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Archive for the ‘Pizza’ Category

Red Baron Deep Dish Singles Review

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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

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Quad Cities Style Pizza Review

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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

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Capri Pizza Review, Merrillville, IN

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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

 

 

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Village Pizza & Pub Review – Elgin, IL

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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

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Meijers Frozen Pizza Review – Grocery Store Brand

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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

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Tommys Red Hots Review – Suburban Chicago

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Tommys Red Hots ReviewTommys started in 1980 and has expanded to six stores in the Northern and Northwestern Suburbs of Chicago.  They offer a very lengthy, typical “Chicago menu,” with hot dogs, burgers, Italian beef, fried food and pizza.

I’ve driven by a couple of Tommy’s many times, have never stopped by, because frankly, the exteriors look a little dated, and I was afraid that would be matched inside, both in the decor and kitchen.  And near one of the ones that is close to me, there is a shiny new Chicago type hot dog place, replete with neon, gleaming chrome and so on. Here’s my lesson.  I’ve been in that place, and it was shiny inside, as well, but the food was awful. I mean dreadful.

So I thought I would swing into a Tommys last week, and I was the first customer of the day. Not in the mood for dogs or burgers, I decided to get their “Humungous” Italian Sub, with vinaigrette, salami, mortadella, ham, provolone, and all the trimmings.  Also opted for a side of fries (one size only).

And you know what? It was great. They were great. Both the sandwich and the fries. The sandwich is far and away multiple times better and fresher than any of the chains, great bread, quality meats.  Hot, fresh fries, lightly salted, in size between shoe strings and steak fries, I don’t know what that size is called, but I liked them. A lot. And BTW, the inside was immaculate.

They have a HUGE menu (below). I’ll be back to try a lot more of their offerings.  Locations.

vinaigrette, salami, mortadella, ham, provolone, and all the trimmings

Tommys Red Hots Review

Tommys Red Hots Review

Tommys Red Hots Review

Tommys Red Hots Review

 

Tommys Red Hots Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tommys Red Hots Review

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Giordanos Pizza Review, St. Charles, IL

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<div style="position:relative;height:0;padding-bottom:56.25%"><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K-cTzg8DcrY?ecver=2" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" style="position:absolute;width:100%;height:100%;left:0" allowfullscreen></iframe></div>Brothers Efren and Joseph Boglio were born in a small town near Turin, Italy.

The brothers first immigrated to Argentina and subsequently  to the US. Upon arriving in America, Efren began working at a pizzeria in Chicago, but he was not satisfied with the pizzas he tasted and decided to open his own restaurant, Roma.

When Joseph came to Chicago, Efren has stated they decided to open a restaurant using their old family recipes and after experimenting over several months developed the stuffed pizza, finding Giordano’s in 1974.

A couple owners and one bankruptcy later, Giordanos is prospering and on a tear to expand nationwide, and have opened restaurantsGiordanos Pizza Review outside of the Chicago area.

Their specialty is “stuffed pizza” which is a form of deep dish, but unlike most of the chains “deep dish” that focus on way too much dough,  the emphasis here is on quantity of ingredients and the sauce is always on top.

We were at the St. Charles, IL location and served by Ilona. She did a great job, maintained her humor, despite (it seemed to me) having too many tables she was responsible for.

We ordered the large stuffed, sausage only, and it was superb.

The pizzas REALLY DO look like the ones in the TV commercials.  One large pie (served four and their were leftovers, 1 beer, 3 soft drinks, tip,  around
$42.

Locations.  Menu.

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

Giordanos Pizza Review
Giordanos Pizza Review

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Napoli Pizza Review, Woodstock, IL

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Napoli Pizza Review WoodstockI love being surprised (in a good way).

I also love having an experience exceed my expectations. Both were the case at Napoli Pizza, in the distant Chicago burg of Woodstock.

You may not recognize the name of the town, but you would if you were dropped into the town square – it’s where most of the exteriors of the movie “Groundhog Day” were filmed. There’s even a commerative “Ned Ryerson” plague on the sidewalk.

