You could say not-your-average frozen ‘za is having something of a moment™️ here in the Twin Cities.
In September, star chef Doug Flicker’s collaboration with Heggies hit freezers throughout the region, satisfying your late-night cheese-n-grease cravings with James Beard Award-nominated flair.
And owner Tim Niver is obviously stoked.
In fact, ask him about introducing Mucci's Frozen, and within seconds he's musing on how soon they'll be able to sell across state lines or what other frozen options they should debut. (The answers: pretty much immediately, once production ramps up; frozen lasagna, sauce, and meatballs are on the way.)
Niver's wanted to do something like this for a while, to get his hands greasy with a project that was bigger than the four walls of a restaurant. To try something scalable, something that let him go to the people rather than the other way around.
Also, the guy eats a lot of frozen pizza.
“I’ve eaten every frozen pizza -- absolutely every freaking frozen pizza," he laughs. "I know what I’m competing against.” And he's competitive as all get-out: "If Mucci's isn't the best pizza now, it certainly will be."
By that, Niver's referring to the fact that he and his cooks are tweaking the formula on a pretty regular basis. Mucci's Frozen is made with the exact same ingredients as Mucci's thawed, but getting the ratios just right has been tricky. The meatball, for example? Niver thinks there's almost too much meatball on there right now. (Not the worst problem, if we're being honest.)
And they certainly don't have the consistency of a massive-scale production -- your Tombstones, your DiGiornos. "I jokingly call them snowflakes -- they all come out a little bit differently,” Niver notes. So every week, they're frying new sample crusts to see how different temperatures and storage methods can make the best pizza possible. “I’m like, okay, we can do better than this, and here’s what I think we’ll try. It's a sincere effort at a minimum."
It's also a pretty nontraditional way of doing things -- and a whole lot of fun for Niver, who doesn't usually get to spend his time behind the fryer.
Mucci's pizzas are currently on sale at seven Kowalski's locations: Eagan, Hennepin, Oak Park Heights, Excelsior, Woodbury, Eden Prairie, and Grand Avenue. More are on the way.
Now, before you raid the freezers and pick up one or ten (are you already grabbing your car keys?), you should know that these won't have that fresh-from-the-kitchen, day-of, homemade feeling you get when you visit the St. Paul restaurant.
“There’s no way when you open up this pizza -- it doesn’t look like the others," Niver says. "It’s still frozen pizza, okay? But my mom always made sauce and put some in the freezer. This is how real families eat. Convenience has to be involved.”