If you grew up anywhere near a Pizza Hut in the United States at any time after 1985, there’s a decent chance you have fond memories of the majestic Personal Pan Pizza, the prize awaiting any youngster who achieves their monthly reading goal in the Book It! program. But the single-serving PPP, a massive seller for Pizza Hut even for people who weren’t devouring each and every Judy Blume book in hopes of earning a free pie, was not the only menu innovation Pizza Hut rolled out in the early/mid-’80s, as this terrific deep-dive from Mental Floss helpfully reminds us. Behold: Priazzo Italian Pies.
Part of what makes Jake Rossen’s story for MF such an engaging read is the matter-of-fact way he captures the confidence and enthusiasm of those responsible for inventing this behemoth, a pie-like structure created to emulate the deep dish pizza experience for those without easy access to Chicago staples like Giordano’s. (As a Chicagoan I am now legally required to point out that the truest Chicago-style pizza is a thin crust tavern-style pizza.) The easiest way to describe the general vibe Rossen captures is to say that it projects major “depressed Ben Wyatt energy,” something that mirrors that noble Parks And Recreation character’s desire to launch the Lo-Cal Calzone Zone.
Now, the Priazzo—a nonsense word invented by a marketing guy—is not a calzone. It’s this:
The Priazzo was unlike any pizza Americans had ever come across. With two layers of dough, pepperoni, mushroom, onions, spinach, ham, bacon, tomatoes, and one full pound of cheese, Pizza Hut called it a pie; others called it a strange alchemy of pizza, quiche, and lasagna...
There was the Roma, which had a mix of meat (pepperoni, Italian sausage, and pork) along with mozzarella and the very non-Italian cheddar cheese, plus onions and mushrooms; the Milano had all the meat of the Roma plus beef and bacon, mozzarella and cheddar on top, but no mushrooms or onions; and the gut-busting Florentine, which featured spinach, ham, and five different kinds of cheese, including ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, romano, and cheddar. (A fourth pie, the vegetarian Napoli, was added later.)
All the pies were stuffed with ingredients and then had a layer of dough with tomato sauce and cheese baked on top.
As a devoted Book It! participant who grew up in a town where the Pizza Hut was absolutely the fanciest joint around, it’s surprising to me that I don’t remember this Franken-pie, which stuck around until the early ’90s. Regardless, its disappearance seems like it could be a useful lesson for the fast food industry, whose relentless pursuit of ridiculously out-of-wheelhouse meals designed to drive sales and buzz can be, frankly, exhausting.
Anyway, it’s a good story. Give it your clicks.