Friday, February 15, 2013

Review: Totino’s Party Pizza (Frozen Pepperoni)

In October 2012, Adam Kuban wrote a terrific (and mildly controversial) article on Slice – Serious Eats suggesting that Totino’s is the best frozen pizza because it does not pretend to be gourmet pizza or even real pizza – it is simply a tasty snack. He notes:

Frozen Pizza revels in its crappiness. It amps up the flavor with an ingredients list of junk you probably don't want to look too closely at. It's "pizza" in the same way a Big Mac is a "hamburger" or Taco Bell is a "taco." If you suspend your disbelief, I believe you can thoroughly enjoy it for what it is.
I confess, that unlike many pizza lovers, I did not grow up eating Totino’s and in fact the one in this review may be my first. How was it? Crappy. Very crappy. So bad that I tossed it?  No way, I ate the whole thing. "La pizza male è meglio che non la pizza!"

Totino's, out of the oven. Click to enlarge!

It certainly was cheap -- I think I paid about $1.59 for this thing. It makes a filling meal for one. I was able to truly grasp its crappiness, though, because I heated it (more or less to package instructions, but giving it a 2 minute finish under the broiler) along with three wonderful slices leftover from La Porta, Media PA's destination pizza place.

The frozen disc looked to have a generous amount of cheese and "pork, chicken, beef" pepperoni on it. Still, I had some canned ham remnants in the fridge, which I diced and added to this pie. I made no other alterations.
Pre-bake, with diced ham added

A good pizza crust will have some crispness but also an inner hole structure yielding some bubbles and density variations that give it the al dente experience. I salute Totino's, because my pizza cooked up so that a slice cross-section looked pretty much like the image on the box, showing good bubble structure in the crust.

It is a bit of smoke and mirrors, though -- I think the crust is constructed in flaky layers, almost like those Pillsbury breakfast or dinner rolls that come in a tube. That is the first major shortfall of this pizza -- despite a decently crisp bottom, the crust had more in common with a Pillsbury roll than pizza dough.

The cheese was fine, and properly proportioned.  The pepperoni kind of disappeared, visually, into the sauce upon baking, which made me glad I had added the ham chunks.

The worst part of this pizza, though, was the sauce. It was sweet, gooey, and completely devoid of Italian herbs or any hint of spice. It really hit home that this stuff is made for kids. Or for drunks to eat at 2am. There is no way you would enjoy it if you didn't grow up with it.

Having said that, it is STILL better than Papa John's. I got a coupon code for a free PJ pizza based on winning the Super Bowl coin toss, and EPBAC (Eats Pizza But Avoids Cheese) won't let me use it. Good for her!

Ratings are kinda pointless, but the cheese gets a 5, the pepperoni a 4, the crust a 3, and the sauce a zero.  Overall, this comes in around 2.5. And we ate the whole thing. What other foods are so good even when rendered so poorly?  Viva la pizza!


  1. When I was a kid, my mother used to buy these by the case. We would always add stuff to them, usually cheese and mushrooms, to make them palatable. I remember even then thinking they were pretty crappy compared to real pizza, but I ate a lot of them. Haven't had one in over twenty-five years, and no amount of nostalgia is going to change that.

  2. The go-to crap pizza of my youth was Elio's - those frozen rectangles that came nine to a box. LOVED them then, now they taste a notch below Totino's.