The Good Pizza Guide (UK edition)

All the latest news and reviews from the UK pizza indusry and the search for the perfect pizza

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Review: ASDA Spinach & Mascarpone Pizza

I haven’t been to ASDA for a while for several reasons the main one being they have massive speed humps at the Cambridge branch and my little car hates them. So I sent the missus out in her own car to pick up a couple of pizzas. I requested one from the chiller cabinet but towards the higher end of their range and another from the deli. Here we are reviewing the one from the cabinet.

This is another Italian inspired pizza but this time they’ve gone a step further and claimed its inspired by the Lazio region. This pizza is larger than most I’ve experienced of late at around 12/13”.

Price: £2.98 (because every penny counts)

6 grams of fat per half a pizza and 658 calories (that seems awfully low) so that means I can have two! But will I want more than one?

Looks

First impressions are of a decent looking pizza with a plentiful and even spread of topping and cheese but could have done with more colour. The white and green look just seemed to be missing that flash of red that a pizza needs.

Although not mentioned on the box it looks as though there’s some Parmesan and if you look closely there is some tomato sauce buried in there somewhere. Strangely it looked a more expensive pizza raw than it did cooked but we’ll get to that later.

7/10




Cooking/Delivery

ASDA instructions are 200 degrees in the middle of the oven for 10-12 minutes. I checked at 10 and 12 minutes but the pizza looked as though it could do with a bit longer Eventually it came out the oven at 14-15 minutes as I was starting to fear the crust would get to crunchy.

6/10

Base

The base is quoted as being “Italian style hand crafted pizza, crust based on an authentic Italian recipe” I guess that means its made in the UK or anywhere else in the world other than Italy. It was a cross between a thin and thick base so I suppose you could call it an average base and average just about sums it up. Neither good nor bad it served the purpose of delivering the toppings without any fuss but it was a bit soft in the centre but the crust was reasonably crunchy. There was very little flavour to the base and one occasion I thought it tasted or cardboard.

3/10

Sauce

Claimed to be a mascarpone sauce but the ingredients claim it’s a béchamel sauce. This bares fruit once you taste it as it reminded me of the contents of a veggie lasagne. I was concerned that the box never mentioned any tomato sauce but there was a thin layer hiding underneath which is just as well as it would have been very plain without it. Overall the béchamel sauce didn’t really work as it was to bland and tasted overly processed but the tomato sauce was fine with a nice peppery kick.

2/10

Cheese

Mozzarella and cheddar again! Come on there are other cheeses out there apart from these two. As mentioned earlier it looks as though there’s some Parmesan and the ingredients confirm this although they call it a medium hard fat cheese.

Once melted it took on the appearance of a cheaper pizza and like the sauce it tasted overly processed. This suggests that the finest quality ingredients aren’t used by the boys at ASDA.

3/10

Topping

Not a lot to write about here as there’s nothing other than spinach. On the plus side there was lots of it and it was nice and fresh. Spinach doesn’t have much of a flavour on its own so it really had its work cut out to save this pizza, when it was there in abundance it really helped out by adding a new twist and masking the bland cheese and sauce flavours.

6/10

Packaging

Not the best design but that’s pretty normal for ASDA. The back had all the usual info about nutrition and the ingredients. As normal the packaging consisted of a cardboard box with the pizza shrink wrapped and a polystyrene base.

3/10

Overview

I wanted to like this pizza as ASDA get bad press for not being as good a quality as the other major players in the UK and I like anyone like an underdog. but alas this pizza summed up how most people view ASDA. A bit crap.

The easy way for ASDA to fix this would be to remove the extra sauces and leave it at tomato, although the cheese wasn’t the best in the world it would have done the job and the spinach was fine. A few small dollops of proper mascarpone, a pinch of nutmeg and a thinner base would almost certainly take this from an underachiever to an above average pizza.

Did I want more than one? No I didn’t in fact half was plenty.

3.5/10

Monday, April 10, 2006

Review: M&S Goats Cheese & Chargrilled Vegetable Pizza

A traditional Neapolitan style fresh pizza from the luxury food retailer M&S.
£3.79 available from most M&S stores. In stock on a Saturday night so should be available whenever you want one.

