Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Frozen Pizza’
Now I’m gonna stop right there for a sec and say personally, I don’t think Chicago pizzas should be called “deep dish,” as that term has been hijacked by pizza makers all over the country and almost always describes a pie with a very thick crust – lots of bread under the usual toppings.
“Chicago-style pizzas”(which you shall refer to them from this day forward) are DEEP, yes, but not because of a thick bready crust. They are DEEP because they are cooked in a deep pan, and have a HIGH but THIN crust. The depth hides all the deliciousness stuffed in, in the “Chicago order,” crust cheese, meat, tomato sauce. That’s right, sauce on TOP. Are we clear?
There’s more than a couple guys who say they invented this concept. I go with the Ike Sewell version, who cooked up the first one at Pizzeria Uno in
downtown Chicago in the early 1940s. Let’s leave it at that. Ike’s pies were so popular that soon he created a sister restaurant (Pizzeria Due, natch) and started franchising, with the license for the first four going to a group of businessmen in Boston.
When Sewell died, the Boston group bought out the original restaurants, name and recipes, and set off a go-go growing a chain of restaurants that bore a limited resemblance to the originals; the chain is called Uno Pizzeria and Grill.
They stuck with the original pizza offering, but have a very extensive menu in addition, like nearly any fast casual restaurant these days. They are in about 20 states, find one here.
Although a bit spendy, the Uno frozen pizza is about as good as it gets in this segment. It bakes up well (about 40 minutes), has a nice crisp outer crust, fresh chopped tomatoes in the thick sauce, ample cheese and flavorful sausage. (I had the sausage variety, there are others).
I have one beef…er pork…about the pie. The sausage bits in pretty small, and other “Chicago style” pies feature a slab of sausage covering the entire pie, crust to crust. As a sausage lover, I like that.
So the sausage bits on an Uno aren’t a deal killer for me.
The Uno frozen division also makes a more traditional round thinner crust. Their USDA inspected factory in Brockton MA is pictured below.
UNO Deep Dish Pizza Review
One of my local grocery stores is huge. I get exhausted going there. But the upside is they have really deep selections of product, including frozen pizza – they have four 30 foot long coolers of different brands, and in a separate vertical cooler, organic, vegan, and gluten free offerings.
Any time I go in there, there are new brands, or at least ones I haven’t seen.
This week it was “Eastside Cafe,” from a small manufacturer outside of Chicago – it looks like they are primarily in the contract manufacturing business for groceries and other outlets – both fresh and frozen pies.
Their mission statement: “We are manufacturers of fresh frozen pizzas serving many retail and recreational bussinesses within the United States. Eastside Café was established in 1992, and we pride ourselves on providing customers with high-quality products and personal service. Our office is conveniently located in Warrenville, Illinois”
I picked up an individual size meat lovers, sausage, pepperoni and bacon.
Now these guys tried it and loved it.
Me? Not so much.
The cheese is good, note on the photo of the unbaked pie that the cheese is in ‘gobs’ instead of ‘shreds’ as most frozen pies come.That move apparently makes for a nicer melt, judging from the finished product.
The sauce was really pedantic. Ordinary. The crust was ok, from the thickness I would have thought it would have been crispier, but it was chewy, not crispy. Pepperoni, good flavor and texture. Sausage, no apparently seasoning. Bacon? Couldn’t really tell there was any on board.
So this one brand won’t be on my regular buy rotation. You, however, may find it’s your new favorite! You can check them out on Facebook.
The company is located in Warrenville, IL, in the office park pictured below.
Eastside Cafe Pizza Review
The relative new kid on the block in Chicago pizzerias, Edwardos has been cooking up their special ‘stuffed’ pizzas since 1978 from multiple locations in the Chicago area. They are also available in the frozen food section at your grocery, or you can have them shipped.
Despite the massive publicity Chicago pizza received courtesy of Jon Stewart (video below), there remains some confusion among locals, not to mention tourists, as to what exactly Chicago pizza is. Is it deep dish? Pan? Double crust? Stuffed? Thin Crust? The truth is, they are all Chicago pizzas.
Edwardo’s version is deep, AND stuffed. With a thin layer of crust on the bottom, topped with cheese, or cheese and meat, or cheese and sauce, and then another thin layer of crust, with sauce on the TOP. That’s right. It’s a Chicago thing with the deeper pizzas, sauce on the top.
At the grocery, you’re going to pay $7 plus for the small, which will easily feed two or three. At the restaurant, about $20. By mail, $25 plus shipping.
I opted for the sausage kind. There are some Chicago pizzerias that make a blanket of sausage on the pie, it covers from rim to rim. Edwardos goes with chunks of flavorful Italian, on the cheese layer.
The crust is buttery, as many Chicago pizzas are. It has a nice flaky quality, too. The cheese is tremendous, ample quantity, great flavor, and great “pull.” Sauce is ample and fairly mild, leaning more ‘sweet’ than ‘savory.’
The pie takes around 30 minutes in a 425 oven, and you should let it set for a few before slicing.
I’ve taken a look at most every frozen Chicago pizza, including Connies, Reggios, Home Run Inn, Vito and Nicks, Ginos, and others. While Vito and Nicks remains my favorite thin crust, having pushed past Home Run Inn this year, this one, Edwardo’s Natural, is the first ‘deep dish’ I’ve found that is worth buying and consuming. I’ll do it again. Going to one of the shops? Here’s the menu.
Edwardos Natural Pizza
Checking out another Chicago area frozen pizza, Doreen’s started as a small pizzeria on the South side of Chicago; several locations later and a new state of the art plant in Calumet City, the pies are now distributed across Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and are also available at the plant store.
Boasting “pizzeria taste” from a home-baked pie, Doreen’s plops a solid half pound of cheese on every pizza; quality Italian sausage is fresh, and not those pre-cooked food service crumbles. Like so many Upper Midwest pizza success stories, Doreen’s frozen biz began with the company selling pies to local bars.
Instructions call for center shelf, 450, 14-17 minutes, with a three minute rest before slicing (good advice for any frozen pie). The crust is a good bakery style, a little thicker than ‘traditional Chicago thin crust’, the sauce is mild, the cheese is ample and has nice pull. I liked the pepperoni because it has a nice little bit of kick. The hand pulled sausage could be a little bigger for my taste, and while it is clearly pure pork, it’s mildness will have some wishing for a touch of fennel and/or garlic.
It’s a little higher priced than comparable products, but the hand-made quality makes it a strong value.
doreens pizza review
I’ve previously tried a Connie’s, an “all natural” line out of Chicago. Today I spotted one with “uncured pepperoni” so I thought I would give that a world.
In any increasingly (pseudo) health-conscious world, “uncured” meats are all the rage. What exactly are uncured meats? You see the label on bacon and other pork products these days, mostly.
“Uncured” means no preservatives, no additives, no added MSG, and more importantly, no sodium nitrates or sodium nitrites, which seem to cause problems for some people.
A peculiarity here is that according to the USDA, for a pork product to be called “bacon”, it must come from cured pork bellies. Apparently saying “Uncured bacon,” skirts the rule.
Sodium nitrates (salt peter) an sodium nitrites (pink salt) are two very common additives to cured meat; the former preserves the food, the latter provides a rosy color that Americans associate with “healthy meat.”
Herein lies the problem: the rest of the ingredients in most “uncured” meats (including Connie’s pepperoni) are the very components one uses to cure meats: celery powder, spices, and so on.
So it’s one of those tricky labeling things – akin to the the flaps over “all natural”, “gluten free” and so on.
But this website doesn’t exist for finger pointing (unless we get into a whole discussion about “American Kobe” beef, but rather to sample wares available to the public and tell said public what the author of this missive thinks about said ware.
And Connie’s Thin Crust Sausage and Uncured Pepperoni is largely OK. Flavorful sauce, pork products are nice, enough cheese, but for some reason, I can never get their crusts to crisp up in the oven – let your pie sit for 5-10 minutes after removing it from the heat, and it will be crisp enough for most pizza lovers, if a thin crispy crust in one of your preferences.
I like the pork sausage, fairly mild, I couldn’t make out any discernable difference between this pepperoni and any other.
Another reason this one caught my eye today? It was on sale, for less than $6, and frozen pizzas are creeping up lately. You may recall I paid $10 for a frozen pizza a couple weeks ago.
That’s a tough slice to swallow, for me.
Frozen Pizza Reviews
Last in a series of testing out the various local brands of frozen pizza in Chicago. Vito and Nicks II is an offshoot of a 70 year old business, that started as Vito’s Tavern on the far south side of Chicago. They toiled hard, added a few food items, and son Nick joined Vito Barraco in the business in the early 1940s; the tavern moved, became Vito and Nick’s, and Nick’s wife made and sold the first pizza in 1945.
Business was brisk, the family prospered, and Nick’s son, expanded to other locations, under the name of Vito and Nick’s II, and several locations have popped up around Northern Illinois; one is open in Phoenix, and there’s a unit in the pipeline for Florida.
Customers started asking for frozen pies, and it became a sideline at one of the shops. The pies had always been made by hand with the freshest ingedients; the style was formulated back in the 40s, one of Chicago’s first “thin crusts”, and on the frozen pie box, they boast about the “cracker thin crust.”
More sales, a dedicated plant, and today Vito and Nicks II Frozen Pizzas are being sold in a number of states. My personal price point for a frozen pie is around six bucks, but this one, the sausage and pepperoni pie, clocks in at an even ten bucks, and 30 ounces, or around 33 cents per ounce. This is a good 30-40% above most brands.
The package promises that customers call this “The Best Pizza Anywhere,” “restaurant quality,” and “hand-made from scratch.” Easily, taken frozen from the box, this is one of the most handsome cook at home pies I have ever seen – it really does look like it’s from a pizzeria.
The instructions call for 450, on the shelf for around 18 – 20 minutes; a second set of instructions is offered for cooking the pie on your barbecue grill. I’ve had great results with pizza on the grill, it’s worth a try if you haven’t done it.
I removed the pie at 16 minutes, and it’s appearance is nearly equal to a hot pie from a Blodgett or Baker’s Pride deck.
And the taste? I like it. A lot. I can’t think of any part of it I’d want changed, except to note I always like larger pieces of sausage. But the flavor of the meats, cheese, sauce is spot on for pizzeria taste. V & N frozen has a noticeable (taste-wise) smattering of herbs, the only other company I can think of where that is evident is California Pizza Kitchen’s frozen pies. I like a strong herb taste on pizza.
While I complained about the $10 price tag, after eating this pie, I think it’s worth it, especially compared to the $20 -$25 you have to spend at a quality pizza shop. (No, I won’t go for the $5 or $10 specials from the big chains). I’d love to try one of these on a high quality home oven at 500 or 550. This has absolutely moved to the head of the pack for me, in favored frozen Chicago area pizza.
Guy Fieri slid into the original shop on one of his outings, and you can check out his stop in this video.
Vito and Nicks II Frozen Pizza