Frozen pizza is not a medium known for its quality. DiGiorno is rarely better than serviceable, and most other such pies are similar: the convenience of the gimmick far outweighs any concern for how the pizza actually tastes. Publix's own GreenWise house brand, though, has done something remarkable.
That's right: it's a frozen pizza that actually tastes like a pizza one might have at a normal restaurant. It's easily prepared, small and easy to eat, and miles above most of its class. Granted, the Publix pizza has its problems. Its thinness sometimes detracts from the flavor, it has to be cut by hand, and the limited quantity of pizza tends to leave a consumer hungry.
What Publix has done, though, cannot be understated. For a frozen pizza, it knocks the competition out of the running, and that alone makes it worthy of my thorough recommendation.
Perhaps best known to my readers as the chosen and exclusive province of childhood birthday parties and soccer team socials, popular buffet chain Stevi B's has made its name by offering as much pizza as the customer likes at a very reasonable price. An outfit could presumably maintain itself financially on just this fact alone, regardless of the quality of the pizza, and the convenience factor must certainly be counted in its favor. However, pizza quality is the subject of this blog, and the subject of this review will be whether Stevi B's achieves it.
The crust is good, albeit rather dry. Although Stevi B's cheese has an unfortunate tendency to stick to the lining on the bottom of the pizza box, such that a not insignificant portion is torn off upon removing a slice from the box, it can't be denied that it's an excellent cheese nonetheless. As good as the cheese is, it at times drowns out the sauce; granted, the sauce is nothing particularly awe-inspiring, but an even sauce-cheese balance is important to any pizza, regardless of the comparative merits of each part.
As such, Stevi B's cannot qualify as amazing. It still has its decided virtues, though, and the added convenience factor makes it hard to resist. A pizza place with a service gimmick as attractive as Stevi B's could make money even with the most mediocre and forgettable of pies; that Stevi B's provides convenience while exceeding such expectations by miles means that, in spite of its occasional faults, this particular outfit comes highly recommended.
For this week's review, I ventured slightly outside the norm to North Carolina-centered sit-down chain Brixx. Given the promise of the name, expectations were high; they were not disappointed.
The pizza is fairly small but not cripplingly so; a single consumer could easily eat an entire pie in one sitting, but it still remains quite filling. The sauce-cheese balance is good though not perfect; what truly makes the pie, though, is the distinctive and delicious flavor of the sauce. Brixx's cheese is also much better than most, and the crust, though too thin to form a significant part of the experience, is well above serviceable.
Brixx offers a unique style of pizza and of consuming it to those seeking a more traditional restaurant experience. While the pizza's small size and thinness at times leave it slightly unfulfilling, it remains an excellent and thoroughly distinctive pizza experience and, if I may say so, quite possibly the best pizza I've reviewed yet for this blog.
A moderately large Georgia franchise chain, Johnny's nonetheless has a slightly more highbrow air than most of the pizza vendors this blog has visited so far. The restaurant was founded by a New Yorker, and the pizzeria's name promises to recall the distinct and popular flavors of that area; whether Johnny's does so and does so successfully is the subject of this review.
The excellence of the pizza is immediately noticeable. Plenty of well-made sauce gives the pie a strong, distinctive flavor, while just enough cheese is added to balance it out. The unusually thick but otherwise unremarkable crust completes the pizza, albeit somewhat unsatisfyingly; although the taste is far from perfect, it is strikingly good for a local chain.
Johnny's doesn't attain complete brilliance, but it stands as an excellent pizza for those seeking a slightly more formal, intimate restaurant experience. It must unfortunately be faulted for its failure to live up to its name; despite the promise of "New York style" deliciousness, Johnny's has more in common in its taste with Papa John's than with most pizzerias in Manhattan or Hoboken. Nonetheless, it does achieve some approximation, and it's a high-quality pizza in a high-quality venue. What more could one ask?
For this review, I turn to a nationwide staple of what my youngest sister somewhat dismissively calls "fast food pizza": in this case, Papa John's. The venerable Kentucky-based chain sells itself on the promise of "better ingredients, better pizza." Better ingredients they may be; here I will seek to determine whether or not in fact they produce better pizza.
The perhaps surprising result is that they do. With an excellent, mildly sweet sauce that presents itself in abundance in just the right places, Papa John's lays the foundation for a thoroughly enjoyable product; the plentiful cheese is more than enough to satisfy cheese fans without drowning out the sauce. Granted, the crust is rather forgettable; given the quality of the rest of the pizza, however, it doesn't need to be anything more.
