Friday, April 24, 2020

Ultimato's Cheese Calzone (Aldi)

These should be available all the time.
Aaaah, the calzone, that wonderful breaded concoction that no one ever seems to talk about or actually eat. I dunno, maybe it's just where I grew up, but I never even tried one until a few year's back, and I still can't bring myself to actually order one from a pizza place, because they have, you know...pizza. And who would rather have a calzone than a pizza? Hell, I don't even think I've ever seen anyone else eat one, no matter where I've been...it's almost like the redheaded stepchild of the pizza industry.

Recently, however, I have been indulging a bit more in Mama Cozzi's calzones, which are fairly inexpensive, semi-filling, and tasty as a quick bite when no one feels like making anything. However, as I noted in those reviews, they are lacking a noticeable amount of pizza sauce inside, making them somewhat bland if you don't happen to have a dipping sauce nearby. And that's when I saw the weekly ad that proudly displayed this massively overlarge calzone (at least, in comparison to their typical offerings), just in time for the Super Bowl; I immediately knew I had to have it.

This thing is pretty massive, and probably more in line with the size of a typical calzone when ordered out. I baked it for about twenty minutes in the oven (per the instructions) and it came out just perfect, with an almost fluffy dough that wasn't too soft or too hard—perfect texture. The cheese is ridiculously stringy and falls all over the place when cut open, making it deliciously inviting. The packaging touts that it's “restaurant quality”, and judging from first appearances, that's an accurate way to describe it, both in size and texture.

Diving in, I quickly hesitated when I saw loads of red stuff on the inside; I seriously had to double check the packaging to make sure I didn't get pepperoni. As it turns out, of course, it's pizza sauce, but considering Aldi's typical calzones have next to none, I wasn't expecting much here. I'm not even sure if typical calzones are supposed to have any, considering Aldi's usual ones barely have any at all, but this comes loaded with a heaping helping of the tomato-based sauce, which certainly helps to keep the bread from becoming too dry. So as you can probably tell, at least for me, this was certainly a welcome addition.

Tastewise, yeah...this is excellent. The pizza sauce isn't really a stand-out sauce, but it doesn't have to be, delivering a solid amount of tomato flavor that goes well with the breading and delicious, stringy cheese. Even the bread is good on its own, featuring a mix of spices that make it edible, with no dipping sauces required (although I would always still recommend it). Honestly, after having gotten a taste of these, it not only makes me respect calzones a lot more, but also makes me wonder how I can go back to the puny Mama Cozzi's ones that I've been enjoying for a little while now. And at $4.99 per monstrous calzone, the value certainly beats going to a restaurant! The biggest drawback is that these are only a special buy; one can only hope they (or a private label version of them) will be available as part of their permanent inventory at some point in the (hopefully) near future.

Overall: 9/10. As far as Aldi's calzones go, the $4.99 price tag on this one might seem to put it in more of a “premium” category...but it's three times the size of their typical calzones, while serving up ten times as much flavor! It cooks up large and surprisingly fluffy for a store-bought calzone, while the flavor comes way closer to matching the “restaurant quality” it (rather curiously) boasts about on its packaging than one would expect. Especially within that context, with most pizza shops offering calzones for upwards of $10, that makes the price tag on this one all the more enticing. The biggest drawback is that this is only a special buy, and one that exhausted itself pretty quickly at our store...only time will tell if it becomes a constant fixture on Aldi's take and bake menu, which is where it should be.

RANDOM SIDE NOTE: It's worth noting that this product technically doesn't seem to be an Aldi-exclusive, nor an Aldi private label brand. However, despite being made by Festive Foods, the company responsible for Gino's Deep Dish frozen pizzas, these also don't seem to be widely available anywhere, with very scant traces of it mentioned online (and virtually all paths leading back to Aldi), hence the reason it's covered here.

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