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Posts Tagged ‘Frozen Pizza’

Lou Malnatis Frozen Pizza Review

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lousLou Malnati, and his father Rudy, managed Pizzeria Uno, one of the first outlets for “Chicago Deep Dish” pizza. Although Uno (now Uno Chicago Grill) claims to have invented the pie, local food historians give the credit to Rudy.

Lou and his wife Jean opened the first Lou Malnati’s in 1971, in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnwood. The rest is history, and the company now boasts 40 shops in the Chicago area and ships frozen pizzas nationwide.

The main difference between “Chicago deep dish” and similar pies in other parts of the country, is that in Chicago, the tomato sauce goes on top; many restaurants that offer a deep dish sausage pack the bottom of the crust with a blanket of cheese, then the sausage (or whatever you choose) and then  the sauce.

No matter which restaurant you chose to patronize (Malnati’s, Uno, Gino’s or local mom and pops) be prepared to wait for your dinner, as it takes awhile to cook up these pizzas.

I reviewed Gino’s frozen a couple years ago, and another Chicago deep dish, Edwardos,  so a follow up with Malnati’s seems like a good idea.  Baking instructions call for 425 and 35-40 minutes for the sausage pie.   There’s a slight variance in the directions than you (we) are probably use to:  “remove pizza from pan, wipe off any condensation that has formed, lightly oil pan (I used spray) and return pie to pan prior to placing in oven.”

After 40  minutes, I took this beauty out.  In appearance, it closely resembles its restaurant cousin.  It’s about 1 1/2″ deep, 9″ across, and weighs 24 ounces.  I paid $12.99,  ( @ .54 ounce) which is probably more that you will see it most groceries, I was in an “up market” store.   At a Malnati’s restaurant, the same pie will set you back about the same amount.  A large sausage goes for $20.25 at the time of this posting.

I’m really pleased with the end result;  this is one of the more flavorful frozen pizzas I have encountered.  Many people don’t understand that a “Chicago deep dish” is a THIN crust pizza, and is deep due to the ingredients.  The crust was appropriately crispy, the cheese has really nice “pull,” the pie is wall to wall with the sausage, and the (chunky) tomato ‘sauce’ just pops with flavor.

When you look at the ingredient list, there aren’t any of those words you can’t pronounce or have no idea what they are. Example, the sausage is pork, salt, and spices.  I’d do it again.

According to the packaging, these pies are made at USDA factory number 18498, at 3054 S. Kildare Ave., Chicago, which is apparently owned and operated by Home Run Inn pizza for their frozen pie operation. (factory pics below) HRI makes one of my favorite frozen thin crust pizzas.

If you’re rolling into Chicagoland, and want to hit a Malnati’s restaurant, you’ll find them here (note, some locations are carryout/delivery only).

Lou Malnati's Frozen Pizza Review

Lou Malnati's Frozen Pizza Review

Out of package, before oven

 

Lou Malnatis Review

Back of Factory

Lou Malnatis Review

Front of factory abuts an HRI location

Lou Malnatis Frozen Pizza Review

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P’Mos Pizza Review

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P'Mos Pizza Review

Packaging

The pizza makin’ elves at Milwaukee’s Palermo Pizza are at it again.  Fresh on the success in recent years of their Screamin’ Sicilian brand, here comes their take on a “pub style” pizza, under the name of P’mos.  In addition to writing about “Screamin,” I’ve also written about Palermo’s history and their “classic” brand.

I will be the first to admit I’m not really sure what “pub style” pizza is supposed to be like, unless they are referring to pizzas found in bars –  many of the frozen pizza lines hatched out of Wisconsin and Minnesota got their start being sold only in bars.  The pizza manufacturer would supply the drinking establishment with a small counter top oven, and sell them frozen pies to bake on demand for their customers.  Luckily the interwebs knows all, the it appears that one might define “pub pizza” as “born on Chicago’s south side as an alternative to Chicago’s traditional deep dish, with a cracker thin crust, sweeter sauce, a little more salt, and cut into squares instead of triangular slices.”  Alrighty then.  Palermo’s marketing pitch for the line is “Palermo’s took Pub Style pizza to a new level starting with a crispy thin crust made to highlight the hand selected toppings. Each of the P’MOs varieties is over loaded with fresh ingredients and smothered in
rich Mozzarella cheese.”

