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Archive for the ‘Pizza’ Category

DiGiorno Bacon Me Crazy Pizza Review

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DiGiorno Bacon Me Crazy Pizza ReviewQuite often, when I buy frozen pizzas, I feel like Charlie Brown’s experience with Lucy holding the football. Yet I don’t learn. (P.S., I have had relationships like that, too! LOL)

There are two or three frozen pizzas I rate as exceptional on every level, but unfortunately, as one might suspect, none of these are in the ‘mass market’ offerings.

DiGiorno (Delissio in Canada) was created in the mid 90s by Kraft.

Apparently bored of the segment, they sold off their pizza brands to the international robber barons of water, Nestle. (DiGiorno, Jack’s, Tombstone and California Pizza Kitchen).  Kraft picked up $3.2 billion. Nestle got the #`1 frozen pizza brand.

“It’s not delivery, it’s DiGiorno” goes their commercials.  Good thing it’s not delivery, I would have asked for my money back.

The “Bacon Me Crazy” stuffed crust pie (crust rim is stuffed with cheese and ‘bacon’) falls into the higher price range of thin crust frozen pizzas, at about $8.  Taking it out of the box, frozen, it looks more like the one dollar variety pies from Totinos.  At least to me.

The box informs me this pizza is made at USDA establishment number 1682 A, which is a contract manufacturer called “Nation Pizza,” in Schaumburg, IL. They manufacture frozen foods of all ilks. I’ve driven by the plant many times. (Pictured below, as well).

Following the baking instructions precisely, the crust remained rather doughy, and the minuscule diced toppings might not have even been there. They didn’t really provide any flavor or tactile experience to the pie. The sauce leans towards the sweet side. The “smoke flavoring” is very present.

Whether or not the rim is actually ‘stuffed’ is open for debate.

I had two squares, and then did something I NEVER do. Tossed the rest. Perhaps the raccoons will like it. I sure didn’t.

Lots of ingredients:  Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Part-Skim
Mozzarella Cheese with Modified Food Starch (Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese [Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes], Modified Food Starch,
Methylcellulose), Low-Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese (Part-Skim Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes), Applewood Smoked Cooked Bacon (Bacon [Cured with Water, Salt, Sugar, Sodium Phosphates, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Nitrate], Smoke Flavoring), Tomato Paste, Genoa Salami (Pork, Beef, Salt, Dextrose, Spice, Lactic Acid Starter Culture, Wine, Flavoring, Sodium Ascorbate, Sodium Nitrite, Citric Acid), 2% or Less of:
Vegetable Oil (Soybean Oil and/or Corn Oil), Yeast, Bread Crumbs (Bleached Wheat Flour, Yeast, Sugar, Salt), Vegetable Oil Shortening
(Palm Oil, Natural Flavor, Beta Carotene [Color]), Sugar, Salt, Seasoning Blend (Salt, Spice, Dried Garlic).

Nation Pizza photos from their website.  Product photos are my own.

DiGiorno Bacon Me Crazy Pizza Review

Prior to baking

DiGiorno Bacon Me Crazy Pizza Review

Close up – slice – “stuffed” part is bottom right

Exterior Nation Pizza

Exterior Nation Pizza

Digiorno Bacon Me Crazy Review

Nation Pizza Sauce Squirter

Digiorno Bacon Me Crazy Review

Nation Pizza – Fixing the toppings before packaging

 

 

 

DiGiorno Bacon Me Crazy Pizza Review

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Peps Drafthaus Frozen Pizza Review

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Peps Drafhaus Frozen Pizza ReviewI’m “frozen pizza rich”  in one sense; there’s a mega grocery near me that stocks more brands of frozen pizzas than I even knew existed.

It seems like there’s always something “new” in their freezers. (There are four, 30 foot long freezers of pies!). This week it is Pep’s Drafthaus.

Pep’s Drafthaus Pizza is from Hansen Foods of Green Bay, a 100+ year old company that started as a local dairy. Primarily in the  fundraising business, Hansen is a company you go to if your  school, church, scout troop wants to have a money-raising project, by selling nearly any kind of food: cheese, candy, meat snacks, and yes, frozen pizza.

Prices for products sold by fundraisers are considerably inflated over retail store prices, providing a great opportunity for your group to make some real cash.

