Take-away pizza party

So, I’m not a huge fan of take-away pizza since I prefer making my own, but I’ll admit to ordering it every now and then when I’ve got a particular hankering for that deep, wood-fired flavour that you just can’t replicate with a standard domestic oven.

Thankfully I have an INCREDIBLE little Italian restaurant a quick drive away whos good hit the spot to perfection, so it’s usually not a huge problem.

After years of alternating between home-made and restaurant-quality pizzas, I’ve eschewed chain/franchise pizzas for the most part as I’ve found that the quality is lacking and the bases tend to be flavourless (yes, Pizza Hut and Dominos, I’m looking at you here).

When I heard about the new Crust Gourmet Pizza franchise stores that were opening up all over the place, I must admit that my interest was slightly piqued. A few friends of mine tried there wares and I was hearing some pretty good reviews about their products. And when Keep Left PR asked me if I would be interested in trying a few pizzas from their new “Upper Crust” range, I thought it “why the heck not?”

But to just do a standard taste review is boring. So I thought I’d put them to a real test against my other two local pizza places – Pizza Hut and Mi Va Il Gusto. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to the four contestants!

Crust Gourmet Pizza – Wagyu Prawn ($24.00)
4+ Marble Score Wagyu Beef, Asparagus, Red Capsicum, Shallots & Marinated Tiger Prawns on a Tomato base, drizzled with Hollandaise sauce, served with Salt & Cracked Pepper.

Visually, this is a very impressive-looking pizza. Brightly coloured with lots of ingredients, the asparagus and plump prawns atop each slice make it appear quite “upper crust” (heh). The quality of the ingredients for the most part is also to be commended, the prawns are plump and the wagyu beef is tender. Unfortunately, there’s also a number of issues with this pizza:

  1. Half the asparagus stalks were dry, woody and completely inedible. Some of the asparagus was actually great – unfortunately we had to discard half of it as the rest of it was pretty much inedible. I’d also like to know why all the pieces we had were from the bottom half of the asparagus rather than the top half of the spears??
  2. There was so much hollandaise that the pizza was virtually drowned in it, making the wagyu beef a bit of a waste as the flavour was overwhelmed. Do me a favour and go look at the picture of this pizza on the Crust website. Note how the hollandaise is applied sparingly. Now look at my picture. Understandably, “fast food” never looks like the pictures, but this is a perfect example of how even a recipe created by a chef can be botched by a cook who quite frankly doesn’t care
  3. The hollandaise itself wasn’t particularly fantastic. I’m used to having a little bit of an acidic bite to my hollandaise when I make it, but the hollandaise here barely had any acidic note to lighten it up. Instead, it tasted flat and a little sickening.

It’s quite possible that if the hollandaise was not applied in such an incredibly heavy-handed method that I might have overlooked the asparagus, but all in all it was quite a disappointing pizza and not one that I would fork out $24 of my own money for.

Crust Gourmet Pizza – Five Spice Pork Belly ($24.00)
5 Spice Marinated Pork Belly & Pear Slices on a Tomato base, topped with Wild Rocket, crushed Walnuts & Balsamic Glaze.

I actually wanted to dump this pizza once I opened the box and took a look, but was convinced to take a bite.

So I took a bite. And dumped the rest. As did everyone else who tried it.

Come on, guys. Seriously? What the hell is this? The pork itself was flavoured quite well when I picked up an individual piece of it and chewed on it, but it was completely lost to the rocket and pear.

As for the the rocket, it looked as though the cook at the Crust store in Glen Waverley (my stomping ground) had quite literally grabbed a handful of salad leaves and thrown them into the middle of the pizza.

Admittedly, he may have been a little disgruntled with me after spending 10 minutes arguing with me and telling me that the vouchers supplied by the PR agency were invalid and couldn’t be accepted, and it was only after he called his manager and spoke to him on the phone that he agreed to make the pizzas. And while I could understand presentation being a little haphazard if the store was busy, but there was not a single other customer in the store.

