There’s never a bad time to take down a little ‘za. We know that. You know that. Do you know who else is privy to this vital information? The people who run a little establishment called Pizza Hut. Ever heard of it? Yea, we thought so. It’s not easy to cement yourself as one of the leading pizza-slinging eateries throughout the world, but then again, if it were easy, Pizza Hut wouldn’t stand as tall as it does.
Let’s be honest: There are people out there who love pizza but consider the stuff the Hut serves to act more as "fast food" pizza. Not the real thing you get at those small — but super authentic — pizzerias in the city. However, one thing the Hut does do is keep a huge variety of items on their menu, and Hut-heads everywhere have their go-to favorite. That is, until the powers above do away with something and replace it with the next hot product that’ll (hopefully) keep people coming back for months.
It’s hard to know which item will face the eventual menu chopping block, but whatever it is, you can be sure a whole group of people go into mourning over their now-obsolete Pizza Hut pleasure. Over the years there were some pretty awesome ideas eventually beckoned by the Hut’s culinary Grim Reaper, and boy do we miss them.
Sicilian Lasagna Pizza
Wait a minute… You can actually make a slice of Sicilian pizza infinitely better? When the world thought the answer to that question was a resounding "No!," Pizza Hut took a lesson from their buddy Taco Bell and thought outside the bun (or, in their case, crust). They knew people loved both lasagna and pizza, but a person orders either one or the other for a meal (unless you’re Joey Chestnut, of course). Pizza Hut wanted to give customers both experiences in one order, so they created the Sicilian Lasagna Pizza, and it was every bit as decadent as you can imagine. It was advertised as "limited time only," so once people saw the ads they knew they had to pounce quickly or be banished to the dreaded "Land of Those Who Missed Out."
Pizza Hut had an interesting way of creating this dish. First of all, it was not simply a lasagna thrown on top of pizza crust, but it’s easy to see why people would think so. It was noodle-less, which is very unlike lasagna. Pizza Hut didn’t make a mistake with its lasagna, though, and made sure to include ricotta cheese, a completely new ingredient for the chain. Then, like lasagna, ground beef, parmesan cheese, and zesty marinara sauce were also layered onto a square Sicilian crust. It was rich and hearty, similar to Chicago’s deep-dish pizzas. It’s just too bad the world may never see it again.
If there’s one thing Americans crave, it’s more, more, more. They want more for their money. The bigger the better. Especially when it comes to food. Why pay 100 bucks for a luxuriously decadent, but unsatisfyingly small-portioned, meal when you can shell out ten measly bucks at any fast food locale and leave with ten double-stacked burgers. You can always count on Pizza Hut to keep its ear to the ground when it comes to what the public wants, and they know customers want more. So, at one point they served up the Panormous Pizza to satisfy any unquenchable pizza cravings. Let’s just say they got it right. It was a whole lot more.
With 16 slices and the claim it was 40 percent larger than any other pizza they ever offered, it was an ideal choice if you had multiple people snagging slices. Now, while the name "Panormous" was new, the pizza itself wasn’t any different than simply ordering two large pan pizza-crusted pies. So, if you liked the Hut’s pizza, you were gonna feel just fine with the Panormous. Plus, customers were offered two extra toppings to spice things up. However, the Hut eventually decided enough was enough and did away with the behemoth.
The Big Italy
The name here didn’t hold back. You knew exactly what you were getting into when you ordered it. At almost two feet long, yea, it’s safe to say it warranted the word "big" in its name. Customers could get it with up to three toppings and only had to fork over 12 bucks to take it home. Pizza Hut bragged it was made with a unique blend of special Italian spices to give that authentic feel of the beautiful country.
Spices aside, the perk of The Big Italy was the chance to mix and match three different toppings, so customers had hundreds of different combinations to create. Carnivores could pile on three different types of meat, vegetarians could indulge in their daily serving of veggies, and those who loved the sweet-and-salty flavor combo of Hawaiin pizza were covered as well. It was great for hungry patrons torn between topping options.
Unfortunately, the time came when The Big Italy changed its name to "The Obsolete Italy," and now it forever remains in the hearts of those who were lucky enough to snag a slice or two while it was available.
Tuscani Premium Bacon Mac n’ Cheese
For the longest time, Pizza Hut was severely lacking in the pasta game. But, at one point, they attempted to step up their hustle by releasing a line of pasta dishes known as their "Tuscani Pastas," and they were a brave dive into a world the Hut previously kept both feet away from. Customers initially had a choice between Meaty Marinara or Creamy Chicken Alfredo, but then the option of Premium Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese was added, and people just had to try it.
