Stuffed-Crust Pizza Party

click to enlarge DiGiorno’s Bacon Me Crazy stuffed-crust pizza - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
DiGiorno’s Bacon Me Crazy stuffed-crust pizza

DiGiorno’s signature rising crust pizza changed the frozen pizza game. Commercials for the pizza brand heralded the tagline “It’s not delivery, it’s DiGiorno” because the pizza was that freaking good. As a kid in the Chicago suburbs, where delicious pizza is as plentiful as tap water, I remember going as far as to ask my dad to skip ordering delivery and take me to the store for one of DiGiorno’s original rising crust pies.

Something happened over the years, though. Maybe DiGiorno got a little too big for its britches? The pizzas themselves have seemed to dip in quality. In 2013, the brand showed a four-year low in sales growth; however, 2017 showed a time for innovation, a time for change.

Enter Bacon Me Crazy, DiGiorno’s new bacon and cheese stuffed-crust pie. Topped with additional applewood smoked bacon and salami, the pie clocks in at a powerful 1,400 calories. I scored the pizza for $7.99 at Kroger, still making DiGiorno a better deal (in theory) than delivery pizza.

Before opening the pizza box, I had hope. The image splashed across the DiGiorno box is a beautiful one, showing salted meats peppered over the pizza and cheesy bacon oozing from the cut crust. The actual pizza is, well, slightly different.

The ratio of crust to pizza is 50/50. This becomes even more apparent after baking the pie. The portion of the pizza that was non-crust turned a dark golden brown, while the crust remained pale. The meats on top of the pizza also darkened and were chewy when eaten — almost, dare I say, rubbery?

The bacon inside the crust was tastier. I theorize that being enveloped in the interior cheese kept it from drying out. Really, the whole stuffed-crust dining experience was remarkably better than eating the pizza it surrounded.

There was a strange lack of pizza sauce. One of my friends took a bite out of the Bacon Me Crazy pizza and kept making thoughtful, shocked noises as he chewed. Finally, he said, “I’m not sure what to think of this.”

We finished the pizza.In an effort to be truly unbiased, I also purchased DiGiorno’s Ultra Thin Sausage Supreme Pizza and their Four Cheese Crispy Pan Pizza. The Ultra Thin pizza advertised itself as free from GMO ingredients, artificial flavors and preservatives with 100 percent real cheese. I figured it would be a palate cleanser between the Bacon Me Crazy and Crispy Pan (a lasagna-like pizza that came with its own pan, but more on that later).

The pie was small, Communion-wafer-thin and, at just 540 calories for the entire pie, was cute compared to the pizza behemoths. The first note of confusion rang out when my friend and I both took bites of the pizza. It was sweeter than the bacon pizza for no discernible reason. And the crust was downright chewy. It was actually concerning. I grabbed the box and read the back hoping to riddle out the sweetness and gumminess to the crust. Then I saw it, written in small letters: “gluten free.”

Nowhere on the front of the box did the pizza advertise itself as gluten free. One would think that would be a selling point for DiGiorno, not something cleverly hidden on the back of the box to be discovered by confused pizza patrons after the first bite.

click to enlarge A dog and his stuffed-crust pizza - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
A dog and his stuffed-crust pizza

The pizza wasn’t bad, just clearly gluten free — an experience that can be disorienting to someone who is used to DiGiorno’s regularly pro-gluten pizzas.

We finished it anyway.

Finally, after 24 minutes in the oven, the Crispy Pan pizza was finished. The box describes the pizza as “topped edge to edge with cheese that caramelizes and bakes into the thick crispy crust.” The pizza came in a papery pan (not reusable). It truly looks like a Stouffer’s frozen lasagna at first glance. Like the Ultra Thin, the Crispy Pan advertises real cheese, no artificial flavors and a preservative-free crust. Unlike the Ultra Thin, the Crispy Pan is 2,100 calories.

The DiGiorno Crispy Pan was, by far, the best frozen pizza I or anyone at my pizza party had ever consumed. The prepackaged pan made the bottom of the pizza so dang crispy, while the top of the pizza remained flavorful with a generous portion of sauce and melted cheese. The pizza did require a spatula to take it out of the pan, an experience you can only get with DiGiorno. For me, that’s better innovation than stuffing meat into crust or sneaking “gluten free” into small writing on the back of a box. ©

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