QUICK REVIEW: California Pizza Kitchen Limited Edition Spicy Chipotle Chicken Crispy Thin Crust Pizza

California PIzza Kitchen Limited Edition Spicy Chipotle Chicken Crispy Thin Crust Pizza

Purchased Price: $5.99 (on sale)
Size: 14.1 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Pleasant sweet and smoky sauce with a hint of lime. Nice crispy crust. Long list of toppings (white meat chicken, roasted corn, black beans, poblano peppers, fire-roasted red and yellow peppers, cilantro, mozzarella, parmesan, asiago, and romano cheeses, and a spicy chipotle lime sauce). Preservative-free crust.
Cons: Not spicy at all. It would make the Spicy Chipotle Chicken pizza available at California Pizza Kitchen restaurants cry because this frozen version is a poor representation of it. Nice long list of toppings didn’t translate into a pizza with a complex flavor. Not a lot of chicken. Had to manually move toppings to get an even distribution.

California PIzza Kitchen Limited Edition Spicy Chipotle Chicken Crispy Thin Crust Pizza Closeup

Nutrition Facts: 1/3 pizza – 270 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 570 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 15 grams of protein, 6% vitamin A, 8% vitamin C, 20% calcium, and 10% iron.

QUICK REVIEW: California Pizza Kitchen Limited Edition Greek Recipe Crispy Thin Crust Pizza

California Pizza Kitchen Limited Edition Greek Recipe Crispy Thin Crust Pizza

Purchased Price: $5.99 (on sale)
Size: 14.3 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Wonderful crispy crust. Preservative-free crust. Lots of veggies, especially olives and tomatoes. If you don’t eat meat, you may like this pizza. Decent source of vitamin A and calcium. Ready in 12 quick minutes.
Cons: ALL I CAN TASTE AND SMELL ARE OLIVES!!! (Okay, occasionally, I could taste parmesan, spinach, and a little bit of garlic.) Tomatoes give the pizza a juicy texture. Red onions were flavorless. Didn’t notice the tzatziki sauce. Some lamb might’ve been nice. A serving is a third of the pizza…who’s going to cut a pizza into an odd number of slices? I suck at fractions.

California Pizza Kitchen Limited Edition Greek Recipe Crispy Thin Crust Pizza Closeup

Nutrition Facts: 1/3 pizza – 300 calories, 130 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 550 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 10 grams of protein, 20% vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 20% calcium, and 10% iron.

REVIEW: Tony’s Original Crust Macaroni & Cheese Pizza

Tony's Original Crust Macaroni & Cheese Pizza

You know how some items seem to be around for no reason except someone thought up a good commercial, then realized the product didn’t technically exist, so they had to quickly create it? It sort of feels like Tony’s Original Crust Macaroni & Cheese Pizza is one of those products.

I picture a smarmy ad executive (yes, he looks exactly like Don Draper), leaning contemplatively in his chair. He finishes his cigarette, stubs it out, steals a glance at Christina Hendricks’ cleavage. Satisfied, he stands and reaches for his hat… and stops. Stares straight ahead for a full 30 seconds, then grabs a sheet of paper and begins scribbling excitedly. When he finishes, he’s looking at a storyboard of a brother and sister standing face to face, scowling.

The girl yells “But I want macaroni and cheeeeese!” The boy retorts, “Too bad, Mom said we could have pizza!” Then the mother steps into frame, boasting a smile only achievable through extensive surgical work or pounds of medical-grade marijuana. “Kids, kids!” she says, laughing gently, “Who says we can’t have both?” Reaching behind her to retrieve the box she must have strapped to her back, she brings it out and shows us the label as the kids’ eyes light up: Macaroni & cheese pizza. And life makes sense once again.

Actually, jokes notwithstanding, I was eager to try this product. I’ve had baked ziti pizza from Italian restaurants before, when I’m in a particularly “Screw it, we’ve all gotta go sometime” mood. But I’ve never had mac n’ cheese pizza before, and frankly I wondered if Tony’s could get even close to the gooey, artery-hardening deliciosity that is freshly-made baked ziti pizza. (These are the things I think about since our favorite local pizza place closed for repairs after the neighboring deli suspiciously burned down. True story.)

