I Paid: $7.59 for a 24.2-ounce pizza (prices may vary by region)
With a new “rising crust” option, California Pizza Kitchen offers the possibility of kicking the frozen pizza experience up from the lovably wretched to the actually palatable. I pitted the new self-rising BBQ Recipe Chicken pizza (which comes topped with mozzarella, smoked Gouda, chicken, barbecue sauce, and red onions) against CPK’s identically topped regular version. The self-rising product (which has partially raw dough that actually bakes and rises, rather than simply reheating) requires an extra few minutes of oven time, but in return you get a soft, chewy, flavorful crust that cradles the cheese and sauce, and far more fully integrates with the pie as a whole. By contrast, the regular thin crust is a cracker, a mere disposable platform for the toppings.
If you’ve ever been to a real pizzeria, you’re not going to be confused by the self-rising CPK pie; it lacks both the flavor and the rich, crispy-chewy texture that distinguishes a truly great pizza. But that said, it’s a step ahead of its nonrising brethren and other conventional frozen choices (Tombstone, for example). For the truly lazy man or woman on Super Bowl Sunday, this may be the magic bullet. And there’s no harm in doubling up on the four essential food groups by preparing some Chili-Cheese Nachos, too.