There are some who firmly believe Pizza Hut can do no wrong, and they hopped on board the Tuscani train immediately with great delight. However, it seemed not everyone was as stoked with the Bacon Mac n’ Cheese attempt. One disgruntled customer described the now banished dish in pretty haggard detail: "If you can imagine unseasoned al dente rotini with a cheese sauce that tasted like it consisted of a bunch of melted Kraft singles and milk. No crusty cheese topping, which I thought would be on something marketed as ‘premium.’" Yikes.
Hey, you can’t please them all, and even though some people weren’t keen on the attempt, there were likely many others who finished it with smiles on their faces.
Twisted Crust Pizza
When companies are struggling to come up with a new product, many try to take an existing item and change it up a bit. Put a spin on something successful in hopes to entice new customers and retain existing ones. Pizza Hut is no different, and seeing as they hold down the number one spot when it comes to the number of locations out of any other pizza chain establishment, they also added a twist to their menu. Twisted crust to be exact.
Even though there weren’t any new ingredients in the Twisted Crust Pizza, the concept was unique. Basically the outer edge of the crust surrounding the pie had an additional ring of breadsticks baked on top of it that was easily removable. Dipping sauces were provided with each order so customers were getting a pizza and an order of detachable breadsticks in one pie. It was a great option if you were the kind of person who loved to go heavy on the carbs, which, nowadays, is a quickly declining number. However, there’s a certain pleasure found in dippable finger foods, and that’s exactly what this item gave everyone. With both marinara and melted cheddar cheese dipping sauces provided, it was easy to convince yourself to stop counting those pesky carbohydrates for a night.
Subway has a pretty good stranglehold on the sub market. It takes a ballsy move to attempt to disrupt the subway sandwich playing field with a competitor so popular, but Pizza Hut ain’t afraid of no one. The Hut proved it when they launched the P’Zolos, three different pizza dough-wrapped sandwiches. They were confident once customers caught wind they were navigating the sandwich landscape with vigor, they would reroute their MapQuest directions (remember MapQuest? Anyone?) to the closest Hut instead of Subway. At three bucks a pop — and five bucks for a choice of two — why wouldn’t they?
Pizza Hut CMO Kurt Kane spoke about the inspiration behind the creations: "At Pizza Hut we’re known for constantly dreaming up great new flavor experiences on behalf of our consumers. When we took a look at the sub category we decided consumers needed us to bring this same approach to that space. We think people are quickly going to see they can get a lot more for their $5 with the new P’Zolo. It’s more than a sandwich. It’s a new flavor creation that is leaving the sub category behind."
Pizza Hut was so enthusiastic about the sandwiches they actually took over two subway cars on Chicago’s Red Line for the marketing campaign, with employees handing out free P’Zolos at various stops along the way. Unfortunately, the Meat Trio, Italian Steak, and Buffalo Chicken P’Zolos just weren’t strong enough to topple the almighty Subway empire.
The only acceptable response to hearing the words "taco pizza" is "yes, please!" How could anyone look the other way when faced with the amazingness of a taco plopped onto a slice of pizza? Well, in 1979, Pizza Hut introduced customers to exactly that, and it looked simply awesome. No longer did one make a trip to Taco Bell and Pizza Hut when a craving for both foods hit. Pizza Hut had both bases covered.
All of the delicious fixings of a taco — lettuce, diced tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, and ground beef — were included. Ever take a bite out of a taco shell only to have half of the innards spill out the other side? Well, eating it on a triangular disc of dough alleviated nearly all of that worry (unless, of course, you were just a sloppy glutton).
It’s easy to assume the idea was generated so people would steer clear of Taco Bell and, instead, think of Pizza Hut when a burning desire for Mexican cuisine struck. Seeing as the option no longer exists, it’s safe to say when it comes to tacos, the Bell still reigns supreme.
When describing pizza, no one would ever throw around the adjective "light." It’s marinara sauce sandwiched between dough and a thick layer of melted cheese. When Pizza Hut rolled out the Priazzo in 1985, however, people were introduced to a whole new meaning of "heavy indulgence." You’d eat one slice of it and scratch everything off your to-do list that day. The only thing you had time for was a nap afterward. It was a whopping mouthful of so many ingredients it made your head spin, but that was exactly what Pizza Hut wanted.
