Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: Trader Giotto's (Trader Joe's) Pizza Margherita

Totino's pizza. Click on any pic for full size resolution.
Some pizza purists avoid frozen pizzas, others swear by them. Many of us have some allegiance to the frozen pizza of our youth, such as Elio's (mine) or Totino's (my review HERE). The individual-size "My Essentials" frozen pies at Bottom Dollar grocery are 79 cents each, and they are close to the bottom of the barrel. Several of the rising crust pies are pretty damn decent - in fact, DiGiorno (my review HERE) is my baseline for evaluating mid level pizzerias. Is your local mom-n-pop pie better than DiGiorno? If you're using Sysco ingredients, probably not.
A DiGiorno pizza (I added the jalapeno)

Trader Joe's is a gourmet grocer that has high-end foodstuffs at bargain prices. I read some nice things about their frozen pizzas, so on my last visit I picked one up to see just how good it is. There are several varieties; I chose the Margherita pie, with mozzarella and grana padano cheeses. It is about 11 inches in diameter - a big personal sized pie.

Cleverly, the box is branded "Trader Giotto's." The pies are imported from Italy, and the box proclaims that the pizza was baked in a wood-burning oven.

Out of the box, it looked promising if a bit pale, covered with seven discs of mozzarella and flecks of the grana padano. I love to doctor up pizza, be it leftover pizza or frozen pie, and here I covered half with slices of pepperoni.
Right out of the box

With pepperoni, pre-bake

The instructions called for 7-8 minutes of baking, directly on the oven rack, but even at 8 minutes it was clearly not cooked to its ideal state. I gave it a full 10 minutes and then 2 minutes more under the broiler to get some top browning.
Fresh out of the oven

It came out looking pretty good, and I cut it into six slices.  The cheeses were surprisingly good - flavor and texture - while the sauce was a bit tame. There were no off flavors, but I'd have liked more spice in the sauce.

The crust was medium thin, much denser and more sturdy than a Neapolitan (as the name Margherita suggests). It had the good flavor of crusty Italian bread. On the first slice, I felt it was too dense and chewy, but by the final slice I found that I liked it a lot. It was a akin to a downgraded version of the superior crust at Gennaro's Tomato Pie (full review HERE) in South Philly.

The crust was a bit dry, and this may be due to the fact that I cooked it 4-5 minutes longer than the instructions had indicated. Next time, I will brush the undercarriage and the cornicione with olive oil, and bake it on a pizza stone or the Baking Steel.
The underside of the crust

This may be the best frozen pizza I've had. And it was only $3.99! The crust gets a 7.5, the cheeses 7, the sauce is a 5, the balance is an 8.  All told, this pie comes in at 7 and beats a lot of "fresh" pizza as well as the frozen competition.


  1. Yesterday I had my first taste of Trader Giotto's pizza margherita. I have to say that it was instantly my favorite. I agree -- best frozen pizza I ever tasted.

  2. David, Thanks for the feedback. The frozen pizzas at ALDI - if you get the smaller ones, imported from Germany - are almost as good as the Trader Joe varieties.