For the last 40-odd years I have had an occasional craving for Pizza Hut Thin 'N Crispy Pepperoni pizza, for its combination of cracker crust, a peppery sauce, and a generous number of paper-thin pepperoni slices. It persisted even through the negative reviews here on Roadfood and in other culinary discussions. But I have finally kicked my addiction. This after being on the road last week, and coming across a print ad for Pizza Hut that led off with "Awesome, now Awe Inspiring. All new cheese. You've never tasted pizza like this." More about why later. But it brought back reminiscences spanning 2/3 of my life.
Back in 2009, I posted the following about the situation close to home:
"It was the same out on Long Island. Sometime before 1973, a dozen Pizza Huts opened on Long Island. They did not carry the Thin and Crispy pizza popular in other parts of the country, just a deep dish and a knockoff of NY style pizza that was way off the mark. I don't think they were too successful. About 1975, they all closed. Most of the stores were taken over by independent restaurants. You can still recognize some of the buildings, even though they were remodeled. Then in 1980, Pizza Hut started up again on LI. The one in Westbury, which became an independent after the shutdown in 1975 or so, became a Pizza Hut yet again. Since 1980, many of those Pizza Hut restaurants again closed.
Pizza Hut on LI did run plenty of coupons in the newspapers. I think a lot of it was the novelty factor, as NJskeeter wrote. I went for the Thin and Crispy, which I developed a taste for while in the service. The quality control was non-existent; one time they were great, the next time greasy. soggy, and awful. I think they used better cheese and other ingredients back then as well."
I also recall a lot of other things. In the mid-70's you could only get Thin 'N Crispy in areas far away from NYC. I used to frequent PH's in Upstate New York. They used to have a sheeter in the kitchen that rolled out dough they made from powdered ingredients. One Saturday afternoon in Schenectady I ordered a pizza to take with me to a friends house. The place was dead and the only guy in the kitchen was drunk. For some reason he shook loads of salt on the pizza after putting on the sauce. Saltiest pizza I ever had in my life. He also kept bringing me free sodas while I waited for the pie. The next time I went to Schenectady, the sauce was loaded with sugar. Maybe they mixed the sauce back in the stores back then.
The Thin 'N Crispy was always a crap shoot back then. It could be exquisite, or a bomb. They never sold a lot of Thin 'N Crispy in the northeast, so if you got some badly mixed dough or stale dough, it was nasty. I had the best luck in the 80's out in northeast Pennsylvania, or in the heartland. For some reason, the pepperoni often gave me heartburn if I ate it in the evening. I always used to travel with Alka Seltzer Gold.
Back around 1976, I went on a vacation to London. Looking in the telephone book for restaurant listings, I came across a few for Pizza Hut. I went to a listing for one near my hotel about 5 PM. The building had a big Pizza Hut sign on it, but when I walked in, there were only desks and chairs. I walked all over the place until I came across a man who was working late. Asking him where they served the pizza, he said it was the "Head Office" and politely gave me directions to the nearest restaurant. In November 2012, Yum Brands sold off their UK PH restaurants to private equity.
In the mid 80's, PH started putting the (greasy) pepperoni under the cheese. I always had to remember to tell them to put the pepperoni on top of the cheese. Sometimes I had to fight with the employees to get them to do so.
Well, back to the present. The pepperoni pizza I bought last week was lukewarm by the time I got back to my hotel room. It was slightly overbaked, but the cracker crust was about as dry as a passover matzo. I attribute the quick cool-off of the pie to low moisture in the crust and the small amount of cheese on the pie. I didn't notice any change because of the "All New" cheese, but it is hard to tell on a pepperoni pizza. After two slices, I had had enough. I could not overlook anymore what I had learned in the last few months. I had been told by Pizza Hut some years back that the Thin 'N Crispy dough was prepared in a commissary. But wandering over to the dumpsters at various PH's in the last few months led me to determine that the Thin 'N Crispy cracker crusts arrive frozen, much like that crusts in a Palermo's supermarket pizza. Never found a sauce box, but the cheese is that funky frozen pizza cheese from Leprino Foods. The green pepper arrives pre-diced in the frozen state. Still haven't seen a pepperoni box, but a lot of other ingredients arrive frozen. So, I will never get another exquisite pizza again. I can see PH going to frozen pie crusts because they couldn't get those high school kids to make the dough properly. But it now appears they don't pay attention to how long those frozen crusts have been defrosted and they begin to dry out.
Does anyone know exactly when PH went to frozen supermarket-pizza style cracker crusts?
<message edited by David_NYC on Sun, 04/7/13 4:21 PM>