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A surprising slice of pizza flavor

KATHY SAUNDERS
Published September 8, 2004

DiGiorno didn't really deliver, Totino's was no party, and panelists wanted a lot more on their Tombstone than its pizzas offered.

Taster's Choice prepared 12 frozen cheese pizzas according to the directions on each box. Judges reviewed the appearance, texture and taste of each slice.

The winner was a lesser-known, less-expensive store brand from Albertsons. The Essensia Five Cheese Pizza ($4.99) with whole milk mozzarella, provolone, asiago, Parmesan and romano cheeses received 62 out of a possible 80 points.

"This is the best of the lot," one panelist said. "It has a great chew, nice green (herbs) and a good crust."

All four panelists said they would buy Essensia.

DiGiorno's Four Cheese Pizza ($6.49) came in second with 57 points. Judges said DiGiorno was a bit bland, although three said they might buy it.

"The sauce needed more body and spices, not just salt to give it taste," one panelist said.

Third place went to California Pizza Kitchen's boxed pizza ($5.69), which received 44 points. Three said they would buy it.

"If you like cheese, this is it," one panelist said. Instead of tomato sauce, the restaurant's frozen pizza is loaded with cheese and sprinkled with chopped tomatoes.

"The crust is chewy and the cheese is sweet. I didn't miss the red sauce," another judge said.

Other pizzas sampled received marks from "decent" to "cardboard flavor." "If your eyes were closed, you wouldn't know some of this was pizza," one judge said.

Other pizzas sampled: Celeste Pizza For One ($1.99); Kash n' Karry Italian Style Pizza ($2.99); Tombstone Original with extra cheese ($5.29); Albertsons Original Four Cheese Pizza ($2.99); Tony's Original Crust Cheese Pizza ($3.79); Totino's Crisp Crust Party Pizza ($1.79); Red Baron Pizzeria Style Naturally Rising Crust Four Cheese Pizza ($6.19); Freschetta Four Cheese Pizza ($6.79) and Publix Traditional Cheese Pizza ($2.50).

- Panelists were Nan Jensen, home economist with Pinellas County Family and Consumer Sciences; Bob Devin Jones, actor, director and playwright; Julie Overton, personal chef; and Jim Yockey, aesthetician, Tierra Verde Salon and Day Spa. All products were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to Taste section, St. Petersburg Times, 490 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701 or e-mail them to krieta@sptimes.com Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line.

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