This is certainly the era of new “styles” of pizza, what with Dominos, Pizza Hut, and Little Caesar’s leading the way with myriad new crust options.  Yesterday, Little Caesars announced a “bacon wrapped” crust.  Pizza Hut has come up with all sorts of disgusting flavor combinations for its crust, like “honey-siracha” or some such.   If the chains were making one for me, I think I’d have to go for “bacon wrapped cheese stuffed pretzel crust.”  That’d be over the top.

I picked up the sausage variety of P’Mos, my local grocery had stocked four varieties:  cheese, pepperoni, sausage and supreme.  Not present was the “Combination,” which is topped with both sausage and pepperoni.  My recollection is the price point was $7 or north of that, making it a competitor in the range of their own Screamin’ Sicilian, and other “premium” frozen pies.  This is in contrast to the classic Palermo pies, which I have purchased for as little as 6 for $10, incredibly cheap.

Removing the wrapper, I am impressed with the appearance of the ‘shaved’ cheese, instead of sprinkled, has the possibility of providing a nice melt.  I am hopeful that the sausage will be as good as the large chunks found on the “Screamin” line, although they are smaller.  Cheese is listed as the first ingredient on the label, which is encouraging.  A typo on the ingredient list (a missing ‘paren’ mark) makes it difficult to tell you all of the ingredients in the sausage, but they start out with an all pork and herb/spice mix.  There is none of the dreaded “mechanically separated poultry” in the meat.  Whew.

While I usually tell you where the pizza was made, according to the USDA legend on the package,  this inspection sticker bears no plant number, and the reverse label says “distributed by Palermo,” which could well mean manufacturing is contracted out to a plant not owned by the company.

Baking instructions are middle shelf, 400, 14-18 minutes.

I popped mine out at 17.  The pizza lives up to the internet definition stated above, with a thin ‘cracker like’ crust, sweeter sauce.  Lots of cheese for a frozen pie, real cheese with nice “pull.”  The sausage is extremely mild.  I personally like my Italian sausage heavy with fennel flavor.   In the end, this is a good frozen pie.  Top 5, in any case.  This one goes into my regular rotation when I am buying frozen pies.

But Palermo, suggestion?   Your ‘cracker crust’ is more like matzo than saltines, IMHO.  So how about a line of kosher certified pizzas?  There’s a segment for you.  You can call it “Lotza Mozza Matzo!!”

If you’ve a hankering for Chicago pizza, pub or deep dish, you can have it delivered right to your home, shop here.

 

P'Mos Pizza Review

Packaging

PMo's frozen pizza review

400 for 17 Minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P’Mos Pizza Review

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Heggies Pizza Review

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Heggies Pizza ReviewIf you look at the history of frozen pizza in the U.S., many of the largest brands started out as “bar pizzas” in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Small manufacturers  made frozen pies, sold them to bars, to which they furnished a counter top oven free of charge.  (There used to be laws that a certain percentage of sales at a bar came from food).

Manufacturers in the two states today sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of pizzas per year, from many of your favorite brands.  I’m written about quite a few of them, these are the Minnesota ones:  Totino’s Party Pizza and Jeno’s Crisp ’n Tasty Pizza, Red Baron, Tonys, Freschetta, BernatellosBellatoria, Orvs, Roma, Brew Pub,  Green Mill, and literally dozens of single brand independents, like Kettle River, and pizzerias that make frozen pies to sell in-house.