Papa John's is, of course, no substitute for a bona fide New York or New Jersey original, nor is it "high-end" pizza by any means. What it does do is soar miles above the admittedly somewhat low expectations of its class; it's not perfect, but there is nothing here which would truly offend the taste buds even of the most discerning pizza aficionado. With a unique taste and a perfect sauce-cheese balance, Papa John's comfortably secures its place as a genuine standout among national delivery chains.
The quest for the perfect pizza continues this week with a Cobb County fixture: Marietta Pizza Company. This restaurant has two locations, one in Marietta Square and one in West Cobb; despite the former's prime real estate, however, the latter is widely considered to have the better food, and it is the latter that takes pride of place as the subject of this week's review.
The pizzas are large and thin, albeit thicker than Peace Love Pizza's (not really saying much, as PLP's are scarcely thicker than a sheet of paper). MPC's sauce is quite spicy for a pizza, and readers with a particular dislike for such a taste may want to keep that in mind - although personally, despite having little fondness for spicy food myself, I found the sauce's mild heat quite manageable. The cheese, meanwhile, appears to be fairly typical mozzarella, serviceable and enjoyable but not particularly remarkable.
What perhaps separates MPC from most other pizzas is its texture. Most pizzas are fairly soft foods; MPC's, while not one of Hagrid's rock cakes by any means, packs a crunch unusual for the venerable Italian flatbread. Some may particularly enjoy this; I personally rather dislike it, but not enough to genuinely spoil the experience. This is also greasy pizza; next to the practical oceans generated by the likes of Peace Love Pizza, however, the grease here is quite manageable.
Overall, the impression is of a good, slightly above-average pizza; MPC is far from a dazzler, and nothing about it is remarkable enough to make it a must-eat for visitors from outside the area, but for an evening's delivery dinner it does the job and does it well.
The quest for the perfect pizza kicks off at full speed here and now - starting with north Atlanta chain Peace Love and Pizza. With the name comes the expected "hippie" aesthetic, as demonstrated in the restaurant's boxes and merchandise; perhaps cognizant of their customer base, however, the owners also placed a large American flag front and center within the "heart." This isn't a blog for pizza box reviews, though, so I'll move directly on to the matter really at hand: that is, the pizza.
The first thing one notices upon opening a box of this pizza is the grease. An amount of oil the sheer sight of which is likely to give a number of foodies heart palpitations covers a good portion of the bottom of the box. The astute designers have seen fit to add a box-shaped sheet of paper between the pizza and the cardboard in order to insulate the box therefrom. I have no intrinsic prejudice against greasy pizza, however, so the review continues.
The pizza itself is quite good. The sauce-cheese balance is excellently achieved, although perhaps tending a bit more than I would like to the cheesy side; the grease is evident in the taste, but not enough to spoil it, even, I should think, for those who normally detest such in a pizza. Although not truly remarkable, the taste is pleasurable and miles above most other delivery outfits. My sole major complaint is the thinness of the pizza; there simply isn't enough sauce and cheese on a slice to give one a thoroughly satisfying experience. Even this quality, however, will likely have it's admirers; I therefore rank Peace Love and Pizza as not one of the greatest, but certainly one of the better pizzas available in the Atlanta area.
There is a legend that modern pizza was invented in 1890 by Raffaele Esposito, a Neapolitan flatbread maker, as a gift for Queen Margherita of the newly unified Kingdom of Italy, featuring toppings in the colors of the new Italian flag. If true, this would be a delightful and suitably regal origin story; as it stands, pizza most likely already existed by Esposito's time, and not as a food for royalty. Most often, it was a crude flatbread cobbled together by the poorest of the poor, used to combine what few cheap ingredients they could find. By the late 1800s and early 1900s, it had become a staple of Neapolitan cuisine, and immigrants from Naples to the United States brought the dish with them. In America, pizza gradually altered its ingredients and form to fit the national taste; however, the basic formula remained the same.
My family has a long personal history with pizza. My mother was raised a Roman Catholic and as a result of that religion's dietary rules was not allowed to eat meat on Fridays. For that reason, Friday became pizza day; the venerable Italian flatbread would serve as a weekly staple. The tradition, if not the religion, remains in the family, and so I have had pizza at least once every week for as long as I can remember.
When it came time to write this blog, I decided to expand this tradition into a quest: a quest for the best pizza in my area. Here's the concept: every week I'll try a new pizza and review it. As the blog continues, I'll begin to rank the pizzas I've tried, and by the end of this experiment, I intend to have found the single greatest pizza available in metro Atlanta.