Munchin’ with Michael’s isolation eats: frozen pizza

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Photo courtesy of Liz Schwartz, Gina Vaca Loyola, John Tomkiw, Romina Kuppe, Creative Commons 4.0

Michael Barthelemy, Food Critic

The novel coronavirus may be shutting down our schools, workplaces and restaurants, but it will not stand in the way of Munchin’ with Michael. I can’t lie; it was difficult at first thinking how I could continue my eating expeditions even in a global pandemic. I had to look no further than my Instagram feed to find inspiration. 

Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports and my biggest inspiration when it comes to reviewing food, was taking his daily pizza reviews to the freezer and reviewing top frozen pizza brands. So, I hustled over to my local Target and picked up some frozen pies for a few reviews of my own. 

In my splurge of frosty foods, I ended up with three top choices: DiGiorno, Gino’s East and Tombstone. For all three, I went for their cheese pizza option, as like I have mentioned in my previous Munchin’ with Michael on local pizza, a pizza should be judged only in its purest form.

Alright enough talk, let’s get to munchin’.

DiGiorno

DiGiorno undoubtedly had the highest expectations of the bunch. After all, their TV commercials boast a great deal of confidence. While this may be marketing 101, it led to believe there is at least a string of truth to their claims of being above delivery pizza. 

Coming out of the oven, the crust immediately catches your eye. Their signature rising crust sucked me and made my mouth water, and for good reason. The crust itself was incredible. Crisp on the outside, by underneath that hard layer was a world of fluffy dough. 

The issues lay in just about every other component of the pie. The sauce resembled more tomato paste than anything else due to the sheer lack of seasoning. For a frozen pizza brand, it’s not a smart move to use preserved tomatoes as 95% of your flavor.

The cheese was just the same. Alone, the dairy was cheap and had poor taste. Yes I understand that I cannot judge a frozen pizza on the same scale as say Panino’s but even for frozen pizza this was poor. It almost felt chewy and had little to no meltiness to it once you bit in.

If you were to eat this pizza whole, you wouldn’t think a ton of it. It’s steadily average and has a crust that stands out. Once you begin to focus on flavor and isolate ingredients though, the sad truth is exposed. 

DiGiorno is clearly trying to emulate the feel of a cheap chain pizza brand through the rising crust and the aimed marketing, but I would take the likes of Domino’s and Papa John’s over this in a heartbeat. 

Score: 2.8/5

Gino’s East

Most probably know Gino’s East solely for their presence in the Chicagoland community. Known as one of the premier deep dish pizzas in town, I was shocked to find it in aisle six of Target. Being the curious mind I am, I instantly took it from the shelf and went home to set the oven. 

Now before we get into the actual review, I must knock a couple points for the lack of convenience in cooking this pizza. I know that it is for the sake of higher quality, but 45 minutes to cook is borderline obnoxious when the intention of frozen pizza is to be quick and easy. I wished to find the best though, and one must make sacrifices in search of greatness.

The first bite of this pizza was beautiful. I know I just commented that the cook time was too long, but I instantly could see why. The entirety of this pizza was simply at a higher level of quality than any other, but no component benefitted more than the cheese.

The cheese of this pizza was as melty as when you’re ordering off of the menu. It also, unlike DiGiorno, tasted like mozzarella and not that it had been sitting around for months. 

There is nothing worse when ordering a deep dish pizza then having a soggy crust. Unfortunately, it isn’t too hard to do being that there is a high level of sauce. Gino’s East, knowing the high pedestal they have put themselves upon, supplied a perfectly crispy base. It was the level of crisp you expect from a quality deep dish.

For the sauce, I had a slight issue. While the base for it was nice and was definitely the highest quality sauce of the three, they were trying a bit too hard. The abundance of oregano that was there made me wonder if their spice cabinet had simply run bare and they were just left with that? At times it got to be a bit too much for me and I couldn’t go too far into the pizza without having to take a cool-down.

Outside of the oregano overkill there is no doubt this was the best of the bunch. While it may have taken the longest and been the messiest, those are outside factors. I’m here to judge taste, and the taste reigned supreme.

Score: 4.1/5

Tombstone

Tombstone is one of those brands that gets bunched up with the likes of Amy’s, Home Run Inn and Jack’s; there is not one signature feature or high-reputation that makes it stand out. Since there is such a frenzy at grocery stores across America, my selection was limited, so I went with the five cheese blend from Tombstone, which is a mix of asiago, cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan and romano. 

Right out of the gate, the look is a bit weird to me. I couldn’t tell you specifically what it is, but the fact that the yellow cheddar is layered on top of the four white cheeses made me a bit uncomfortable. I would suggest maybe going for a white cheddar instead. I trust that the diversity of cheese is there, I don’t need to see it.

On to the actual taste of the cheese, the first few bites are fantastic. The differing flavors blend together to make one strong melody and results in a melty bite. Much like any good song though, it becomes worse once overplayed. For this tune of taste, I quickly grew sick of it and got to be a bit too overwhelming of flavor. 

The signature component of Tombstone is clearly the crunch of their crust. The snap of the bite is unmatched and the way in which the brand is able to maintain such a strong crunch is impressive. Much like many other of these reviews, I found myself heavily enjoying the crust and seeing it as the highlight of the pie. 

Overall, this pizza is bang average. It’s not going to blow you out of the water, but it’s able to easily be the staple choice for any freezer. 

Score: 3.2/5