Today’s sample is a regional favorite, in mid-Minnesota, which was spawned out of an Anoka restaurant, before hitting the bar and club circuit with frozen pies. Heggie’s Pizza is heavy on ingredients and mystery.  Started in a garage, but now operating out of a newish plant in the middle of the state, an hour north of Minneapolis, the family run operation doesn’t talk about it’s ingredients or methods.

I don’t know if you can find them in a lot of local grocers, but I did see them in quite a few gas stations in the Twin Cities.  They are a little spendy compared to most local frozen pies  ($6 – $10).

They make a dozen varieties, and I started out with the “Six Pack,” which has sausage, pepperoni, bacon, Canadian bacon, cheddar and mozzarella cheese in ample quantities. (It’s their best seller).

In my opinion (the only one that counts here)  Heggies makes one of the very, very few frozen pizzas that equals a pizzeria pie, in flavor and texture. Good sauce, good crust, great cheese ( a lot of it!), good toppings.

I only have two minor gripes about the Six Pack;  even tho everybody loves bacon, the bacon “flavor” is the overwhelming one on the Six Pack. It is very similar to the taste and aroma of “bacon flavored” items.  Also, for me, the sausage doesn’t have enough texture. It is reminiscent of institutional food service, pre-cooked sausage crumbles that some pizza shops use.

The gas station clerk that sold me the pie said she was an expert at cooking them, and baking them at a lower temp for longer than the directions would bring the best result;  but I followed the package directions and it was just swell.

Neither of these are deal killers.  If these pies were sold in my area, they would be my regular go-to frozen pie.  No question.

Pies are made in Milaca, Minnesota at USDA est. M15816-P15816.  Pic below.

Heggies Pizza Review

 

Heggies Pizza Review

Heggies Pizza Review

 

 

 

 

 

Heggies Pizza Review

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Jacks Pizza Review

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jacks-pizzaJack’s is one of those former little brands, started as the food equivalent of a garage band, in Little Chute, Wisconsin (outside of Appleton.  Near Neenah.  Kinda by Menasha. Before you get to Green Bay).  Started in 1960.  Grew around the state, then the region, bought by Kraft when they were rolling up frozen pizza brands, and then Kraft spun off their pizza division to Nestle.  I can’t say why.   (Jack’s, DiGiorno, California Pizza Kitchen, and Tombstone are all part of this group.)

Jack’s sits in the ‘value category’, you’re probably not going to pay more than $4, and often they are on sale at 3 or 4 for $10.

Jack’s doesn’t list the ingredients on their website, but there is a mess of them, including my least favorite “….mechanically separated….. bird of some kind.”   The company says one of their points of pride is ‘real Wisconsin cheese.’  I would think the Swiss owners would have something to say about that, but I guess not.  Nutritional info says a serving size is 1/4 of the pie, for 380 calories, 160 of them from fat, and 37 grams of carbs. Seems low, but it is an ultra-thin crust.

The brand is kind enough to have the warning “do not eat without cooking.”

Directions call for 11 – 13 minutes at 425, center shelf.  The pie curled in the oven.  Not sure why some frozen pizzas do that and others do not.

Verdict:

Crust:  ultra thin, cracker like

Sauce:  a little towards the sweet side, but ample

Cheese:  a fair amount, good flavor, nice “pull”

Pepperoni:   not bad

Sausage:  very small bits, no flavor at all. I’d prefer larger pieces and a little fennel and/or garlic.

Verdict:  To my unsophisticated palate, most of the brands in the ‘value pricing category’ taste about the same. With the exception of the “ultra-value” like Totino’s or Jeno’s,which you can sometimes find for 10 / $10 – and they are truly awful. Would I buy this one again? I’d probably keep a few around if I ran into another 3 or 4 for $10 deal.   Product locator.

After a year of extensive study (there are a lot of frozen pizza reviews on the site), my favorites remain Chicago’s Vito and Nicks II, and the Screamin’ Sicilian Brand from Milwaukee manufacturer, Palermo.

