The Big Pizza Pie
Pizza Hut "Big New Yorker"
Back in the day I worked as Blockbuster Video. This is unrelated to food except that, in the same shopping center where I worked there was a Pizza Hunt. I worked there around the time that the Hut put out their limited edition Big New Yorker pie. It was, as the name suggests, an extra large pizza with big, floppy pieces that you could eat "New York" style (i.e., fold it up and eat it like street food). Served with a slightly sweeter sauce and little pepperoni pieces, the Big New Yorker was exceptionally good when it was made right and I got it more time than I care to admit while I worked at that video store. Sitting there, pigging out in the break room. That felt pretty glorious.
Now, I will note that I said, "when it was made right", and that's a key distinction because I had a couple of the pies that weren't made right and the flavor profile was all wrong. To get just the right Big New Yorker you can to get the right amount of that sweet sauce on the pie. Too much and it was overloaded with pizza sauce flavor. Not enough and it was exceptionally bland. Over time I got more bad pies than good and I just stopped getting that pizza altogether. Then it went away and didn't grace the kitchens of Pizza Hut again.
Until now. The Hut recently (as of this writing) brought back the Big New Yorker with the promise of the tasty pie all of us way too old people remember. It was going to have that slightly sweetened sauce, the little pepperonis, and all that. The only question I had was if it could be anywhere near as good as it was when the pie was originally introduced. Could they get the sauce right? Would it be as good as I remembered? It was with trepidation that I ordered up a Big New Yorker for myself and my wife last weekend and sampled the big, floppy slices once more.
The verdict: man, Pizza Hut still can't make this pie right. That's not a dig entirely on the pizza I had from my local Pizza Hut because it was a decent pie. For a Pizza Hut pizza, this Big New Yorker hit the basic notes you expect from any pie. That, however, is the problem: if all you're getting is an extra large version of whatever pie Pizza Hut can normally crank out then you may as well get something else that doesn't have the "this is something special" up-charge attached. And when you're talking about a place that has the Pan Pizza, and that's what they're good at, it's hard to argue with ordering anything else.
For my order I purchased the Big New Yorker, extra large, right from the site. It comes with one topping by default, but I tend to like some accents with my pizza so I went with my usual order: pepperoni, mushrooms, and onions. I find, especially from the Hut, these three toppings work gloriously together and add the right flavor to any of their pies. Because this was the Big New Yorker, though, I went with their recommended "cup pepperonis", the little guys that cook up into little cup shapes in the oven. Order placed, I waited just long enough to drive over and grab my pie from the "no contact" window (which, let's be clear, still requires contact no matter what Pizza Hut says).
Oh, and of note, I also grabbed an order of their cheese sticks as well. My wife loves them, and I've started developing a taste for them as well. Unlike the Big New Yorker, the cheese sticks are thick cuts of dough, basically the Pan Pizza crust just baked into a rectangle and covered in cheese. They're good, and it was nice to have something to contrast against the crust of the Big New Yorker to see how everything stacked up.
After a short drive home, smelling the normal Pizza Hut smells (which are generally quite good), we got the pizza in and took our slices. Feeling the pie, the Big New Yorker is basically just an extra large "hand tossed", thinner than the Pan but not so thin that it gets crispy when cooked. It has a nice softness to it, a proper chew for its level of thickness. I prefer soft to crunchy crust, so this was a win in my books, for sure.
With that said, the flavor profile of the pizza was totally off. While it seemed like it had enough sauce the flavor wasn't anything special. I didn't detect the sweeter notes I remembered (the same notes Pizza Hut talks up in their ads about this pizza). It just tasted like Pizza Hut sauce. Now, in fairness, my wife did detect sweeter tones, and she noted it while we did our taste test, but they were completely obscured to me, and I think I know why: the default toppings on the pizza throw off the sweetness.
The first issue is this cup pepperonis. They're very greasy, and salty, and their flavor is hard to miss. They add a lot of salt to the pie, which doesn't help the sweetness at all. But then Pizza Hut also puts a seasoning blend on top of the pie as well. It looks like a lot of pepper but it tasted like even more salt. It wasn't so much salt that I didn't want to eat my pizza, it was a proper savory amount of seasoning, but when you're there for a specific sauce you don't want that main show covered up by all the other seasoning.
This led me to realize something pretty dire for this pizza: as decent as it was, there was nothing inherently special about it. With the cup pepperoni and seasoning blend it tasted just like every other Pizza Hut pizza I'd had. Worse, because it tastes like all their other pizzas I realized I was missing a key ingredient in the mix: the pan crust. Pizza Hut makes middling pizza in general, but their pan crust elevates it. That Pan Pizza crust takes it to another level, something I find I crave every few weeks or so. If I am going to get a pizza from Pizza Hut and have it taste like "the default pizza" then I want that crust I love under it to make it special. The Big New Yorker is fine but the way it's made now isn't special.
Maybe this was a flaw with the Hut I went to. Maybe they over-seasoned it, or didn't put on the right amount of sauce. If that's the case it gets back to the issue I had with this pizza two-and-a-half decades ago: it's so hard to make it right that it's hard to get that special slice each time. Either this is the way this pizza is supposed to taste now or Pizza Hut just can't get it right. Either way, this is a ho-hum pizza not worth the price of admission. If you're going to Pizza Hut you may as well get the Pan Pizza because it delivers more bang for your buck.