I picked up the Taproom Double variety, which has two kinds of sausage and two kinds of pepperoni.

I’m loving the ingredient label, about has pure as it gets, like sausage being pork and spices, and actual mozzarella.

I don’t know how long Hansen has been in the retail pizza biz, this is the first I have seen the brand in a local store, and it was in  the medium range of spendy, $7.99.

400 at 18-20 minutes produced great results. The crust is a little thicker than my general preference – say it’s the equivalent of “hand tossed” at the national chains.

VERY GENEROUS  supply of nice hand-pulled sausage, flavorful pepperoni, and I think more cheese than I’ve ever experienced on a frozen pie. Akin to if you ordered “double cheese” from your local pizzeria, IMHO, and I appreciate it.  Has a nice “pull” to it.

Four times a year Hansen has a ‘factory direct’ sale where you can stock up on cases of these pies.  Schedule of dates and details here.  Or follow them on Facebook.  Pep’s easily moves into my top four for regular frozen pizza purchases.

Peps Drafhaus Frozen Pizza Review

Out of package, unbaked

Peps Drafhaus Frozen Pizza Review

400 degrees, 20 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

Peps Drafthaus Frozen Pizza Review

Peps Drafthaus Frozen Pizza Review

Peps Drafthaus Frozen Pizza Review

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Sals Pizza Review, Huntley, IL

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Sals Pizza Review HuntleyI’ve previously opined about the original Sal’s Pizza location, an unassuming walk-in/delivery (only) storefront on the backside of a strip mall in Algonquin, IL.

If you read that piece, you’ll remember  I found no fault with their pizza, in fact, for my personal tastes, I found it to be superb.

This review is about Sal’s Pizza newer location in Huntley, IL, which has a full menu, seating, full-service bar as well as video gaming area.

I had been in this joint under its previous ownership, and I really can’t even remember the name or how I felt about the product. But it’s of no consequence now that Sal’s has landed here. It’s the same great menu as Sal’s in Algonquin, with pizza, sandwiches, dinner entrees, including pasta and chicken.

I gotta say again, I love Sal’s Pizza. I’ve tried so many different places in the NW burbs, and disappointment after disappointment, I’m back to Sal’s. And while carryout and delivery is fine, it’s nice to take a little drive to Huntley and have a relaxing dine-in experience  with the same great product.

Sal’s thin crust is flaky around the rim, and chewy as you work your way in, just the way it should be. Sauce is flavorful, on the thicker side, yet not overpowering. I love their sausage, don’t know where they get it, but it’s large ‘hand-pulled’ chunks of flavorful, seasoned pork, not those pre-cooked nuggets so many chains used.

Finally, their cheese blend is applied in very liberal quantities, has great flavor, melt-quality, and pull. You’re going to experience that ultimate pizza cheese experience where you lift a slice and see those delicious stretches of cheese. To me, that’s living. Especially when you do that and the toppings don’t end up falling into the pan. It’s very important that each slice of pizza remains intact until it gets to your mouth, I say.

Pies are cut into square slices, common in Chicago and the Upper Midwest, and sometimes referred to as a “tavern cut.” Again, that’s one of my ideals for pizza perfection.

At the table, we also had the fried chicken and an order of onion rings. No complaints there. The coating on the chicken is crispy and flavorful. The rings are thin cut with a little cornmeal in the batter.

Service was attentive. Didn’t catch the waitresses name, she had a bit of (my thought) accent from somewhere in the British isles. In any case, she was attentive without being overbearing.

Good show, Sal’s. Of course, we’ll be back.  Sal’s also offers great value catering for your family, company, or school event.

Sal's Pizza Place Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Papa Johns Deep Dish Pizza Review – Nationwide

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Papa Johns Deep Dish ReviewPapa John’s Pizza is an American restaurant company. It runs the third largest take-out and pizza delivery restaurant chain in the world, with headquarters in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, a suburb of Louisville.

The Papa John’s restaurant franchise was founded in 1983 by “Papa” John Schnattertaking a small corner of space of his father’s tavern,  in Jeffersonville, Indiana.  He then sold car to by some used pizza equipment and began selling pizzas to bar customers .

Its slogan is “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. Papa John’s.”