We’ve talked about value and ultra value here;  I think there needs to be an ultra premium category of frozen pizza.  Probably in the $12 – $15 range.

Below is the publicity photo from Jack’s website, and my photo of the pie just out of the oven.  Waddya think?  Do they look the same?

Jack's  Pizza Review

Prior to baking

Jack's  Pizza Review

Promotional Photo

Jack's  Pizza Review

Just out of my oven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jacks Pizza Review

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Home Run Inn Pizza Review

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Home Run Inn Frozen PizzaAs a regular reader, you know I think Home Run from Chicago makes one of the best frozen pizzas on the market. They have been running a social media campaign, and if you (to quote Groucho) “say the secret word, the bless you with a coupon for a free pie and a spiffy logo imprinted pizza cutter.

They blessed me with a care pack, and I picked up the Classic Cheese, which is a great pie all on it’s own, but I’ve been trying to utilize more leftovers lately, and added last night’s spinach/bacon/garlic dish as a topping.

HRI is one of the few frozen pies that is truly microwavable, if that’s your thing. They include a microwave browning disc which helps the project along, and it really works!

Pix of the frozen pie with micro tray, and the finished product, 425 oven for 17 minutes.  You can buy Home Run frozen pies online.

Home Run Inn Frozen Pizza

 

 

Home Run Inn Frozen Pizza

Bacon, spinach, garlic added

 

 

 

Home Run Inn Pizza Review

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Home Cookin’ – DiGiorno Frozen Pizza Review, Pizzeria Style (new product)

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Busman’s holiday. A funny phrase. It means I’m taking time off from my job as a write to write this, which is supposed to be a hoppy, but has turned into a second job. No rest for the wicked, as they say.

Developed originally by Kraft, the DiGiorno frozen pizza line now calls Switzerland based Nestle “momma”, and markets their pies under the DiGiorno name in the United States, and under the Delissio label.  No idea why the split.

DiGiorno has long used the advertising tag line “it’s not delivery, it’s DiGiorno” as a reference to there being a frozen pizza product that is every bit as good as a pizza delivered from a shop.

They have a host of types of pizza products and configurations; from classic thin crust, to flat bread – garlic bread pizza and rising crust. One of their more interesting products is the “pizza and sides” concept, emulating the offerings of the budget delivery chains, from DiGiorno you can get a frozen pizza and boneless chicken “Wyngz” in one box. A little sauce as well. Or pizza and breadsticks.

Nestle’s latest offering is “Pizzeria style”, which strikes me kind of funny, since the previously mentioned tag line would seem to indicate the manufacturer thinks ALL of their pies are “pizzeria style.”

The difference, apparently, according to the fat cats in Vevey, is that this pie has a “crust that’s crispy, yet soft and airy on the inside, a flavorful sauce and premium toppings.”

I guess it’s too much that we hope all frozen pizzas are crispy and flavorful with premium toppings. I wonder what the opposite would be?

Nevertheless, I picked one up to give it a whirl.

DiGiorno Pizzeria StyleThe box is designed and shaped to give the impression of a large pizza than actually comes in the box.  The frozen pie is pictured to the left, and yes, I DID rearrange the pepperoni for the photo. Yes, of COURSE it came out of the box with all the toppings on one side of the pie.

The box states this is ‘primo pepperoni pizza” and it is “created with care.” (Which Nestle has trademarked.  Are their other pies created with not so much care?)

Further there are “no artificial flavors.”  I’m not really sure what that means.

375 at 18-20 minutes say the operating instructions, with a cautionary ” not ready to eat – cook thoroughly” warning. Thanks for telling me!

I am a  bit predisposed to not favor this pie, pizzeria style or not. The crust is going to be a little too thick for me.

The first thing I noticed when the pie came from the oven was the aroma, or rather lack of it. No pizzeria smell.  Not like local product Vito and Nicks II which we tried last week.

