When it comes to junk food nostalgia most of my flashbacks are of the sweet variety. Dunkaroos, Surge, and WWF’s Hulk Hogan cereal always pull me back to the simpler days, but there are a few savory items that I look back on with glowing glee as well. 3D Doritos tend to be at the top of most older millennial’s junk food wishlists, and I personally loved the Taco Doritos that seemed to vanish sometime in the early 2000s.
But recently, very recently, in fact, I was wondering what the hell happened to Pizza Hut’s P’Zone. For a company aligned with Taco Bell and known for making zany limited time items, I couldn’t understand why the company’s financially friendly twist on the calzone disappeared years ago without a proper farewell.
Suffer no more, the giant Hot Pocket of meat and cheese that I fell in love with as a stoned teenager in smoky basements is back, and it got a bit of a facelift.
The most immediate difference is in the appearance of the outer crust. While the 2019 P’Zone has the same shape and general size of the original, it’s covered in a toasted orange Parmesan that immediately evokes an asiago bagel. The original P’Zone was garnished with traditional pizzeria-style parmesan sprinkles and parsley, which sat nicely atop of golden brown dough. The new iteration still looks good, but it’s not the same as the one I fell in love with, and I just have to learn to let go.
The bagel experience doesn’t end with appearance. When I bite in, I wonder if I’m sitting inside of a Noah’s at 8 a.m. or on my couch with remote in hand at 8 p.m. The parmesan’s funky intensity stands out, but almost to a fault as I find it to be a bit distracting. When you pair the distinct sharp cheesiness with the bread’s pretty prominent fluffiness, the 2019 P’Zone does feel a bit more like a bagel than a pizza.
The P’Zone was never as loaded as a true calzone, which tends to be thicker and taller and oftentimes a knife-and-fork situation; whereas Pizza Hut’s take is much more of a finger food with a flatter profile. The toppings inside, although not extremely dense, are good and present enough to bring the pizza pizazz I’m looking for.
Taken as it is the P’Zone is good but a bit underwhelming. However, when dunked into the generously sized cup of marinara sauce, it’s damn good. The pizza sauce brings some poppin’ acidity and moisture that makes the ‘zone taste much more fresh, engaging, and something I want more bites of.
While it isn’t quite as sensational as I remembered as a stoned teenager, I can’t help but be excited about the return of the budget-friendly and filling option at Pizza Hut. In the scope of chain pizza restaurants Pizza Hut isn’t really on my radar unless I’m craving its stuffed crust, but even then Little Caesars does an admirable job at a lower cost.
That being said, the P’Zone being back, as an apparent permanent addition to the menu, ensures I’ll be back at The Hut before the end of the year, and the buzz of its return is sure to lure many other early 2000s nostalgia hunters through its greasy shop doors in no time.
Purchased Price: $5.99 Size: N/A Rating: 7 out of 10 Nutrition Facts: (1/2 P’Zone) 460 calories, 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1170 milligrams of sodium, 60 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 19 grams of protein.
I like Pizza Hut. It might be my favourite of the big pizza chains. Not that I even think the pizzas are that great, but I appreciate that they know exactly what they are: a purveyor of junky fast food.
They don’t have the delusions of grandeur like some other chains; there’s no “rustic” this or “artisan” that. What they will do, however, is cram cheese, hot dogs, and whatever else they can think of into a crust so oil-laden that it will leave your hands slick with grease if you handle it for even just a second or two. They’ll top the pizza with stuff like poutine or butter chicken.
They know exactly what they are, and they’re not ashamed of it. I like that.
Which is to say that replacing the tomato sauce in a pizza with sriracha is a distinctively Pizza Huttian creation. But is it actually good? The short answer: better than you’d think! The long answer: read on, my friend.
The base of the pizza is the standard Pizza Hut Pan Pizza. It is what it is; you either like it or you don’t, and personally, I like it (and I’m a little bit in awe of how they’re able to cram so much grease into the thing). It’s not something you’d want to eat every day, but when you’re in the mood for that crispy, greasy goodness, it satisfies.
It’s topped with sriracha, green peppers, banana peppers, grilled chicken strips, and, of course, mozzarella. And they’re definitely not kidding around with the sriracha: when I was driving the pizza home, it so thoroughly filled the car with that very distinctive sriracha aroma that the spice vapours actually tickled my nose a bit.
Sadly, it’s not quite as spicy as I might have hoped. It’s hot, don’t get me wrong, but on the mild-medium-hot scale, it falls squarely in the middle. It’s certainly not as spicy as any variety of sriracha that I’ve tried — and sriracha isn’t even close to the hottest hot sauce out there. Clearly, they’re using a very mild sriracha, or they’re diluting it with something.
The flavour is certainly there, however — it’s got that satisfyingly sweet, slightly garlicky flavour that’s made sriracha so hot over the last couple of years (Get it? Hot?? World Pun Championships, here I come!).