So they rolled out a new “deep dish” pizza.  I’m not sure which chain was first in using “deep dish” to describe a pie that isn’t.  The big chains offer a pie with a thick, bready crust and call it deep dish, but the original model, Chicago deep dish, doesn’t have a thick crust, and the emphasis is on the toppings.

For a limited time, Papa Johns is offering the new pie, in a 12″ version, with up to 3 toppings, for $10.  That’s fairly good deal for the “value priced” end of the chain spectrum.

I ordered mine with sausage and olives, and a plain cheese with “classic crust,” for my friend.

We each had some that first night, bagged up the rest and threw it in the frig.  If you’re a regular reader, you know I think the true test of a great pizza (for me) is how it tastes the next AM.

Not thrilled at all with this hot out of the box, it was even more disappointing the next day.  Both pies were undercooked, to begin with. The “spicy sausage” isn’t, and the toppings are skimpy in quantity (including the sauce and cheese). The sauce tastes like it comes right from a can, and the cheese?  Just not satisfactory.

Taste and texture aside, the ‘classic crust’ failed on all the same levels, and as well for pure aesthetics.  If you owned a pizzeria would you be proud of a pie that looked like the one below?

If I’m to consume faux deep dish pies, my preferences would be to put this at third, behind Jet and Little Caesar’s bacon wrapped, but ahead of Dominos and Pizza Hut.  Ultimately, my choice would be to pass on all five in favor of any local mom and pop shop.

Papa John, I don’t like your pizza, tho I could guzzle the garlic dipping sauce, even tho it’s probably not real food!  2 pies, 2 liter soda, deliver, tip, $27.

Papa Johns Deep Dish Review

Deep Dish Sausage and Olive

 

Papa Johns Deep Dish Review

Regular Crust Sausage

 

 

 

 

Papa Johns Deep Dish Pizza Review

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Marcos Pizza Review – Nationwide Chain

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Marcos Pizza ReviewA new franchised location of Marco’s Pizza opened down the block from me this week; Marco’s, out of Ohio, is the 12th largest pizza chain in the US, and will hit 1000 stores this year. It was started by an Italian immigrant, Pat Giammarco, in 1978.

The advertising claims “Authentic Italian Pizza” and I don’t know about that, but for my palate, Marco’s is a better product than
the “big 3.”

They offer a thin, “classic” and thick crust option, I went for the middle, which has a puffy chewy exterior. The usual variety of toppings are available as is online ordering in delivery in many locations. One difference with their online payment system from other chains is there is no option to add a tip to your order, so you’ll have to have some cash available for the driver.

Several years ago, Marco’s hooked up with Family Video, one of few remaining national video rental chains (750) stores, to put pizzas in about half the stores. The stand alone pizza shops also offer videos, one free rental with an order of over $15. You can pass on this option, of course.

In addition to pizza, satisfy your cravings with other menu items including salads, subs and wings. Mandatory delivery charge is $2.50.

I ordered a 14″ sausage pie, I did like the sausage, tho it isn’t very spicy, it appears to be sizable hand pulled chunks, which is always my preference.

Topping wise, they seem a little light on quantity, same with cheese. You’ll compare both to a Domino’s pie.

Marco’s is big on local flyers for marketing, with any number of special deal coupons on each flyer.

Find your nearest Marcos here.  Will I order again?  Sure, with the right coupon.  I wish these guys a lot of luck, like most Chicago neighborhoods mine is glutted with pizza places, both national and local.  The location these guys chose has been home to several operators in the past few years.

Marcos Pizza Review

Classic crust sausage and olive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcos Pizza Review

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Italian Village Review, Chicago, IL

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Italian Village Restaurant Review ChicagoI generally eschew “legends” in the restaurant business (exception, New Orleans), as I have found over and over again, so many of them are resting on their laurels of decades ago.

Such is not the case with The Italian Village, really three restaurants under one roof in downtown Chicago, is the city’s oldest Italian restaurant, serving the ‘old-school classics.’

Opened in 1927, on the top floor, you’ll find “The Village,” serving all of America’s favorite Italian appetizers and entrees.   On the ground floor, Vivere takes a contemporary approach to an Italian menu, and own a flight of stairs, “La Cantina,” serves some of the age-old favorites of the restaurant and adds a selection of steaks and chops to the offering, in a more casual atmosphere; those meat selections run from $29 – $40.

