Cheese-stuffed crust is nothing new.
Pizza Hut introduced the original stuffed-crust pizza way back in 1995, and since then the food giant has experimented with different iterations of the stuffed-crust, bewildering chefs and foodies and sending potheads into fits of glee.
Then came the "ultimate stuffed-crust pizza" filled with pizza toppings (like a calzone?) in 2011, followed by some wild cheeseburger and chicken strip crusts goings-on at Pizza Huts in the Middle East (I really feel that these are no longer able to be considered pizzas).
Earlier this year, Pizza Hut released the "crazy cheesy crust pizza" here in the U.S., which shared the crown shape of the Middle Eastern
monstrosities, but rather than being filled with cheeseburger, the crust was filled with nothing but cheese. It was designed to have pockets in the dough in which five different cheeses could mix and mingle. Then, according to the image, you could pull the cheesy pockets away from the pizza and eat them separately, leaving you with a big, messy, crustless pizza. This was a limited-time offering, but due to popular demand or the need for a new gimmick, or something, Pizza Hut is bringing stuffed-crusts back in a whole new way.
Okay, so it's not that new. The press release claims that the design of the crust is new, and instead of just one flavor of cheese or five flavors competing for your attention, Pizza Hut has arrived at three cheeses as a happy medium. The new (not limited-time) pizza features a fluffy, puffy crust stuffed with mozzarella, provolone and white cheddar.
And here in Houston, there's one more reason to celebrate the new cheesy pizza. H-Town is one of only four cities chosen to sample the three-cheese-stuffed crust an entire week before the rest of the country. Something about a Twitter battle in which we had the most votes. Congrats, y'all! While the rest of the U.S. has to wait until October 20 to try the pizza, we can go out and get it today at Pizza Hut's 4001 Bellaire location.
We got a few samples here in the office this week, and we all had some thoughts about the impossibly cheesy creation.
"Well, what do you think?" my editor asked.
"Honestly," I said, "I like the cheesy crust better than the pizza. If someone offered me this stuffed crust as a cheese stick with marinara sauce, and I was a little drunk, I'd totally eat it."
Though to be fair to Pizza Hut, I've been eating a lot of pizza lately, at places like Coppa Osteria, Pizaro's and Dolce Vita. If you can't offer me arugula, truffle oil or pancetta as toppings, I'm not overly interested. Rubbery sausage just doesn't do it for me.
The crust, though...something about it reminded me of my childhood, before I became a food snob, when I used to beg my parents to take me to CiCi's Pizza for a dessert pie, and I held my birthday parties at Peter Piper Pizza or Chuck E. Cheese.
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I remembered the slightly sweet, overly doughy crust, unmarred by the black soot from a wood-burning oven. I remembered the processed mozzarella -- not the fresh, white-as-snow mozzarella of margherita pizzas -- and its stringy gooeyness and the way it made you drink gallons of soda to wash down its salty, tongue-coating essence. I even remembered the almost spicy pepperoni, chewy and cooked to the point of being brittle around the edges. And with all these memories come visions of jumping for joy when my dad would arrive home balancing a pizza box or two on his upturned palm or of taking a short break from Whac-A-Mole at a birthday party to run back to the table and inhale another slice of lukewarm, soggy pizza.
These days, I know what real pizza should taste like. I've even spent time in Italy, where pizza was invented, and at the parlors in New York where, arguably, the American style was perfected. But knowing better doesn't negate my happy memories of waiting for the pizza delivery guy, then settling in to watch movies while chomping on a supreme pie.
In Pizza Hut's new three-cheese-stuffed pizza, the crust is what really matters. No, you can't really pinpoint that there are three cheeses present (it pretty much all tastes like mozzarella), and no, the crust is not better than what you'll get at Dolce Vita (winner of our Best Pizza 2013). But for me, it's nostalgic.
And, for the record, I ate the stuffed crust off of three different slices of pizza for lunch when we received the samples. And I'm not ashamed to admit that.