This week on Dueling Dishes: pizza. But not just any pizza: supermarket pizza, bought from opposite ends of the retail spectrum. Yes, it's Costco's pizza versus Whole Foods'.
One is unquestionably proletariat, a massive mass-produced pie, sold for price so low ($9.95) it's almost anti-competitive. The other is just about the most upmarket supermarket pizza there is, sold for a little more ($15.99), and decidedly fancier.
Chances are good you've had a Costco pie yourself, like I have on many occasions, perhaps before a Costco grocery run where you end up buying vats of mayo and a pallet of toilet paper. If you're going to feed a group of hungry of eaters who demand large quantities of food, Costco's pie is the pie. If you haven't had yourself, it's what you expect from a food purveyor that also produces that other loss-leader, hot dog and a drink for $1.50. There are 12 slices in a box, cut up symmetrically as if by template. For the same cost of a plain cheese, you can get pepperoni or a combo, which speaks to the craziness of the pricing structure why would anyone opt for just plain cheese? Presumably, you buy this pie at any Costco, you will get the same pie. The pepperoni is spicy. The combo is chock-full of veggies. The cheese is gooey when hot, but rapidly solidifies as soon as you open the box lid. The dough, however, is heavy, hearty and dull, intended to expand in your stomach, fill you up and not much more.
The Whole Foods pie waswell, different. Oblong and amoeba-shaped because it's formed to order and made to look handmade; then burned in a real pizza oven; and slid out by wooden paddle. The cost varies on what kind of pizza you require. But it is just as equally large as a Costco pie. There's currently a special on a plain cheese for $11.99. But other toppings get different pricing. On the night of my visit, they had a special ($15.99) for their pizza of the day: turkey sausage and olives. And to taste the turkey sausage they use is to either love it or to hate it. Surprisingly gamey, the meat seems to have a duck-like flavor, which you will love if you love duck; not so much if you don't. The olives are of good quality, piquant and bracing. And the dough is better than Costco's, but still does not possess the character of a real pizzeria's pie. The edge crust, however, crunches appropriately.
Our winner this week? Costco.
The Costco pie has always been a part of my diet for better or worse since college. It's never been impressive, but it's doesn't advertise itself to be anything else than sustenance. Plus, between the two, cost-wise, it's the supermarket pie I would likely get outside of this taste test.
The Whole Foods pie I chose faltered because of its toppings. Other pies, such as their roasted veggie pie or the pesto might have fared better.
Before becoming an award-winning restaurant critic for OC Weekly in 2007, Edwin Goei went by the alias elmomonster on his blog Monster Munching, in which he once wrote a whole review in haiku.