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.
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.