Tombstone The Primo Tavern-Style Pizza: A Meaty Pizza With Faint Veggie Highlights

Tombstone 'The Primo' Tavern Style Pizza
Tombstone 'The Primo' Tavern Style Pizza - Becki Robins / Mashed

Pizza has got a lot of styles, some traditional, some not-so-traditional, with an infinite variety of twists unique to the restaurants, home cooks, and frozen pizza manufacturers that make and serve them. There's New York-style pizza, California-style pizza, Sicilian-style pizza, and that strange concoction topped with spaghetti sauce and hamburger crumbles that my mom used to call "pizza." There is also "tavern-style pizza," which is Chicago's departure from its traditional deep-dish pizza and the style of the latest line of Tombstone frozen pizzas.

Tombstone Pizza has tavern roots, in fact, the name comes from the Tombstone Tap, a bar once located across the street from a Wisconsin graveyard. (Get it? Tombstone?) Tombstone Tap was making pizzas for its patrons way back in 1962, and by 1966 the pizzas were so popular that the owner decided to convert his bar into a pizza factory. So, the new "tavern-style" pizzas are not only based on the tavern-style pizza made famous in Chicago pizzerias, they're also a nod to the brand's origins — though it's probably safe to say that "tavern-style" meant something different in 1960s Wisconsin than it does today.

Tombstone's new pizzas are only available in select locations. Fortunately, I got "The Primo" variety in the mail (the company doesn't yet have the samples of a second variety called "Let's Meat Up"), so I can let you know whether you should be waiting with bated breath for them to arrive at a store near you.

Read more: Frozen Pizzas, Ranked From Worst To Best

What's On The Primo Tavern-Style Pizza?

Tombstone 'The Primo' Tavern Style Pizza in the oven
Tombstone 'The Primo' Tavern Style Pizza in the oven - Becki Robins / Mashed

Personally, my favorite pizza is mushroom and black olive, and I've been waiting rather a long time for someone to come out with the frozen version. (Hurry up, please.) I guess maybe my enthusiasm for these particular toppings isn't shared by the masses, but it is pretty nice to see manufacturers adding veggies to their pizzas because not every American is vegetable averse, and some of us like a little something more than just meat, meat, meat, or the usual consolation prize, cheese.

Now, the Primo pizza isn't going to satisfy vegetarians, obviously, but it will satisfy those of us who are trying to eat a more balanced diet (I bet I'm the first person in the world to use the words "pizza" and "balanced diet" in the same sentence). This is a thin-crust pizza topped with pepperoni, sausage, red onions, and (my personal favorite) banana peppers. The cheese is a typical mozzarella, though Parmesan is also listed way, way down in the ingredient list along with stuff like palm oil and degerminated white cornmeal, you know, the ingredients you don't taste and don't know are there. (Did you ever bite into a pizza and think to yourself, "Hmm, needs more degerminated white cornmeal?" Didn't think so.) There's also some pretty standard tomato sauce; in a press release, Tombstone described it as "zesty," which I guess all tomato sauces are, though tomato paste appears to be the primary ingredient.

Price And Availability Of The Primo Tavern-Style Pizza

Tombstone 'The Primo' Tavern Style Pizza just out of the oven
Tombstone 'The Primo' Tavern Style Pizza just out of the oven - Becki Robins / Mashed

This is a pretty new line of products, and it might be hard to find for a couple of months. According to a Tombstone press release published on April 3, both The Primo and the Let's Meat Up varieties will be available "at select retailers starting this month." So, if you're in a big city you might get lucky, but I personally could not find any mention of them on any of the online grocery delivery services I searched, so I can't say for sure which big city might have them right now. Take heart, though, because Tombstone's press release promises these pizzas will be available nationwide in July — just in time for it to be too hot to turn on your oven.

The suggested MSRP for Tombstone's Tavern-Style pizzas is $6.99, although we all know some of us get to pay more than others based on where we live and what stores we shop at. Since Tombstone doesn't actually list the MSRPs of its other pizzas on its website, I can't really say how this price compares to the Tombstone pizzas you usually buy, which seem to range in price from around $4.99 all the way up to $7.99. If I had to guess, the Tavern-style pizzas will probably be a bit more pricey than Tombstone's other products.

