Though factual evidence isn’t as plentiful as I’d like it to be (which, okay, maybe means my supposition is NOT true), it feels like nowhere are food cost increases more jarring than in the frozen pizza aisle. At most of my local grocery stores, a middle-of-the-road pizza like Tombstone or Red Baron, when not on sale, is somewhere between $6 and $7. A Totino’s — and I know, I know, it’s hardly a “pizza” (but it serves its own sort of purpose, like a McDonald’s hamburger) — is $2. And while I don’t want to be “old man yells at cloud” about it, I remember a time not all that long ago when these things were just a smidge over $1.
And then you get to the “top shelf” frozen pizza. At my closest grocery store, the DiGiorno Fully Stuffed Crust Ultimate Three Meat Pizza is $15.79. Take a moment and let that sink in. (I’ll also remind you that I live in Kansas City, not on a coast, and not on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.) The Screamin’ Sicilian Stuffed Crust Pepperoni is on sale… for $10.49. It’s hard to imagine anyone paying these prices, but I guess someone is. But when you can get a carryout two-topping from Dominos for slightly less than this, your frozen pie had really better bring it, right?
So is the Red Baron Fully Loaded Hand Tossed Ultimate Pepperoni Pizza worth the sticker shock? Look, I cannot in good conscience ever recommend that someone pay almost $10 for a frozen pizza. I just can’t. However, I can say that, compared to other pizzas at the same price point, this pizza is pretty great.
Though the “hand tossed” crust is pedestrian in terms of taste, it supports the heavy pizza well. There are three types of pepperoni present, regular circular, what seems to be a thicker cut triangle variety, and cubed. Accordingly, each bite is packed full of salty little bits of deliciousness. It’s worth noting that, for frozen pizza pepperoni, these things carry a bit of spice; not enough to make someone with an aversion to heat avoid it, I don’t think, but something that might surprise you if you’re not expecting it. The cheese isn’t snappy, but it stretches a bit, which isn’t ideal if, like me, you go at it too fast and end up with a napalmed chin. It appears to be a blend of mozzarella and cheddar, and there’s some parmesan sprinkled on the top, too, if I’m not mistaken. The sauce tastes like a canned generic pizza sauce, but it works.
Here’s what really struck me about this pizza — the sauce, coupled with the parmesan, really evoked the flavor of a Chef Boyardee home pizza kit. You know the kind. It comes in a box with the dough mix and the canned sauce. (And, in olden times, a packet of grated parmesan and Romano cheese.) If you’ve had that, you’ll have a good sense of how this pizza tastes. It tickled something nostalgic in me and momentarily made me forget that I was an adult paying exorbitant prices for any and everything, including frozen pizza. For that reason — and the fact that the pizza was damn tasty — I’ll buy it again. Provided, of course, that I find it on sale.
Purchased Price: $8.99 ($9.99 regular price)
Size: 28.75 oz
Purchased at: Hy-Vee
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1/6th pizza) 370 calories, 19 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 mg of cholesterol, 950 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 17 grams of protein.