The crust?  Yes, while it is ‘crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside’, it’s too thick for my personal preference. It would definetly be labeled “thick crust” at any pizzeria.  The sauce is rather non-intrusive, not imparting any particular flavor one way or another, but the cheese is good, albeit sparse, and the pepperoni flavor is nice, but the slices cupped during baking, which generally indicates a higher fat content.  I know, I know, some people insist real flavor comes from fat.  Each slice of pepp here is dotted with some herbs.

Overall?  Nothing new, tastes like dozens of other frozen pizzas.

See, here’s where I don’t get it.  Why can’t these giant multinationals make a good frozen pie?  For goodness sake, Nestle is the largest food company in the world!  Yet lots of little guys kick their butts when it come to making a good frozen pizza.

I have a suggestion for Paul Bulcke, the current CEO of Nestle.  On your next trip to the US, step inside a Trader Joe’s grocery store. Trader Joe’s imports frozen pizzas from France and Italy, and have several different varieties including flatbreads.  The truffle one is out of this world.

Now skedaddle back to Europe and buy the companies supplying Trader Joes.  Now rebrand those pizzas with the DiGiorno name, and toss out your current recipes.

Just a thought.  Wanna try a great frozen pizza?

DiGiorno Pizzeria Style

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DiGiorno pizza review

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Reggios Pizza Review

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Reggios Microwave Pizza ReviewI’m reluctant to try almost any freezer pizza that says it can be microwaved.  Just never works out, in my opinion.  But Reggio’s is one of my favorite frozen brands, and the individual sized were on an endcap and on sale, so I thought I’d give one a whirl.   I’ve tried the size before, but in  a conventional oven, as I am likely to do, given the option.  The results were satisfactory.

Two things that food producers have so far failed to master, one is microwavable pizza, the other is “crispness” on deep fried products.  The Reggio’s pie includes one of those “specialized” baking surfaces (within the box)  which is supposed to amp up the crisp factor.  In the base of this product, you remove from the box and the cello, and slide the frozen pizza back into the box for its minute or so in the nuke-a-torium.

I wasn’t very happy with the result.  While the familiar taste of a Reggio’s pie was there, and the interior portion was adequate, the crust rim was rock hard, and part of the pie was left in the box.  It doesn’t appear there is any easy way to get the pie out of the ‘cooking chamber box’ intact.

As with most products that give you the option of conventional oven or microwave, despite the time needed and energy consumption, I always recommend using your oven.  In the case of this pizza, the upside results would have been two fold:  1) even crust baking, and  2) better appearance.

Reggios Microwave Pizza Review

Baked, and out of the box

 

Reggios Microwave Pizza Review

What Was Left in the Box

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Frozen Edwardos Natural Pizza Review

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Edwardo's Natural Frozen PizzaThe 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.

Edwardo's Natural Frozen Pizza Review

Frozen, Prior to Baking

 

 

Edwardo's Natural Frozen Pizza Review

Hot Slice!

 

Edwardos Natural Pizza

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Good & Delish Frozen Pizza Review

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The “full name” of the product is Good & Delish Rising Crust Extra Thick Pepperoni frozen pizza.  Good & Delish is one of Walgreen’s in-house brands for food products, the other is Nice!  Not sure why they need two brands, as there doesn’t seem to be any segment specific reason for one or the other.

Seldom is the day I even stop at a Walgreen’s, I just think they are too spendy.  But I stopped today simply because “it was there,” I s needed one or two things, and on short trips, I hate to make multiple stops.  Getting lazy, I guess.

I have been on the hunt for a new brand of frozen pizza, Walgreens probably wouldn’t have it, but I figured I’d peek anyway, and sho nuff, no soap.  But they did have their house brand pies at $4.99 for 29 ounces, and that’s a pretty good value, so I figured “what they hey”, and brought one home.  I have reviewed other Walgreen’s products before, notably their frozen cheeseburger.