Obviously you don’t expect it to be as thick as an actual pizzeria pie, but it must be said that this is a mighty thin pizza, even with the layer of mac n’ cheese. And that’s probably attributable to the fact that there’s no marinara sauce to be found. I probably should have surmised that from the box, but it came as an unpleasant surprise that didn’t fill me with confidence. It still looks pretty good, but it definitely feels more like you’re eating macaroni off of flatbread, rather than as a topping on pizza.

Tony's Original Crust Macaroni & Cheese Pizza Baked

You’ll note there are two cheeses visible in the photo — obviously mozzarella is the primary base, but there’s a reasonable, though not overly generous, helping of cheddar scattered throughout. They proudly advertise that the new square shape fills the box, which I think is meant to imply you’re getting more pizza for the same price. That’s probably true, although cutting it into quarters makes the slices a bitch to eat without smearing grease all over your face. Or maybe that’s just me and my refusal to eat the crust until every other bite is gone. Yeah, probably just me. Anyway, I appreciate the extra surface area.

But ultimately quantity is irrelevant if the taste isn’t up to par, so what’s the verdict? Well… serviceable. It’s not bad — the crust is crunchy but not hard, the two kinds of cheeses are distinct, and the macaroni has a soft but not slimy texture. Plus it’s pizza and beer on a Friday night, it’s impossible to completely screw that up.

That said, it also tastes like exactly what it is: artificial mac n’ cheese on a frozen pizza. There’s nothing bold or fresh about the flavor, no interesting spices you didn’t expect. It’s relatively pleasing in the moment and then immediately forgotten afterward, like a date with me. When all’s said and done, this is a decent option if you’re trying to save money or the best Italian restaurant in your town is Sbarro’s. But if you live anywhere near a decent pizza joint, it’s worth the trek for the real thing.

(Nutrition Facts — 1/4 pizza — 280 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 500 milligrams of sodium, 100 milligrams of potassium, 40 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugars, and 10 grams of protein.)

Item: Tony’s Original Crust Macaroni & Cheese Pizza
Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 17.00 oz
Purchased at: Wegman’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Square to fill the entire box. Satisfies two demographics. Visually appealing. For what it is, not ridiculously unhealthy. Pretty good taste. Which came first, the ad or the product?
Cons: Nothing remotely surprising. No marinara sauce. Thin. A little more cheddar would’ve been nice. Suspicious fires that take out your favorite pizza place as collateral damage.

REVIEW: Red Baron Pizza & Sides Pepperoni Pizza & Breaded Mozzarella Sticks

Red Baron Pizza & Sides Pepperoni Pizza & Breaded Mozzarella Sticks

Believe it or not, Manfred von Richthofen — AKA the Red Baron, the most famous flying ace in history, with 80 confirmed kills — was by his own admission not a great pilot. He was decent, but his younger brother Lothar (with “only” 40 kills) was a much better pilot, though Manfred worried about him because he was reckless and took too many risks. Yes, that’s right: the von Richthofen family produced both a Maverick and an Iceman in the same generation.

If you’re thinking none of that has anything to do with the product we’re reviewing today, well, that’s true; but hell, neither does the Red Baron. I would wager money von Richthofen never ate a slice of pizza in his life. Still, I find this kind of stuff cool, and our review today is of frozen pizza. Let us be perfectly frank and honest with ourselves: that is not the most exciting of food products.

Not that they haven’t tried to sexy it up, though, with the addition of mozzarella sticks. In general I think the majority of frozen pizzas are exactly as good as every other one, but in looking for a way to stand out from the crowd, I’d say the Rittmeister is off to a good start. Pizza and mozzarella sticks are two foods I don’t normally associate with each other, but if your main philosophy in life is that the heart is evil and must be punished, it’s hard to imagine a better one-two punch. (Bacon cheeseburgers and waffles?) The box promises 11-13 mozzarella sticks, which I find hilarious. I’ve seen other boxes for the same product that simply promise 12, so I’m guessing someone raised a big enough stink about how there wasn’t no 12 mozzarella sticks in their dang package that the good folks at Red Baron decided to be on the safe side. (I received an even dozen, in case you were wondering.)