10.6 grams of fat per half a pizza and 1430 calories

Looks

Well first impressions weren’t good, as it looked cheaper than the price suggested. A couple of large chunks of Sunblushed tomatoes, unappetising looking disks of goats cheese that reminded me of oversized asprin plus a few bits of roasted pepper and onion chucked in for good measure.

5/10



Cooking/Delivery

M&S instructions were 220 degrees for 10 minutes in a non-fan oven, no indication of where in the oven but from experience I always put thin bases near the top. It was perfectly cooked and ready to eat on exactly 10 minutes.

10/10

Base

A thin base baked in Venice Italy using finest 00 grade flour in traditional pizza ovens. It coped well in the oven and was absolutely delicious. There wasn’t any chewyness in sight, it didn’t char on the edges and once sliced didn’t droop at all.

8/10

Sauce

Not a lot of tomato sauce was in evidence but what was there really did the job, it had a slight sweetness to it that went very well with the goats cheese but I would have preferred it spread all the way to the edge.

6/10

Cheese

The goats cheese was provided in small disks and didn’t look very appetising raw, I do like goats cheese but some can be a little sharp. I’m happy to report that M&S have sourced a nice mild and creamy cheese for this pizza and it complimented the chargrilled vegetables well. The mozzarella was sparse and on only one occasion did I get the delightful ‘cheese string’ effect. It could have done with more mozzy but it didn’t detract from the overall experience.

7/10

Topping

I was dubious about the lack of topping on the pizza and the way it had been laid out. This all came good once cooked as the eclectic or haphazard manner in which it was laid out made for each mouthful being full of different flavours.

6/10

Packaging

Nice looking photography but bog standard other than that, didn’t overly do the Italian influence. There was lots of info on the rear of the box with info on which wine’s go with the pizza and a bit of history about pizza. All the nutritional info was there along with separate ingredients for the Sunblushed tomatoes and balsamic roasted red onions.

Cardboard outer packaging with plastic wrap on the pizza with a polystyrene disk to keep it all together. It would have scored a lot higher if they used a cardboard disk.

5/10

Summary

Not a good looking pizza raw but once cooked it tells a different story. If your looking for a meal this isn’t going to cut it as the base is very thin and light and there’s just isn’t enough topping to fill your emply belly. I’d recommend this as a good party pizza for sharing or if you’ve already had a meal in the day. I would buy one again but its quite expensive for what it is.

6.5/10

Free pizza for Sun Readers

Imagine the joy as I sat watching boring Sunday night TV and out of the blue came an advert of like has never been seen before.

It went along the lines of:
“Free large pizza for every reader, yes that’s a free pizza!” Hey you don’t need to tell me twice I’m already looking on the web at this point desperately searching for details.

So what’s the deal: Collect 4 tokens and attach them to the coupon (which I presume will be in Friday’s issue) and redeemed it for a large pizza up to the value of £9.99 at any participating Pizza Hut restaurant. So if my maths are up to scratch thats a large pizza for £1.75 plus you get 5 copies of The Sun to use as cat litter or to start fires with.

Them headline writers at The Sun dont half earn their crust.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Pizza Review Guide


Most reviews will be of store brought and delivery/resturant pizzas but I’m hoping in time to give as much info on the peripheral items that go with them such as stones, trays and slicers.

The first reviews will be in the following format and will probably adapt over time until I find something we’re all comfortable with.

It will be made up of the following sections:

Overview

We’ll look at the history behind the pizza, nutritional information, price and availability. We’ll also look at the style (fresh or frozen, Italian or New York etc.)

Looks

Here we’ll literally look at the pizza, do the toppings look fresh, is it short on cheese those sorts of things.

Cooking/Delivery

How easy is it to cook and were the instruction correct, have you ever put a pizza in the oven for the specified amount of time and it was either undercooked or burned?

Or if it’s a delivery was it warm when it arrived, how long did it take was the ordering process easy.

Base

Possibly the most important part of any pizza. I like both deep pan and thin crust so there’s no bias on this one. I don’t usually go for stuffed crust but who knows I may find a winner.

We’ll be looking and tasting the quality of the base, the ingredients used, whether it lives up to the promises made on the box and how well it cooks.

Sauce

Again a pizza can stand or fall by the quality of the sauce used. 90% of the time this will be tomato based but every now and again a spinach or BBQ base pizza will come our way. We’ll be looking at the quantity, even spread, ingredients and of course the taste.