So I saw Napoli by accident some time ago, and it looked old timey. Not much about it online, other than their facebook page, which says they have been family owned for 26 years. Carry out, delivery or dine in, pizza, pasta, apps, sandwiches. Open 7 days from 11AM.

I ordered a thin crust house special (sausage, pepperoni, green and black olives, onions, mushrooms, and green pepper).

I can vouch that the dough is blended in-house, because I spied a hunk of it bigger than me, being worked in the kitchen. Their “thin” isn’t as thin as some other Chicago area pizzerias, more like the thickness of what the chains referred to as “hand-tossed.” Regardless, it was very flaky at the exterior and nice and chewy as you worked your way in from the win.

Toppings were plentiful, and I mean PLENTIFUL. I was surprised when I was first handed the box, this sucker was HEAVY. Excellent hand pulled chunks of flavorful Italian sausage. The sauce is slightly sweet, but in the way it’s supposed to be, from tomatoes. Hearty. And massive amounts of cheese, I’m sure the quantity would qualify as “double cheese” at most places. Really, really nice.

I wished I lived closer, Napoli would be my go-to place. Luckily, every few months I’m up that way. I’ll be back. I so admire mom and pop sized operators. It’s gotta be tough every day to compete against the major chain pricing gimmicks, and of course the breaks chains get on purchasing monster quantities of ingredients.

Thanks for a great pie!  Menu below.

Napoli Pizza Review Woodstock

House Special

Napoli Pizza Review Woodstock
Napoli Pizza Place Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Napoli Pizza Review

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Tenutas Deli Review, Kenosha, WI

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Tenutas Deli ReviewI’ve been in a lot of great Italian “delis” all over the world. Two of my favorites (until this week) are Martinotti’s in Portland, OR, and Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica, CA.

Both superb in their own right. I’ve hit a couple smaller ones in Chicago that are also enjoyable.

This weekend I ran across the best of the best, in my opinion, in Kenosha, WI of all places.

Tenuta’s has been operating since 1950, and have aisle after aisle of imported grocery goods, as well as locally packaged ‘fixins’ like many different kinds of pastas, herbs, spices and such.

In their deli counters, they have prepared Italian dishes you can purchase by the pound, as well as in-house made sandwiches and delicious items like meatballs. Fresh take n bake pizzas, too!

Not incidentally, they have one of the largest selections of craft beers I have ever seen anywhere. Rows of shelves and coolers that run the whole length of the store.

It was hard not to spend my kid’s inheritance there in one day, but I did manage to score some goodies.

Having lived in New Orleans, and always eager to eat the local NOLA sandwich the “muffaletta,” I was pleased to see Tenuta’s had their own version, and at about half the price you’d pay in New Orleans.

Their “small” will feed 2-3 people and comes in at a very reasonable $6.99. It IS their own version tho, if you’re used to have the New Orleans ones, which have a layer of “olive salad,” you won’t find that here. Instead they have opted for adding pickled green pepper pieces, and lettuce, neither of which you’ll find in the NOLA versions.

I also bought a container of meatballs, the ingredients listed include: beef, pork, breadcrumbs, textured vegetable protein, ricotta, romano, soy, flour, salt, garlic, spices, parsley, brown sugar and flavoring.I have to say, they are quite flavorful and the texture is to my liking. (I hate “mushy” meatballs). They come in different quantity packs, I got the ‘small’ which is 15 balls for around $7.

I don’t know what they include in their ingredients under “spices,” my personal preference, and how I make them at home, is to include a bunch of dried fennel seeds. It’s a strong flavor, and many people don’t care for it. Tenuta’s meatballs are perfect for the average consumer tho, nothing at all objectionable!

The store is open 7 days, and also does catering. It’s truly a wonderland.  I shall return. You should visit too.

Tenutas Deli Review

House made meatballs

Tenutas Deli Review

Meatball cross section

Tenutas Deli Review

“Muffaletta” Sandwich

Tenuta's Delicatessen & Liquor Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Tenutas Deli Review

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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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