Once again, I ask that you take a look at the picture on their website, or even at a picture from the Crust event that Iron Chef Shellie attended and you can see the difference in this pizza from when made with some attention to detail compared to when it’s slapped together by a cook who doesn’t care.

And as for the pear in the middle of each slice. Well, the pear itself couldn’t be faulted as it was ripe, soft and tasty. However, it was HUGE and having the one piece slap-bang in the middle of each slice meant that most of the slice was actually eaten without pear, and when you did get to the pear, that was the *only* thing you could taste.

Pizza Hut – BBQ Prawn & Bacon ($13.50)
Prawns, pineapple, onion & bacon rashers all on a freshly made pizza base with mozzarella and BBQ sauce

This can be summed up in one sentence – there would be no difference between this pizza and a piece of cardboard covered in cheese, mediocre bacon, frozen prawns and tinned pineapple.

Mi Va Il Gusto – Grecco ($16.50)
Tomato, cheese, lamb fillets, spinach, Spanish onion and fetta cheese on a crispy, wood-fired base covered with herbed tomato sauce and topped with natural yoghurt.

My only regret with this particular pizza is that I took the photos later at night and so the colours just don’t look that appetizing. But the smell was so incredible that the family couldn’t wait to rip open the box and dig in.

Visually, it isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as the other pizzas, though this is mostly due to the ugly splodge of yoghurt in the middle of each slice. I feel that the visual appeal of this pizza would be greatly improved if they went with a drizzle like the hollandaise on the Crust pizza. This would also have helped to ensure you get a little of the tasty tangy yoghurt with each bite.

In terms of the rest of the ingredients, they’re all very well done with the exception of the lamb. Unfortunately while the lamb was fairly tasty in terms of flavour, it was a little tough and contained the odd bit of gristle which made chewing unpleasant. Despite this, it was quite easily overall the best of all four pizzas.

So despite the pizzas all having different toppings, they were touted by each store as being from their “Gourmet” ranges so let’s see how they stack up against each other in each category (maximum 3 points for each category):

CRUST MI VA IL GUSTO PIZZA HUT NOTES
Base Texture 2 3 1 The texture of the Crust pizza was actually pretty good for a franchise – chewy, with a crunchy bottom. However, when placed against a totally bangin’ wood-fired pizza, it just couldn’t hit first place.
Base Flavour 2 3 1 The wood-fired pizza has an incredible smokey flavour in the base, which neither franchise could even come close to. Crust beat Pizza Hut, but not really by much.
Quality of Ingredients 3 2 1 This was a tough one, but I’d say that the quality of the ingredients were better on the Crust pizza than the other two. Unfortunately, the wood-fired pizza was let down by the slightly tough and chewy lamb which really needed to be a more tender cut. As for Pizza Hut – MEH.
Topping Balance 1 3 2 This was a shocker. In terms of balance, I’d say that it was a close tie between the wood-fired pizza and Pizza Hut. Yes, the Pizza Hut pizza looks like it was made by a machine, but unfortunately the heavy-handedness by Crust with the Hollandaise and wild rocket as well as the gigantic piece of pear in the middle of each slice of the five-spice pork belly pizza let them down in a HUGE way.
Edibility Once Cooled 2 3 1 You may think this is a strange category, but isn’t there always some slices of cold pizza left after you get a take-away pizza? This wasn’t too surprising – the wood-fired pizza was surprisingly edible, the Hollandaise sauce on the Crust Wagyu & Prawn became even more overwhelming when cold, and the cold pear on the five-spice pork was unappetizing. And yet, none were as bad as the cardboard-like Pizza Hut pizza.
Creativity 3 2 1 The flavour combinations on the Crust pizzas gave them the edge in this category – the wood-fired pizza tasted very much like a lamb souvlaki on a pizza base and while tasty and different, it wasn’t quite as different as “five-spice pork belly with walnuts, wild rocket and pear”
Cost $24.00 $16.50 $13.50 I wouldn’t even pay $5.00 for that awful cardboard circle from Pizza Hut. Well, I did for this review, but by god I’ll never do it again!
Value For Money 2 3 1 Though I received the Crust pizzas free of charge, I actually think that at $24 a pop, they’re somewhat overpriced. Yes, the quality of the ingredients is great, but the flavours I experienced didn’t quite work and therefore wouldn’t be something I’d want to purchase again, or for that amount of money.
FINAL SCORE 15/21 19/21 8/21 1st Place – Mi Va Il Gusto
2nd Place – Crust Gourmet Pizza
3rd Place – Pizza Hut