Cheese

No pizza is complete without its cheesy topping. We tend to use a lot of cheddar in the UK which to me isn’t a proper pizza cheese but in the right place can work so I wont hold it against a pizza if its used. We’ll also be looking at the quantity, even spread, ingredients and the taste.


Topping

Ever brought a pizza with olives on it only to get it home to find 2 wrinkly black rabbit droppings on your pizza? Well I have. Here we’ll be looking at freshness, quantity, spread and taste. If taste proves to be poor we’ll look at the suitability of the topping for a pizza. I personally think its utter madness to put pineapple on pizza I mean its a frigging pizza not a fruit salad, Jesus.

Packaging

I’m concerned about the amount of rubbish we chuck into the ground as a race so I’ll also be looking at the amount and type of packaging used on each pizza. E.g. Points will be awarded for those using cardboard disks instead of polystyrene.

The scoring system

Each section will be scored out of ten with an overall rating at the end. I’m hoping by scoring and reviewing the sections independently it will give you a much better insight into what to put in your basket next time your out shopping or about to call out for pizza. As these reviews are just my personal opinion (although I would say I’m nearly always right) I will try to be as unbiased and as truthful as possible, if I try an ALDI pizza and I hate it then that because its not very nice not because I have preconceived ideas about the quality of food that particular supermarket sells.

Pizza History Lesson 1


You may think a pizza is a pizza what’s all the fuss? Well if we look back to the origins of pizza you will see it has been enjoyed by us humans for centuries and has quite a romantic tale to tell.

I’ll keep this short but this is the history of the pizza and everyone needs to know this (it should be part of the national curriculum)

It’s a commonly known fact that the ancient Greeks started the pizza ball rolling by baking large round flat breads and topping them with various types of food.

Much further down the time line in the 18th century round flat breads were sold on the streets of Naples and were mainly topped with herbs and tomatoes. Then we come to an interesting little tale of how mozzarella was added

An Italian queen was visiting Naples and whilst touring the peasant slums she was offered one of these flat breads, she tried it, loved it and every time she returned to Naples she would call for her beloved bready treat. On one particular visit she requested one of the local pizzeria owners (Rafaelle Esposito) make her a selection of pizza. Well this creative little chap decided to make her one in the colours of the Italian flag. He chose red tomatoes, white mozzarella, green basil, and there you have the pizza that we all know and love today. The queen loved the pizza and the peasants loved her so they named it after her and her name was Queen Margherita

Brilliant!

Some Americans dispute this story and claim it was invented by Italian immigrants in New York around 1910 and some claim trying to find the man that first decided to combine bread, tomatoes and cheese is much like trying to find the creator of the wheel. But I’d like to think the story of Queen Margherita is true.

The UK pizza industry was worth a reported 740 million big ones in 2004 (this doesn’t include store brought pizza!!!!) With Pizza Hut being the biggest player followed by Pizza Express, the home delivery kings are Dominos followed by Perfect Pizza

I’ll be reviewing the big boys over time, as they all exist where I live and probably where you live too.

Welcome.


The aim of this blog is to deliver you the information you need to find a pizza that suites your taste. I’ve been a massive fan of pizza for many years and am always waxing lyrical about certain brands, styles, toppings etc. the blog will be review based and over time I’ll develop an easy to use scoring guide.

I don’t imagine this is going to be an easy blog to update as I’m going to have to eat lots and lots of pizza, poor him you say but listen folks there’s a lot of crappy pizza out there in the UK and I’ve stopped buying all of them but for this blog to be useful I’m going to have to revisit them all again (I can hardly wait).

I’m going to start with store brought pizza as this is where many of you need the most advice and if you see a pizza that you’d like reviewed just say so and I’ll see what I can do.

One word of advice, as a rule I don’t eat meat its not a moral thing but there’s so much crap pumped into meat products these days (especially the sort of meat you get on most pizza) that I decided to lay off it for a while. I do eat fish and every now and again I’ll fancy a KFC or something and give in.

So no pepperoni pizza reviews will be included. Strictly speaking I should only review margherita pizza as they contain the 3 ingredients that can make or break a pizza:

The base
Tomato Sauce
Cheese

But I feel a margherita is like a blank canvas and there’s plenty of well-designed pizza in the shops today that deserve to be seen (and tasted again ☺) on this blog.

So look out Frankie Dettori I’m a coming!