The banana peppers are banana peppers. Personally I’m not a fan, and this pizza did nothing to change my mind. I don’t mind them in theory, but every time I get them on a pizza — without fail — I wind up chomping down on a rock-hard stem. I’m convinced that banana peppers are at least 50 percent borderline-inedible stems. And they’re not even that hot, so what’s the point? Banana peppers are the spicy pizza topping for people who don’t actually like spice.
The other toppings were fine. The green peppers added some crunch and a bit of flavour, which worked well with the other elements of the pizza. The chicken is, I’m pretty sure, of the processed variety rather than actual pieces of chicken. It’s a bit rubbery, but it’s okay. It’s not egregious, and there’s enough else going on here that you can’t really tell either way.
The cheese, like the crust, is standard Pizza Hut. Gooey, slightly salty, and abundant.
All in all, it’s not a bad pizza. Subbing out tomato sauce for sriracha could have been a disaster, but somehow, it works. It certainly earns its name, as that distinctive condiment is very much the dominant flavour here. I wish it were spicier, but if you like Sriracha and don’t mind pizzas of the bastardized variety, I’d give this one a shot.
(Nutrition Facts – Not available on Pizza Hut Canada website.)
Item: Pizza Hut Hot Sriracha Chicken Pizza Purchased Price: $18.00 CAN Size: Large Purchased at: Pizza Hut Rating: 7 out of 10 Pros: Serious sriracha flavour. The toppings (mostly) work pretty well together. Pizza Hut Pan Pizza crust continues to be a junky classic. Cons: Not as spicy as you’d think. Banana peppers are the worst. Slightly chewy chicken. Realizing that the “hot” pun is not nearly good enough to get me to the World Pun Championships.
When I was a child I would grab pizza crusts and pretend I was one of those boss villains chomping on a cigar yelling things like “Get them boys and showâ€™em what it means ta dubbahcross me” or “Those guys will never know what hit them!” I got in trouble once because I lit the end of a crust and attempted to smoke it. That was the earliest of many disappointments and shame I have brought to my honorable family. Damn you, tiger mom.
Well, forget about play cigars, I cannot do that with these P’Zolos for two sad reasons.
One, they are too big.
Two, they are really greasy.
The P’Zolo resembles a limp stromboli. It is less dense than a calzone but has more filling inside than a Hot Pocket, albeit not as fun. Pizza Hut is trying out some new concepts on their menu but Iâ€™m not sure what the thinking is behind these tubes of cheese and meat. I do know that, like Hot Pockets, you need to eat these quick because when they cool offâ€¦they become a congealed rubber cement of cheese and meatstuffs.
Speaking of meat, vegetarians are, unfortunately, screwed in the broccoli because the three varieties contain meat, which is fitting with the phallic nature of these P’Zolos. I guess you could order one without animal carcass, but I won’t. Because at my neighborhood Pizza Hut, I donâ€™t want to be “one of those” who gets the eye roll, which is normally reserved for those who shop at Whole Foods.
Each P’Zolo has a nice aroma. The yeasty scent combined with Asiago cheese is rustic and welcoming, that is, until you open the box. Not one of my P’Zolo resembled the pictures advertising them, instead they were ill formed and looked shrinkled (my word for shrunken and wrinkled).
The other problem (besides this product giving me anxiety over penis size) was that each P’Zolo was scored, allowing the cheese and meat to ooze out, which contributing to its greasiness. All of the advertised pictures show them intact with the cheese and meats encased. This probably keeps the cheese melted longer as mine started to solidify into a glop.
Yes, they weren’t pretty, but if we didnâ€™t put ugly things in our mouths, no one would eat a raw oysters or French kiss my stupid grad school ex. Anyhow, I had to get all three flavors because they were so cheap. Each one comes with your choice of ranch dressing (which is prepackaged like one would find in a convenience store salad) or fresh marinara sauce in a small Styrofoam cup.
The Buffalo Chicken P’Zolo intrigued me as buffalo chicken is quickly becoming a throwaway flavor and can range from tasty to overpowering vinegar tang that makes my balls shrivel (or shrinkel). The crust had a nice chewy give and the nutty taste of Asiago complimented the dough. After biting into the P’Zolo, my skepticism faded. The buffalo sauce drenched chunks of chicken were tangy and mildly hot, which was awesome. The bits of grilled chicken were shredded and uneven indicating that this is the real stuff and not processed chicken slurry from a can. I liked that quite a bit, however the best part was the spicy tingle mellowed by the creamy mozzarella. The chicken was mildly smoky and the punch of vinegar from the buffalo sauce added a nice element.