Red Baron Pizza & Sides Pepperoni Pizza & Breaded Mozzarella Sticks Pepperoni Distribution

Pre-cooking, the pizza looked exactly like any frozen pizza would, although as you can see from the picture, the pepperoni distribution was by Picasso. I don’t recall getting into any ’70s cop film-esque car chases on the way home from the grocery store, so I’m going to assume that’s how it was constructed. No problem, redistributing it was easy and the pepperoni was plentiful.

Red Baron Pizza & Sides Pepperoni Pizza & Breaded Mozzarella Sticks Closeup

As for the taste? Well, you’ve all heard the cliche that sex is like pizza: even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. That’s pretty accurate in that it’s hard to make bad pizza (not impossible, sadly), and this particular one is certainly not bad. Actually, that’s underselling things — it’s honestly pretty good. The cheese was relatively plentiful, the sauce had some decent spices, and the crust was pretty firm. I can’t say it tasted substantially different from almost every other frozen pizza ever, but perhaps a little better. The overall size of the pie was more than plentiful — between this and the sticks, you’re set for at least two meals, maybe even three.

Red Baron Pizza & Sides Pepperoni Pizza & Breaded Mozzarella Sticks Closeup 2

To be honest I was more curious about the mozzarella sticks, since I very rarely prepare frozen ones myself. It’s not exactly a very complex dish, but for my money the easiest way to ruin sticks is to under-spice them. I was worried that would be the case here, but they hit the balance pretty well. On the other hand, the amount of cheese within them was slightly lacking, especially when some of it ran out during the baking process. More cheese would’ve taken them from good to great; Baron, I want you to pretend the mozzarella is machine gun bullets and the sticks are enemy Sopwith Camels. Really pepper it in there.

I’m happy my initial fear about the Red Baron Pizza & Sides Pepperoni Pizza & Mozzarella Sticks — that the Avengers ad would be the most exciting thing about it — was proved wrong. It’s not going to be mistaken for fresh out of a pizzeria’s oven at any point, but for a quick meal that will last for a day or two, it does the trick. (Note, however, that any time you save in food preparation will be more than negated by the extra time you’ll need to spend in the gym working off this gargantuan calorie bomb.) There’s also another entry in the “Pizza & Sides” line that comes with 7-9 Buffalo Wyngs. However, the deliberate misspelling of “wings” means you have only yourself to blame if it turns out you’re actually eating processed chicken anus. Enjoy!

(Nutrition Facts — 1/4 pizza — 370 calories, 140 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 790 milligrams of sodium, 250 milligrams of potassium, 43 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 9 grams of sugars, 15 grams of protein. 4 Mozzarella pieces — 250 calories, 140 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 560 milligrams of sodium, 40 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugars, and 10 grams of protein.)

Item: Red Baron Pizza & Sides Pepperoni Pizza & Breaded Mozzarella Sticks
Price: $8.99
Size: 1 pizza and 11-13 mozzarella sticks
Purchased at: Giant
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Maverick and Iceman in the same family. Large serving. Did indeed fulfill “11-13 sticks” vow. Pretty tasty pizza. Well-spiced mozzarella sticks. Artistic pepperoni distribution. Hulk looking like he’s about to punch Captain America.
Cons: Slightly odd combo. Actually may be worse for you than a bacon cheeseburger & waffles. Not enough cheese in the mozzarella sticks. Even good frozen pizza can’t hold a candle to fresh-made slices from a pizzeria. Losing dogfights to a beagle.

REVIEW: DiGiorno Three Meat Pizza Pizza Dipping Strips

DiGiorno Pizza Dipping Strips Three Meat Pizza

Pizza Hut did it!

I couldn’t help but yell those four words and rip off South Park when I saw the DiGiorno Three Meat Pizza Pizza Dipping Strips. As you can imagine, this frightened my fellow shoppers in the frozen food aisle and caused them to scurry themselves and their shopping carts away from me.

