From its inception ten years ago, the purpose of this blog has been finding "destination pizza," especially in areas where you wouldn't expect it. Destination pizza is pie good enough to make the trip, whether that means across town or across the country. But two fundamental truths remain, even for pizza snobs. First, even bad pizza is better than no pizza at all. Second, the pizza you ate most as a kid remains stuck in your mind and your heart.
For many of us, commercially packaged pizza baked at home conjures up some memories. We ate some truly wretched Chef Boy-Ar-Dee kit pizzas at home; soggy thin dough covered with watery ketchup sauce and scant cheese. Much better were the short-lived "Poppins" mini-pizzas made to be heated in a toaster. When Elio's frozen rectangles became available, I couldn't get enough.
Most frozen pizza is pretty forgettable, but it's come a long way since Chef Boy-Ar-Dee. There's probably a pizza in your freezer right now. In my experience, many of the best ones are imported from Italy (available at Trader Joe's) or from Germany (at ALDI).
My criteria for any pizza restaurant is asking "is it better than DiGiorno?" The frozen "rising crust" DiGiorno pizzas set the benchmark for national-brand frozen pizza. It is better than many mom-n-pop pizzerias that are using low-grade mass produced ingredients. It is better than Domino's or Papa John's.
Right out of the box
Naturally, I was intrigued when I saw that DiGiorno had introduced a pizza with a croissant crust. I'm skeptical of most novelty pizzas (ahem, cauliflower crust), but also very open to bread varieties for a pizza base, such as English muffins, French bread, and flatbreads. I was very keen to try this croissant pizza, and made the leap when my local H-E-B Supermarket had a coupon deal for this $5.95 frozen pizza.
The DiGiorno croissant curst pizza is offered in three varieties: pepperoni, "three meat," or "four cheese," which is the pie I bought. I don't often select a plain pie, but this seemed like the fairest way to evaluate the crust and I resisted my instinct to add my own toppings.
Fresh from the oven before slicing
The four cheeses are mozzarella, parmesan, asiago, and romano. In fact, it's really only a one cheese pizza, because all of the cheeses except the mozzarella are so far down the ingredient list that they are listed after the yeast.
Although the pizza is only 10" in diameter, it has 1850 calories and 150% of your daily sodium, which you may want to know if you are tempted to eat the whole thing. Spoiler: you might indeed be tempted.
Out of the box, it showed no evidence of its croissant crust; it appeared to be a medium thick pizza on which the cheese went all the way to the edges, with the sauce buried deep underneath so that it looked almost like a white pie.
I followed the package directions, baking it directly on a center oven rack at 400 degrees for 24-25 minutes. The edges puffed up in baking to take on the appearance of a puffy Neapolitan's cornicione. I cut it into 8 smallish slices and we dug in.
Because the sauce was entirely beneath the cheese, it was particularly easy to burn the roof of your mouth, and it required a little extra cooling time. The first bite revealed a pleasantly pillowy/spongy bite with a touch of crisp on the golden bottom. I could sense that this croissant crust was laden with fat (the first fat listed in the ingredients is margarine), but it was an appropriate level of greasiness.
Golden brown underneath
The cheese was tasty but mild, and the sauce was just a red presence with a remote tomato flavor. Nonetheless, the texture overall was surprisingly good and the ingredients played together in a harmonious way. The more I ate, the more I enjoyed it.
The best part was toward the cornicione, where the crust was thicker and you could really sense the layers of the croissant. It was crispy, flaky, chewy, still greasy, but damn good. I'd really enjoy this kind of a crust on a breakfast pizza, with the red sauce supplanted by bacon and eggs.
I stopped myself at four slices - half a pizza - clocking in at 925 calories and only 75% of my daily sodium. But I could have easily eaten more. In this way, it was kind of like Costco pizza (the kind sold by the slice in store) in that it was thick, greasy, pillowy, and loaded with fat, salt, and calories. A guilty indulgence.
If you're going to have a frozen pizza by choice, or if you keep some frozen pie around for the kids and you want a variety where you'd enjoy a slice yourself, this is a fun variant and surprisingly tasty. DiGiorno keeps its crown as King of the National Brand Frozen Pizzas. Leave a comment if your go-to frozen pie is something else!