I was last in the Italian Village about 35 years ago, and had fond memories of it.  Had my memories been jaded by time?  Would it not live up to my memory?  I’m delighted to say it exceeded my expectations on every level.

Service, quality of ingredients, size of servings, and value.  At the table were spaghetti and sausage, clams in pasta (available but not on the menu), appetizers of a caprese salad, beef carpacio, an extra side of meatballs, and a mostacoli in a spicy arribiata sauce. (red sauce with chili peppers and garlic).  And bread. And butter. And olive oil.  In seemingly endless quantities.

Many of the entrees are cooked to order, and the menu cautions you on the wait time for those.

The food was delicious, service attentive but not intrusive, interesting decor to look at, and private booths tucked away in little alcoves if you’re desirous of a more discrete event.

The restaurants are open seven days for lunch and dinner, with private faclities available for small and medium size parties.

Dinner for four, ample glasses of wine, gratutity:  $240.  Valet parking at the door for $12.  You know, I didn’t ask, but you might when you call, if it’s a concern.  I don’t think there’s an elevator to the top floor restaurant, I made my way up a rather lengthy flight of stairs that lands at the front door.

(photos are from the internet)

Italian Village Restaurant Review Chicago
Italian Village Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Italian Village Review

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Grovers Grill and Bar Review, Fox River Grove, IL

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Grover’s Grill and Bar, at 412 Northwest Highway in Fox River Grove, IL, sits across the highway from the FRG Metra station. It’s been Grover’s for maybe 3 years. I think it was a Mexican restaurant before that, I had never been in there.

They did some remodeling before opening, took out a couple walls, added a game room, video slots, and a raft of wall-mounted big screen TVs to catch your favorite game.

The menu includes all the Chicago-area favorites: thin crust pizza, cheese cruds, sliders, nachos, tacos, Italian beef and other sandwich favorites, soups, wraps and salads. An extensive selection of custom ‘burgers’ is available as well. Choose from a beef, turkey, chicken breast, tenders or veggie patty, and graze on one of their signature configurations like “The Norge” (bacon, blue cheese and frizzled onions), “The Grover” (Pepper jack cheese, roasted pablanos, red onion and chipotle mayo on a pretzel bun).

Or build your own from a selection of a wide host of toppings.

Pizzas are available in 10, 12, 14, of 16 inch sizes, with an extensive list of ingredients you can choose for toppings, including many not available at most pizza places. Gluten free pies are available in one size, 11″.

I had the Norge burger and it was WAY above my expectations. The amply-sized angus beef patty had great flavor and texture, and the toppings were all fresh and plentiful. It was accompanied by fresh cut fries, also great. Affable, courteous service, too. I’d do it again. I will do it again.

Grover’s is open til midnight Sunday thru Thursday, and til 2AM Friday and Saturday. And they deliver in the area. www.groversgrillandbar.com

Grovers Grill and Bar Review

Grover's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Emils Frozen Pizza Review

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Emils Frozen Pizza Review“Exceeds Expectations,” the package of Emil’s Pizza boasts.  And you know what?  It did, for me.  And I was surprised that it did.  Making “Real Good Pizza Since 1961,”  Emil’s is based in Watertown, WI, and must be another one of those Upper Midwest pizzas that got its launch as a local mom and pop  selling frozen pies to bars. (I’m guessing).

I picked up the traditional thin crust sausage pie, which weighs in at 21.6 oz (Now 20% larger!).  It was $6.99 at one of my local grocers, which puts it in the “medium value” range for frozen pizzas.

After taking it out of the package, I was immediately leery of the diced approach to the cheese, figuring it would not be adequate to cover the pie. I also noted that there was an ample quantity of sausage, but the pieces were relatively small.

Well, surprise!  It did exceed my expectations, and I’d buy it again.  It’s a good crisp version of the thin crust, the Wisconsin cheese melted and covered nicely, the sauce did not have an intrusive flavor and the sausage was fine.

Good job, Emil’s!

Emils Frozen Pizza Review

Unbaked

 

Emils Frozen Pizza Review

Fully baked (I added the olives)

 

Emils Frozen Pizza Review

Watertown, WI Factory

 

 

Emils Frozen Pizza Review

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Pizza Hut Buffet Review

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Pizza Hut Buffet ReviewAs a regular reader, you know I try and find positive things to write about every time I stop someplace. Spoiler alert: not here.