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Let’s start with Pizza Hut. This result wasn’t surprising. Their pizzas are pretty much the lowest of the low, and you have got to be absolutely desperate for pizza to go this route since it’s barely any better than the frozen pizzas you can purchase at the supermarket. Overpriced for what is on offer, you’re far better off with almost anything else rather than the utter crap they market.

Next is Crust. I’d actually heard fairly good things about them and had been quite excited to see what they had to offer, even though they’re a 15-20 minute drive away from my place. However, I was immediately disappointed once I opened the boxes as the wagyu prawn pizza was smothered in sauce and I suspected that this would affect the flavour, and the five-spice pork belly pizza was…well, have a look at the picture, I think that pretty much says it all.

Finally, my local Italian restaurant, Mi Va Il Gusto. With the owner working in the store side-by-side with the pizza cook, it’s very obvious that both the cook and the owner took pride in their product. The cook treats each pizza that he puts into their wood-fired oven with immense care and love. The quality of the ingredients is good, not great, but the flavour comes together very nicely and makes up for this. For a mom & pop pizzeria out in Vermont, they know what they’re doing and do it well!

So what are your favourite toppings on a pizza? Have you tried Crust and have any comments on their products? And what do you do when you have a craving for take-away pizza? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, as well as any recommendations that you have for great pizza around town :)

Comments

  1. Whilst I prefer Crust over Pizza Hut, for me it’s not all that far off, especially with the sauce swirls. If you have to add sauce after the pizza is cooked, it puts to question the flavour of the things on the pizza prior to it.

    EEVO or Tabasco is about as crazy as I go when it comes to post-baking pizza condiments.

    • I actually don’t mind a few after-baking ingredients or sauces being added to a pizza so long as they have a purporse! And I think that had the hollandaise had a better flavour and been applied more sparingly, it would actually have been okay. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case :(

  2. Pizza Hut is possibly one of those places where I have had REALLY bad pizza, and I remember once getting a fly in my pizza (yes, well, that induced a lot of silly childish jokes, but come on… hygiene? We pay extra for that!) and most of the times the crust is so soggy that it flops around like a landed flounder. I personally like my local pizzeria in Kolkata, Fire ‘N Ice, which makes excellent wood fire oven pizza with thin crusts, simple sauce and some fresh ingredients.

    • A fly in your pizza? Woah, that’s crazy!! Good to hear about your local pizzeria, I also love a good thin crust with fresh and simple ingredients :)

  3. @crust_pizza wow bet that wasn’t what you were hopeing for when you paid a PR company http://t.co/C5utizP

  4. I love pizza what ever brand, I also love pizza hut and other pizza as long as they serve hot and crisp.

  5. Too bad you were so disappointed! We only really have one place in our town that I’ll go to for pizza and they make a great crust with herbs in it and they use local where they can so all the meat for sure. It’s so delicious even though I’d still really rather make pizza at home. I don’t even really care what’s on it as long as it’s flavorful, has a good crust and is well put together.

    • Heidi, I would give *anything* for a wood-fired pizza oven in my backyard as then I would probably never buy pizza! But while home-made is good, you just can’t get the same flavour from a standard domestic oven :(

  6. What a shame the Crust Pizza wasnt as good as expected, and I say good on you for speaking the truth about it too! I must say, seeing as I can’t eat cheese, wherever we order takeaway pizza from is usually a pretty underwhelming experience~!

