The $5.99 offering was a two-pound "handmade" deep dish pizza with sausage and uncured pepperoni by Gino's East. Despite the obscene caloric load (2100 calories for an 8" pie), it was too compelling to pass up.
Gino's East opened its flagship Chicago location in 1966. There are now 11 Chicago area locations, one in Wisconsin, and 6 in Texas. (Texas is not the first place that comes to mind when talking about pizza, but Texas is also home to several locations of Brooklyn's legendary Grimaldi's, and also a brand new home to an outpost of Philly's wonderful Pizzeria Vetri.)
This frozen pie's instructions indicate 38-50 minutes baking time at 400 degrees. After baking, this pizza looked a lot more like "real pizza" than most thin-crust pizzas do. The tomato sauce was a nice deep red, and the crust did not look much different than that wonderful pie I had at Louisa's.
The first bite revealed that the crust had that nice buttery flavor - like a dense biscuit - with good outer crispiness and a pleasant inner chewiness. It was a good sturdy container for the sauce, cheese, and meats. No soggy spots anywhere.
The sauce was the standout feature. Deep, thick, with a bright taste. I can't recall any frozen pizza where the sauce was this good.
Like every deep dish pie, the cheese was buried and its character was hard to perceive. The cheese serves more as a moisture barrier to prevent the sauce from soaking into the crust.
The meats were present in surprising abundance. Nice chunks of genuine sausage were backed up with some uncured slices of pepperoni. Neither had an amazing flavor, but it was surprising to see that the actual pie had more visible meat than the picture on the package.
The entire pie was nicely balanced. The crust may be a little thicker than ideal, but that probably helps preserve the integrity of the pizza for freezing, travel, and re-heating.
An ordinary person would want at least half of this pizza as a meal, so it's pretty indulgent at over 1000 calories. It may not be a bargain in terms of caloric load, but it's hard to imagine a tastier frozen pizza for just $5.99. If you enjoy deep-dish, this Gino's East frozen version is an easy winner.