Never been a fan of rising crust pizzas, but when you think about it, it’s quite an achievement, isn’t it?   The Walgreen’s pie was a straight forward affair, 20 minutes at 400; the ingredients were typical, but the pepperoni was “pork, beef, and chicken,” a formulation I try and stay away from.   But I was committed now.

The box has the “Real Cheese” (which indicates the topping is a bon afide dairy product)emblem on it, and a Federal Inspection seal, but without the customary “establishment number,” so I can’t tell you who makes these pizzas for Walgreens.

Upon taking it from the oven, the first thing I noticed was some “shiny pools” on top of the pie, which surprised me, since the pepperoni had the combination ingredients.  Pure pork or pure beef or both I would have thought had a higher content of fat.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing the best US made frozen pizza I have ever consumed, for me, this pie is about a six. All of the ingredients are VERY mild in flavor, the “Boboli-like” crust is good, crispy and chewy at the same time, and the pepperoni, had some heft to it, due to its thickness.

Would I buy it again?  If the circumstances were right, probably.

 

Walgreen's Frozen Pizza

In the Box

 

Walgreens Frozen Pizza Review

Out of the Box – Frozen

 

 

Walgreens Frozen Pizza Review

Out of the Oven

Good & Delish Frozen Pizza Review

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Luigis Pizza Review

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Luigi's Frozen Pizza ReviewContinuing to cut a swath through small Midwestern frozen pizza manufacturers, I happened upon Luigi’s brand, manufactured in the small town of Belgium, WI.  I’m not able to find much information about it online, nor do they have a website. I’m going to make a giant assumption here and opine this is yet another manufacturer that started out as a supplier to bars and restaurants and made the leap to retail. Stop the presses!  Upon further investigation, with a ‘similar logo’ and geographical proximity, it may be these pies originally came from the loins of a nearby restaurant, Luigi’s of Sheboygan. Maybe.

It’s also one of those times when I reached for one product and ended up bringing home another; usually I go for “all meat”, but ended up grabbing a supreme, which is topped with sausage, pepperoni, onion, green and red peppers.  The sausage bits are small and pre-cooked. The quantity of toppings is adequate; the pie falls into what I would determine to be a medium price range at about $7 per pie, which ways in at about 25 ounces, or 28 cents per ounce, or 87 cents for each of the eight slices (recommended servings).  Further, each slice contains 20 % of your daily sodium content. Whoops!

Instructions call for 15 – 18 minutes at 400; they further state that since ‘oven temperatures may vary’, one should rely on appearance, rather than timing, and bake until the cheese bubbles and the crust is brown.

After 15 minutes, the cheese was not ‘bubbling’, so I went the distance with another 3 minutes. And then another two and a half minutes, I must need my oven temp calibrated!

The result is pictured below.  It’s a thin and crispy ‘Upper Midwest style’ crust, but it broke in a couple of places coming out of the oven. No big deal.

Coming out of the oven, the aroma was similar to a pizzeria, which is a plus with me, but also noticeable was the scent of the green peppers, which I believe in the “a little goes a long way” with that topping.  Not my favorite.  Cheese and sauce were good, the cheese had a nice “pull” to it.  Cracker crust lived up to its billing.

Sausage?  Not so much.  There are very few frozen pizzas that have raw sausage, I get that, but the pre-cooked crumbles, especially this small, have a taste that just doesn’t sit well with me.  This sausage isn’t very seasoned, either, tasting more like pure ground pork. That’s ok, just not at the top of my list. Pepperoni did not char or cup, indicating a better quality pepp than many suppliers.

Would I buy it again?  Sure.  While it’s not at the top of my list for frozen pizzas, it is soooooooooooo much better than so many brands. I recommend you try it, though I suspect it might be a bit difficult to find outside of the Wisconsin and Northern Illinois areas.

Luigi's Frozen Pizza Review

Out of the package, prior to baking

Luigi's Frozen Pizza Review

Baked, 400, 20 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luigis Pizza Review

 

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