    • Oh no!! I would find that completely heartbreaking!! Is it just cow’s milk cheese that you’re allergic to or all cheese regardless of lactose content? Also, thanks re the Crust post, I thought that after the experience, I needed to be completely honest because I just can’t take responsibility for recommending a product that I don’t personally believe in!

  7. Oh…. I have the voucher from Crust Pizza as well… will I get the same treatment?

    • I very much recommend calling ahead to explain the situation to them and make sure they know about the vouchers so you don’t have the same experience as me :/

    • I’m pretty sure that a memo went out to all stores after this event :) I think you’ll be fine.

    • I used a voucher, and we explained on the phone, and after a few questions around it was fine.

      I’ve heard you can ask for the sauce to be separate. Last one I had was smothered in it :|

      Still I’d prefer them over Pizza Hut any day. But you can’t beat an a pizza made by an Italian who knows his stuff!

  8. What a shame the pizza was crappy! Perhaps the guy was spiteful and sabotaged it? I have to eat gluten free pizza, so I’m lucky that some franchises accomodate me, but I have to take what I can get. Buying your food from a place where the people care about their product with pride is always the answer.

    • It could be that, or perhaps he wasn’t trained properly, or maybe he just didn’t care! And I agree, always best to go somewhere where the staff take pride in what they do!

  9. Oh no I’ve got a Crust voucher I was looking forward to using .. hopefully I have a better experience then what you’ve had. I prefer pizza from family-owned restaurants – they do seem to put more care into their food (the one near me uses extra garlic and herbs topping .. *drool*). We do get a franchise pizza occasionally, but more often than not regret it. The BEST pizza I’ve ever had was a friend who used a pizza stone in their BBQ – I’ll never forget it ha ha.

    • As Shellie says, I think it’d be a good idea to call them first before using the vouchers just to make sure that they know about them and you don’t have an incident like mine :/ And I think I may need to finally invest in a damn pizza stone and try the same! :)

  10. Aww, I love Crust. I’ve never ordered either of the pizzas you ordered though. On Tuesday night we got the Mediterranean lamb, Tandoori chicken, and wild mushroom, plus the olive and feta squares (I love them). I really liked all of them. The only “upper crust” pizzas I’ve ordered in the past are the white prosciutto (good) and the peking duck (okay). Maybe it was just a bad experience? I’ll totally try Mi Va Il Gusto though.

    Oh, and my favourite pizza place at the moment is Brazilian Box. It’s near Taylor Square. They are delicious, and huge. And they make dessert pizzas. Nuff said ;-)

  11. Loved the concept behind @kitchenwench’s takeaway pizza taste off http://bit.ly/qSmPGf #unsponsoredtweet

  12. I usually order the Gourmet Ham and Pineapple from Crust. When they get it right, it is delicious. I love the fresh basil and tomato… but I have found my local store to be extremely inconsistent with the quality. Sometimes they are overcooked and so dry. One time we waited for over an hour to be delivered… by the time it arrived, the box was totally soaked and the pizza was lukewarm and terrible. So… got myself a pizza stone and plan on making my own from now on. :grin:

    • That sounds awful!! And I agree with getting a pizza stone, I’ve really got to get off my hiney and purchase one for myself too! :)

  13. we usually LOVE crust, our fave by far! but just a few days ago i also ordered the 5 spice one (i thought it was duck but probably got confused lol) and yep, it was disgusting. definitely won’t be ordering it again…

  14. Mi Va Il Gusto rocks! Their pizzas are divine and their mains pretty darn good too. The original Mi Va was our local pizza place growing up, mum and dad are still in the same house so Mi Va Il Gusto is the new local. One of my bros has a woodfire pizza oven in his backyard, it’s sensational good but it’s an all day committment for a pizza night.

Speak Your Mind

*

Reply New

CommentLuv badge

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
%d bloggers like this: