Friday, April 10, 2020

Home Run Inn Margherita with Sausage

When you spend as much time reading about food as I do - and it's a shitload for someone who has never worked in the trade professionally (unless you count a few weeks working in the downstairs fry kitchen of a bar when I was 21, though I only did that because I had a crush on a girl who worked there) - you inevitably read rave reviews about products you have not tried.

One such product is Home Run Inn pizza. Any message board thread, or blog post on a popular website, about frozen pizza and its inherent crappiness is bound to elicit a comment from a reader that commands the writer to "try Home Run Inn."

Home Run Inn is a restaurant chain in the Chicago area. Despite having spent a large part of my life traveling around America, I have only been to Chicago once, where I ate at the legendary Pizzeria Uno and found it good but not nearly as good as its reputation.

(In the years since, I have repeated this anecdote to Chicago natives and every single one, without exception, called Pizzeria Uno overrated and "where the tourists go," which certainly described me. I should also point out that it was St. Patrick's Day and I did not feel like exploring too much of the city, as I have literally never seen such extreme public drunkenness - not even at Mardi Gras.)

In the 80s, Home Run Inn started selling frozen pizzas. I imagine in the Midwest you can buy them at all manner of stores, although the only place I have ever seen them in the West is at Sprouts. For this week's pizza, I selected the Margherita with sausage.

On one hand, the sausage looks better than you normally find on frozen pizza. On the other hand, it is curiously ringed around the edge of the pizza; there did not appear to be any in the center.

Instructions recommend cooking for 25-30 minutes, which is definitely on the high side. But not a terribly long time to wait if the pizza is going to be high quality.

The toppings are very good. The sausage is good, the cheese is very good (for frozen, of course), and the flavorful sauce features pieces of tomato. While this is common when you order a freshly-made Margherita pizza in a restaurant or pizza parlor, it is extremely rare when it comes to frozen Margherita pizzas.

The problem - and it is a big problem - is the crust. It is flavorless, which is the rule rather than exception with frozen pizza, but the main offense is that it is as dense as any frozen pizza crust I have ever tasted. In order to get to those tasty toppings, you have to bite through a crust that for a moment you fear might break a tooth.

Perhaps the long cooking time makes this crust too hard. Or perhaps their recipe just isn't good.

Home Run Inn offers a variety of "Ultra Thin" frozen pizzas, and I would love to try one. (These toppings on a thin or pliable crust would be a shoo-in for four stars, possibly flirting with five.) But, as I have never seen the Ultra Thin pizzas at Sprouts, I have never seen them anywhere, and a product locator on their website reveals none are available within 100 miles, so I won't get my hopes up.

Home Run Inn nailed the hard part. All they had to do was come up with a crust that didn't suck, and they failed. It's still better than most frozen pizza, but that's a low bar to clear.


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