At the start of every new year, in the dead of winter, I promise myself that I will fill my house with nutritious foods; I eat turnips and dark greens and ultra-garlicky cauliflower, all of which are delicious and make me think that a virtuous life of vegetables lies ahead. Then I learn that Pizza Hut went ahead and decided to put fried cheese on its pizza crust, and the next thing I know I’m sitting next to a dumpster in a Pizza Hut parking lot holding a piping hot box and a two-liter bottle of Diet Pepsi at 11 in the morning.
The good news is that the new Mozzarella Poppers Pizza was not that tasty. Good news for me, at least; I suppose it’s not great for Pizza Hut. I doubt that Pizza Hut would be surprised by this appraisal, though, as it seems to have put as little thought and imagination as possible into this limited-time offering. Have you ever seen the kind of stuff that Pizza Hut makes in Asia and the Middle East? It’s out there making pizzas with cheeseburger crusts, it’s serving afternoon tea with chicken wings on chocolate waffles, it’s making three-foot-long pies called Pizza Limos, it’s making whatever the hell this is, which I want in my bedroom immediately. But in America, all we get are fried squares of cheese product smooshed onto the crust. They’re not even attached—they’re just smooshed into little indents along the edge and can effortlessly be plucked off and eaten independently, as if they never really mattered all that much to the pizza. That is just depressing, especially when you’re sitting next to a dumpster at 11 in the morning.
Each slice of pizza has two mozzarella poppers stuck to its crust, which I initially decided to pick off and taste independent of the pie. There is a chance that you’re already familiar with their flavor if you’ve ever had to eat a spectacularly disappointing mozzarella stick in a public school cafeteria or at Burger King. The cheese tastes starchy and gritty, two things that are completely antithetical to everything melty cheese stands for. It does pull slightly, but not in the way cheese should pull. Textually it reminds me very much of Play-Doh, which I have eaten before on a dare.
The breading surrounding the mozzarella bites was worse than the cheese, and in a fun surprise, it was not fried, which is fantastic news for those of you still sticking to your New Year’s resolutions. Though I did not get a sneak peek into the Pizza Hut kitchen, as someone with many years of food service experience, I can say with near certainty that the poppers come frozen in a bag and are meant to be fried, but instead, they were thawed, thrown onto a pizza, and baked, a mere shadow of what they could have been.
After sampling the mozzarella poppers on their own, I then ate two slices of pizza in two different ways in an attempt to figure out what, exactly, is the correct method for eating it. In the first round, I took the poppers off the crust, placed them on the center of the slice, then folded the slice in half and ate as normal. This was a poor decision. When you’re eating the poppers on their own, you know they’re terrible, but you can accept their overall terribleness the same way you can accept Papa John’s pizza as a garlic sauce delivery system or accept Hot Pockets as the very best offering at many gas stations. But when you put those same mozzarella poppers on top of a pizza covered in properly melted shredded cheese, it’s impossible not to fixate on the shortcomings. This isn’t “so bad it’s good.” It’s just plain bad.
The second slice I ate just as it was: pizza first, crust last. This was similarly disappointing, as the pizza itself was pretty okay. The problem is that while you’re chowing down, you’re getting yourself stoked for those final bites of cheesy, greasy bliss, but once you finally get there, you find nothing but heartbreak. You feel like an idiot for getting into your car and driving to Pizza Hut at 11 in the morning, hoping that something truly special was going to happen to you that day. Instead, it was a middling pizza for a middling day, and frankly, I’m quite tired of middling days. I want a pizza that elevates my life, or at least makes me yearn to eat pizza the wrong way. And the Pizza Hut Mozzarella Poppers Pizza just ain’t it.