review

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Quad Cities Style Pizza ReviewHow do you live in a place and not know there’s a “special dish” out there that everybody raves about?  Apparently, it’s not that hard.  I lived in the Quad Cities for two years and choked down Little Caesar’s and a local Happy Joe’s pizza regularly, but nobody ever let me in on this secret.

I spent so much time eating in a bar there, they named a sandwich after me. As with most things in my life, the bar burned down a few years later.

There is, and has been for years and years, a “Quad Cities Style” pizza. What makes it different? The crust has a “nutty” taste to it, the sauce is spicy, all toppings are under the cheese, and most of all, the pie is cut in STRIPS, not slices or squares (which is called “tavern style” in Chicago).Quad Cities Style Pizza Review

One of the largest, oldest purveyors of these unique delights is Harris Pizza, which multiple locations throughout the Quad Cities.

Did I explain what the Quad Cities are? Four adjacent cities straddling the Mississippi River on the Iowa/Illinois.  Home of John Deere. That’s pretty much all you need to know.

Oh, and outside of Davenport, is a small town named Walcott, home of the world’s largest truck stop, right there on I-80, the main street of America.  Be sure to check out the annual “Truckers Jamboree” in July where they whip up some very fine BBQ thick thick thick pork chops.

So anyway, I was blasting through the Quad Cities, and decided to partake of their specialty, got a sausage pie to go, as I was stopping for the night an hour down the road and I could examine and digest the pie at my leisure.

Which I did. And enjoyed it immensely. The sauce is zesty, the cheese melty, the sausage was terrific. The “strips” were a little disarming, but I prevailed.

And I will again.

Harris Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Quad Cities Style Pizza Review
Quad Cities Style Pizza Review

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Capri Pizza Review, Merrillville, IN

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Capri Pizza ReviewI have driven through Merrillville, Indiana countless times and never stopped’ it just happens to be perched at the intersection of a number of highways leaving (or entering) the greater Chicago area(I-65, 90,80, 94, and US 30).  So if I ever have stopped and simply don’t remember it, the stop was either for gas, or to pee, or to grab a Slim Jim or something.

Seems I was stuck here recently due to snow, tho, and found myself holed up in a motel that had no services nor anything around it, so I fired up the Grubhub.com screen on my phone and perused my choices.

Having narrowed them down (no sushi or Mexican, thanks),  I have to cross reference them on Yelp, then go back to GrubHub to order.  So I spot Capri Pizza and note they have been making pies in the Chicago area for decades, and I saw one line somewhere in their puffery that “they grind their own meat daily.”  Me too!

I’m a sucker for great sausage on pizza, so I took the plunge and ordered a sausage (only) pie and hoped that while I was too wimpy to drive that night, that the pizza driver would not be.  I know he would be well rewarded for the effort.

The pie came. Still hot. Take in the aroma.  Ahhhhhh.  It’s thin crust, “tavern cut,” as they say around Chicago (squares, not slices), so l lift one out, it’s got heft, from a lot of cheese, which is seriously melty, and I note the chunks of sausage are ample size and hand pulled.

And yes, it was great. Crispy but chewy crust, gobs o cheese, light sauce, and TERRIFIC SAUSAGE.  Ground daily and hand pulled!  So satisfying!

Here’s their dope and menu.  I’d go again, hell yes.  Menu, locations.

Capri Pizza Review
Capri's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Capri Pizza Review

Capri Pizza Review

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Village Pizza & Pub Review – Elgin, IL

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Village Pizza & Pub has two locations in the NW suburbs of Chicago, one in Elgin, and one in Carpentersville, not terribly far from each other. Both feature extensive menus (below) for dine in, carry out, catering, and delivery, and the Elgin location has an all you can eat buffet at midday, Monday through Friday. The buffet includes a variety of kinds of pizza, an extensive salad bar, fried chicken, wings, and soup. Each day of the week has an additional special, like fish, ribs, or pasta.

We paid around $10, which includes a soft drink, and I was quite surprised at a few things about the buffet. First was the depth of the offerings, second was the freshness of the food, and finally the fact that they are very diligent about keeping the supply replenished. You’re not going to be standing around waiting for another pizza or be staring at a tray of dried out pasta.

I’m happy with it, and I’ll do it again. We went on Thursday, which is “rib day,” and I’m not a rib eater, but my dining mate said they were just fine.  The Carpentersville location does not have the buffet, offering daily lunch specials, instead.

Village Pizza & Pub Review

Plates from the buffet

Village Pizza & Pub Review

Village Pizza & Pub Review

Village Pizza & Pub Review

Village Pizza & Pub Review

 

 

 

 

Village Pizza & Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Village Pizza & Pub Review
Village Pizza & Pub Review

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Meijers Frozen Pizza Review – Grocery Store Brand

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Meijers Frozen Pizza ReviewMeijers is a regional hypermarket chain, with over 200 locations in the Upper Midwest, with the majority in Michigan. They claim to have invented the “supercenter” concept in 1962 (groceries and merch in one store).

For me, the stores are a little too big to navigate for a standard grocery run, but once and awhile I like to poke my head in and see if they have any new products other stores don’t, and occasionally, they do

I picked up their store label thin crust frozen pizza, “Sicilian Style” the other day, with a three cheese blend, and Italian sausage, salami, and capicola ham for toppings. This one weighs less than a pound and ran in the mid-range for frozen pizzas, at $5 +.

If you’re an occasional reader of this site, you know that I work hard to find something redeeming to say in every piece. I look for the good
at least.

Well, I’m gonna disappoint you this time. This pizza is awful, and a terrible value at the price. Skimpy on flavorless toppings, a crust that doesn’t crisp up, not enough cheese. This pie belongs in the value priced category, like Totino’s or Jack’s. Needs to be like 5/$10.

At least in my part of the Midwest, these pies are made for Meijer by Palermo, a Milwaukee brand, with plants in both Wisconsin and Chicago (pictured).

That makes sense, because the bottom end of the Palermo brand is pretty dreadful as well, but they do have some premium brands like “Screamin’ Sicilian” and “P’Mos” which are quite good. They also make “Urban Pie” and “Sasquatch.” I’ve reviewed about every line of Palermo’s here, skip to them by using the search box above.

Would I buy this again? Nope. I had three pieces and then did something I never, ever, do. Toss the rest.

This might be exactly what you’re looking for in a frozen pizza, it’s just not to my personal taste.

Meijers Frozen Pizza Review

Out of the packaging

Meijers Frozen Pizza Review

12 min – 450

Meijers Frozen Pizza Review

Palermo Chicago Factory

 

 

 

 

Meijers Frozen Pizza Review

Meijers Frozen Pizza Review

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
Select a Topic
Restaurant Delivery!
The Food You Love, Delivered - Order Now!

Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!