First of all, there were two layers of dough. That’s right, it was basically a plain cheese pizza cooked right on top of another pizza, and the inside was a metropolis of meats, veggies, and a full pound of cheese. Customers had three Priazzo options: the Roma (pepperoni, Italian sausage, pork, onions, and mushrooms), the Milano (everything in the Roma, bacon, and beef, but no mushrooms or onions), or the Florentine (spinach, ham, and five kinds of cheese). Although people enjoyed the flavor, these things sat in their stomachs like blocks of cement. In fact, an accomplished cooking instructor named Evelyne Slomon refused an offer to endorse them, stating no real Italian would dare shove such an obnoxious amount of meat into their pizzas.
The Priazzos’ demise eventually occurred in 1993. Even though some were sad to see them go, their cholesterol levels certainly weren’t.
Even if you’re not trying to order more starch with a meal, sometimes it’s tough to turn down a freshly fried batch of tater tots. You can throw them back like popcorn, and the warm center is a fantastic prize after crunching through the golden brown outer shell. A batch of tots hits the spot, and that’s why Pizza Hut launched their own line they called "Quepapas" at limited locations.
While most tater tots are strictly little nuggets of potato sent to bathe in a deep fryer for a few minutes, Pizza Hut put a spin on theirs, wanting to differentiate between plain boring tots and ones with a bit of pizzazz so customers were more than willing to add an order of them to their bill. They added a bit of cheese sauce inside each one for a creamy texture, as well as a hint of jalapeno flavor for a little kick (although one review stated the jalapeno flavor was barely noticeable). It’s likely the golden morsels were enjoyable, but as we know, good things can’t last forever, and Pizza Hut eventually moved in a different direction.
This particular product was interesting because it was cloaked in mystery and overall sort of redundant. In a bold attempt to join the wave of healthy eating many places were adopting, Pizza Hut announced a pie called "The Natural," which had a multigrain crust sweetened with honey. At the same time, former president Scott Bergren said the brand was "redefining quality in the pizza category" by doing away with "high fructose corn syrup, artificial preservatives, nitrites, and beef fillers." Y’know, the cheap stuff fast food is made of. Instead, Pizza Hut claimed to incorporate "vine-ripened tomatoes, Rustica sausage, and fire-roasted red peppers." So wouldn’t this make all of Pizza Hut’s pies more natural? Regardless, few people ever got a chance to experience The Natural.
It seemed like The Natural hit the menu as quickly as it disappeared. Of course, the artificial ingredients Pizza Hut used prior to its launch were far more cost-effective, so there’s a good chance upper management navigated back down the money-saving route, which led to The Natural’s inevitable demise. Will we ever receive real confirmation from Pizza Hut as to The Natural’s fate? Not likely, which makes this mystery all the more interesting.
The "Bag Bag"
No, there was never a pizza called the "Bag Bag." This non-edible item was one of Pizza Hut’s more random ideas they offered customers who ordered any medium or large pie. For an extra dollar, people could leave with a red branded gym bag. Kinda odd, right? It wasn’t in the shape of a pizza box either, so it’s not like people could carry leftovers out in it.
The commercial Pizza Hut aired was pretty outlandish. It featured a bunch of customers dancing like enthused maniacs over the sheer excitement the bag offered. A catchy jingle accompanied the dance moves, and you better believe the people not cutting up rugs were still grooving with those who were. As the commercial proudly stated at the end, you could get the Bag Bag for just a "buck buck." Cleverness clearly wasn’t prevalent in the boardroom during that particular brainstorm.
What the bag was good for was to carry gym clothes, so after a huge Pizza Hut feast people could head straight to the closest gym and burn off all the calories they just inhaled. Good thinking, Pizza Hut.
"You better not be alone" when you order this pizza stated the Hut’s 1993 commercial. Five pretty ominous words for a chain restaurant, but it certainly grabbed people’s attention. Diving into the landscape of cryptozoology is risky, but Pizza Hut knew how to market this new pie: Start the commercial in a foggy forest full of gnarled unsettling trees followed by a slew of eyewitnesses (keep an eye out for a super young Haley Joel Osment long before he saw dead people) fearfully describing something big. The Hut was clearly parodying the mystery surrounding everyone’s favorite elusive ape-like creature.
This marketing campaign was in response to Little Caesars coming out with their "Big! Big! Cheese," two large pizzas with pepperoni for under 10 bucks. Customers flocked in droves for the double deal, so Pizza Hut responded quickly and efficiently. Garnering attention by using the name "Bigfoot" and dumping $4 million into a branded blimp (that accidentally crashed into a Manhattan apartment building. Whoops!), they dropped a 12-inch-by-24-inch pie bigger than both large Caesars pizzas combined for $10.99. People everywhere soon sang to the tune of Bigfoot (it didn’t hurt that later promotions included a free HBO trial). And you bet they weren’t alone when it arrived.