Last year, as the first lockdown forced Ali Khan Lalani to close General Assembly Pizza’s dining room on King West, Toronto, he had a light-bulb moment. Six months later, the idea materialized. Lalani launched the world’s first pizza subscription service. A stack of four, six, eight or 10 pizzas, starting at $39, will arrive at your doorstep every four weeks, ready to be baked. The response was encouraging, and the service has expanded to subscribers in other areas outside the GTA, including Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph.
Before the pandemic, General Assembly was (and still is) a local favorite, where diners can expect Neapolitan-style pizzas freshly pulled from the blazing wood-fire oven with its blistered thin crust and bubbling sauce. Can these pies, now coming to consumers in a frozen form and baked in a home oven, bring them the same satisfaction?
Let’s find out with Culture!
The sign-up process was quick and seamless. There were nine varieties to choose from, including four vegetarian and two vegan options with plant-based cheese. The pizza costs about $9 – $9.75 each.
Depending on your appetite, you might want to start with a four-stack subscription before moving up to six or eight pizzas a month. You can also select which day of the week you want the pizzas to be delivered.
Each 10-inch pizza was vacuum-sealed, so it occupied little freezer space. Because the pie was par-baked, the package said it only needed about five to seven minutes in a pre-heated oven at 475 degrees Fahrenheit. For extra crispy toppings, you can add one more minute under the broiler.
I started with the classic Mila Margherita, with fresh mozzarella, parmesan, and basil on a bed of tomato sauce.
In fear of setting off the smoke detector, I did not crank my oven up all the way to the suggested temperature but baked the pizza at 435 degrees Fahrenheit for seven minutes. Then I broiled it for another minute.
While my pie did not have the alluring charred spots, the edge was still crispy, and the crust had a distinct chewy sourdough texture (all General Assembly pizzas are naturally leavened.) The amount of sauce was just right (no soggy bottom), and the basil retained its aroma (I would have liked a little bit more, though.) If you have a dodgy oven like mine, I suggest you keep a close eye on the pizza at the five-minute mark and decide if it needs more time or not before leaving it on broiler mode.
We’re more than a year into the pandemic and cooking can sometimes be a dreadful chore. On those days, a pizza in the freezer that can be turned into dinner in less than 30 minutes is a savior. The experience is not going to replace the ambience in a busy dining room with people chattering and utensils clinking, but I’ll take it for now.
General Assembly’s pizzas are also available at select grocers and retailers across Ontario. Head over to gapizza.com for the complete list.
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