That was not the first time I yelled the words “Pizza Hut did it!” in public while looking at a DiGiorno product. I also did it when I discovered DiGiorno’s Pizza and Wyngs, DiGiorno’s Pizza and Breadsticks, and I do it whenever I see DiGiorno’s Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza. It’s as if Pizza Hut is DiGiorno’s R&D Department.

DiGiorno’s Pizza Dipping Strips is made up of 12 pull-apart strips of pizza and comes with a container of marinara sauce and another of garlic dipping sauce. I picked up the Three Meat Pizza one, but it also comes in Pepperoni and Four Cheese varieties. The three meats are sausage, pepperoni, and beef.

Even though they were connected by just crust, the dipping strips weren’t super easy to pull apart. Or maybe I’m as horrible at pulling than a one-legged ox. After burning my fingers trying to split the strips apart, I decided to break out my pizza cutter.

DiGiorno Pizza Dipping Strips Three Meat Pizza Closeup

I prefer DiGiorno frozen pizzas over Red Baron, Tombstone, Totino’s, Freschetta, and a few others, so it’s no surprise I enjoyed the pizza part of the Pizza Dipping Strips. I think DiGiorno’s tasty pizza sauce is what sets it apart from other frozen pizzas, but I also think their crust is a bit too thick. Another slight issue I had with the dipping strips is the amount of pepperoni. Each strip had just one lonely slice of pepperoni. Although, I will admit this is easy to fix by stealing the pepperoni from other dipping strips when your fellow eaters aren’t looking.

What about the dipping sauces? Well, let me just say, one is better than the other and they’re quite watery.

Preparing the dipping sauces is more complex than baking the pizza, which is pretty much just stick pizza in oven, take pizza out of oven, and enjoy. The steps to get the sauces ready are: place sauce packets in hot tap water for 4-5 minutes, tear open packets, squeeze each sauce into separate microwave-safe bowls, heat one sauce for 20-30 seconds in the microwave, heat the other sauce for 20-30 seconds in the microwave, and enjoy.

The garlic dipping sauce is not very garlicy. If you enjoy the garlic sauce from Domino’s or Papa John’s, this DiGiorno garlic sauce will disappoint. Its garlic flavor is mild enough that I would not be afraid to make out with someone after eating it. Despite my not so glowing words, I have to say the garlic sauce is better than the marinara dipping sauce, which has very little flavor at all. As I mentioned earlier, I like DiGiorno’s pizza sauce, so I’m disappointed their marinara sauce is dull.

If there’s one positive thing I could say about the sauces, it would be that each packet has a lot of sauce. When other eater weren’t looking, I was not only stealing their pepperoni, I was also double, triple, and quadruple dipping into both sauces. And despite all of that unsanitary dipping, there was still a lot of sauce left.

The DiGiorno Pizza Dipping Strips is a good idea, although an old idea, but the sauces bring everything down. I do like the idea of pull apart pieces and would like to see DiGiorno do that with their regular round pizzas.

I would also like to see DiGiorno’s combine pizza with cinnamon sticks, much like Pizza Hut does with their $10 Dinner Box. Oh wait, it’s already happened.

Pizza Hut did it!

(Nutrition Facts – 2 dipping strips – 360 calories, 140 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat*, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 880 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein. Marinara Sauce – 2 Tbsp. – 20 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein. Garlic Sauce – 2 Tbsp. – 60 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 300 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

*uses partially hydrogenated oil

Item: DiGiorno Three Meat Pizza Pizza Dipping Strips
Price: $6.99
Size: 34.2 ounces
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Pizza is good. Pizza in strip form is easier to eat than pizza slice form. Stealing pepperoni. THREE MEATS! Lots of dipping sauce. Pizza is easy to prepare.
Cons: Garlic sauce isn’t very garlicy. Marinara sauce is bland. Would’ve liked more pepperoni. Having your pepperoni stolen. Getting caught double, triple, or quadruple dipping. Copying Pizza Hut.