On the other end of the spectrum, I had to use a fork because the grease just poured out and made the crust soggy. If you look at my pictures, it looks like a crowd of Black Friday shoppers who met an enlightened end via an oversized redneck pickup truck careening into Best Buy to pick up $5 Git-R-Done comedy DVDâ€™s.
The ranch dressing added depth and it actually tasted like I was eating a plate of hot wings without the mess of wet fingers. I enjoyed this to some degree but not enough to buy it again. The flavors are solid but I love ripping into crispy fried chicken skin, and thereâ€™s no replacement for that, except a slug of whiskey.
My next P’Zolo, the Meat Trio, was disastrous, and I mean Hellgate: London disastrous (those of you who got suckered into the lifetime subscription, like me, know what I am talking about). This P’Zolo was stuffed with Italian sausage, pepperoni and ham. The oily, translucent Asiago crust was muted, as well as the mozzarella, because of one simple fact: It was Pâ€™zalty!
I can only believe this P’Zolo was seasoned by the tears of thousands of underpaid Pizza Hut employees, which are then reduced over medium heat for fifteen minutes and another generous sprinkling of salt. It does not help the pepperoni is a little salty anyhow.
Speaking of the pepperoni, I love it on top of a pizza but for whatever reason when encased in this cheese pipe, it was gross to me. Donâ€™t get me wrong, I love a good pepperoni calzone but Iâ€™m not sure why this did not work for me. Maybe the acne level oils pulsating from the meat buried in cheese grossed me out. You would think some sauce might help, but dipping it into the marinara sauce is similar to dousing a kitchen fire with oil. I could only take a couple of bites before I tossed it with contempt back into the box, you know the way that bad guy did to that kid in 2008â€™s Rambo.
Not only was this a strong salt lick of a snack, the black pepper from the sausage also overrode the flavors. I love Italian sausage but this tasted more like Jimmy Dean crumbles you add to a harmless breakfast casserole. I think you could use the Meat Trio P’Zolo as a torture device; make someone eat it with only their own saliva to quench their thirst.
Finally, I reached for the Italian Steak P’Zolo. The thick slices of sweet and smoky steak are a great compliment to the mozzarella. The green peppers and onions were plentiful, like a good Steak-Ummms, and the flavors all played nice. The flavor of the Asiago crust blended well with the steak, but the crust was also soggy like a bloated corpse found in those underwater horror films I watch too often.
If you do get this one, I would suggest eating it naked (the P’Zoloâ€¦not you, unless youâ€™re into that) because the sweet tomato flavor from the marinara dipping sauce only lower the intensity of the nice beefy, cheesy and onion combo. There is no alchemy that can bring pleasure like the carnal nature of beef and melted cheese.
Another critique is that the P’Zolo will make you want a hot slice of pizza. Midway through eating one, I was left with an unanswered desire. It is akin to ordering a chicken breast at a steak house, then sitting at a table looking forlorn at everyoneâ€™s aged cuts while you sadly shovel bland shrinkled poultry in your maw.
Sure, I liked the few bites of the P’Zolos I had, but, again, it will not be a repeat purchase. I think the problem is that I want either a pizza or a calzone. The P’Zolo fits somewhere in between and, according the advertisements, maybe it is supposed to replace a submarine sandwich. Itâ€™s like the Back to the Future series, sometimes I want to see the 1985 classic. Other times, I am in the mood for the grimmer second installment (still waiting for a bottle of Pepsi Perfect). But, like the P’Zolo, I donâ€™t have a use for the third one, except for that ZZ Top single.
(Nutritional Facts â€“ Buffalo Chicken P’Zolo – 420 calories, 12 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 1350 mg of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 27 grams of protein. Meat Trio P’Zolo â€“ 550 calories, 28 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 1310 mg of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 24 grams of protein. Italian Steak P’Zolo â€“ 400 calories, 12 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 1130 mg of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 21 grams of protein)
Item: Pizza Hut P’Zolo (Buffalo Chicken, Meat Trio, and Italian Steak) Purchased Price: $3.00 each or $5.00 for two Size: N/A Purchased at: Pizza Hut Rating: 7 out of 10 (Buffalo Chicken) Rating: 4 out of 10 (Meat Trio) Rating: 7 out of 10 (Italian Steak) Pros: The chewy crust with nutty Asiago adds a nice rustic touch. Affordable. Real chunks of grilled chicken. Pretending pizza crust are cigars. The smoky sweet slices of steak. Crispin Glover in Back to the Future. Heavy handed with the onions. Shrinkled, the word. “Doubleback” by ZZ Top. Cons: The soggy, depressing oily crust. Meat Trio is not worth the price regardless of how cheap. The scoring of the P’Zolo caused the cheese to congeal into a clunk of rubber. Actually lighting and smoking pizza crusts. Heavy handed with the salt for the Meat Trio. Pretend Crispin Glover in the sequels. Shrinkled, the action. Food that makes you question penis length (stay away foot long Subways).