I’ve been in a Pizza Hut maybe three times in the past ten years, once in a small town in Western Kansas, the place was filthy, the pizza worse. I liked Pizza Huts in China, tho, it was before the Chinese became amenable to liking “cheese” and the menus said the pies had “melted topping.” Selections were ample and the salad bar (which the Chinese adored) was always well stocked.

Went into a Godfather’s Pizza Buffet a few years ago, and that was dreadful. Pizza Ranch, a fast growing chain based out of Iowa, has so-so pizza, but drop dead fried chicken and a lot of other choices. And it’s a good value.

Round Table, based in California, has a pretty fair buffet.

But Pizza Hut? At least this one? Ugh.

They had six pizzas out, nothing exotic, either standard thin or thick crust. I went in because I thought it would give me the opportunity to sample some of the innovations they have been bragging about lately – stuffed crusts, added flavors, blah blah. But this operator was interested in minimizing costs and maximizing revenue, so choices were pretty basis. There was a single bin of plain spiral pasta and plain red sauce to accompany it. One bin of “dessert bread sticks.” No salad. No chicken. I expected wings, since Pizza Hut has that whole “Wing Street” thing going. Buffet price, without drink $6.99 plus tax and gratuity.

I had a slice of sausage, a slice of pepperoni, one with pork pellets, one with ‘everything’ and one with cheese. The plain cheese was the best, despite being drastically under-cooked.  To me, Pizza Hut just doesn’t taste like much.  It will always be in a three-way tie for pizza of last resort with Dominos and Caesar’s.

The joint was clean. The help was friendly. They seem to have some ‘regulars,’ at least based on overheard conversations.

It is next door to a KFC which was empty at high noon. No buffet there. KFC buffets are kind of hard to find, but they can be a real treat!

The basic menu is below, I notice they have “rebranded” their specialty pies as “Flavor recipes,” and I also see they no longer offer salads or other alternatives at all.  But speaking of rebranding, remember about 5 years ago or so, they made a big hubbub about how they were going to become just “The Hut?”  Whatever happened to that?  It was about the same time Radio Shack announced they were going to start calling the stores just “The Shack,” but that ultimately changed into “The location permanently closed.”

Pizza Hut Buffet Reivew

Pizza Hut Buffet Review

 

Pizza Hut Buffet Reivew

Pizza Hut Menu

Pizza Hut Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Pizza Hut Buffet Review

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Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

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Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

(August 1, 2016) Most of the major frozen pizza manufacturers have been busy rolling out new variations of their products over the last couple years, apparently in an attempt to acquire more freezer frontage in the store, which hopefully translates into sales.

Tombstone, which started in Medford, WI, (map below) as a supplier of frozen pies to bars, grew into a substantial manufacturer before being sold off to Kraft, and then to Nestle.

One of their latest labels is the “Roadhouse” pizza, offering ‘double cheese,’ a crisp crust, and loads of toppings. I picked up the “Bring on the Meat” style, which is topped with Genoa salami, pepperoni, and sausage.

This might be OK as an addition to the value priced end of the frozen pizza spectrum, but unfortunately, it falls into the upper mid range, running about seven bucks at my WalMart.

The salami is a pure pork/beef product, but they’ve mucked up the pepperoni by adding chicken, who knows why. The sausage is more like a plain crumbled pork, with little to no seasoning.

The larger shreds of cheese (see unbaked pic below) are a welcome addition. While they are very few frozen pies that have slices of cheese instead of shreds, the larger the pieces the better the tactile experience, in my opinion.  The crust is ok, not ultra thin, but crispy enough for my taste, but the sauce borders on horrid, like most frozen pies, you can easily imagine it coming out of a 55 gallon drum labeled industrial strength pizza sauce.

It also is flavorless, with no indication is was originally birthed by tomatoes.

I had a couple pieces and then my guests heard me say something no one has ever heard me say in my entire life:  “I’m throwing the rest of this out, ok?” No one objected.  If you’re a regular reader, you know I try and find something positive in every post.  Unfortunately, this pizza is dreadful.

Tombstone varieties.

Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

Unbaked

Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

400 degrees, 18 minutes

 

Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

Tombstone Factory, Medford, WI

 

Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

Medford, WI Location

 

 

 

 



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Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

Tombstone Roadhouse Pizza Review

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