How Does The Primo Tavern-Style Pizza Compare To Other Popular Tombstone Pizzas?

A slice of Tombstone 'The Primo' Tavern Style Pizza
A slice of Tombstone 'The Primo' Tavern Style Pizza - Becki Robins / Mashed

Tombstone is a little more daring than other pizza brands, which seem to stick with pizza toppings that are already proven fan favorites, like pepperoni (yawn) and cheese (double yawn). Tombstone's regular line of pizzas includes some much more interesting varieties, like chipotle chicken and Canadian bacon ... it even has a sausage and mushroom pizza which is halfway to my favorite  (mushroom and olive), and a lot closer than any other manufacturer has ever gotten. It also has a thin crust "Supreme" pizza that has the olives but not the mushrooms, plus pepperoni, sausage, onions, and peppers. That one is probably the closest existing variety to the Primo Tavern-Style pizza I tried.

So, here's where I scratch my head a little ... aside from the absence of olives, I can't really find the line between the Primo Tavern-Style pizza and the Thin-Crust Supreme. A Chicago tavern-style pizza typically has a thin crust with sauce and cheese covering the whole thing, leaving no bare crust to help keep your fingers clean. It's often topped with extra-spicy toppings like traditional Italian sausage and pickled vegetables. This pizza does have the thin crust, sausage, and peppers, but it does not have the edge-to-edge sauce. More importantly, though, the Supreme pizza has sausage and peppers, too, so I'm not sure how this is the "all-new take" the press release says it is.

What's The Nutritional Value?

Tombstone 'The Primo' Tavern Style Pizza
Tombstone 'The Primo' Tavern Style Pizza - Becki Robins / Mashed

My sample pizza did not say anything about calories, fat, or protein, much to the dismay of my older daughter. It did say, "Do not eat pizza without cooking," but fortunately, this was information I was already aware of. (Do people actually eat frozen pizza without cooking it first or are Tombstone's lawyers just afraid of the very remote possibility that someone will sue for breaking their teeth on a fresh-from-the-freezer Tavern-Style pizza?)

Anyway, Tombstone's website did have product listings for the Tavern-Style pizzas, complete with nutritional facts, which offered no real surprises. Like all pizza, the Primo Tavern-Style pizza is not health food. One serving (about ¼ of a pizza) delivers 330 calories and 16 grams of fat (eight of which are saturated).

If you limit yourself to just that one serving, you'll also consume about 10% of your daily recommended cholesterol and 35% of your daily recommended sodium. There are also 31 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of sugar. If you want to pretend like you're eating healthy, you can count 15 grams of protein, 250 milligrams of calcium, and 2.3 milligrams of iron. There is a smattering of other nutrients, too, but not really enough that you can skip your daily multivitamin. If it makes you feel better, serve your pizza with a Caesar salad, and then at least you can say you're also getting your leafy greens.

The Verdict: How Did It Taste?

Tombstone 'The Primo' Tavern Style Pizza
Tombstone 'The Primo' Tavern Style Pizza - Becki Robins / Mashed

Evidently, Chicago tavern-style pizza is supposed to be cut into squares instead of triangles ... oops. I hope I haven't offended the pizza gods. I'm pretty sure the shape of the slices doesn't have anything to do with flavor, so I'll carry on with telling you how it tasted.

The Primo is very meat-forward. I could taste sausage more than I could taste anything else, even though there were plenty of peppers and onions. I could also taste pepperoni in the background, but I'm afraid both of those meats kind of overpowered the vegetables. There were definitely pepper and onion flavors in the occasional bite, but as someone who likes vegetables on pizza, I can also say it wasn't vegetable-y enough.

If we're going by what a traditional Chicago tavern-style pizza is supposed to taste like, this one had the spicy meats, but I couldn't taste any of the fennel usually present in a traditional Italian sausage. Also, I expected the banana peppers to be pickled, but I don't think they were, or at least they didn't taste like they were. Pickled banana peppers would have at least had a chance against the similarly strong flavors of the sausage and pepperoni. This doesn't mean I didn't like the pizza — I did, and so did my daughter — but I do think it will appeal most to someone who loves a meaty pizza and doesn't really care one way or another about vegetables.


Tombstone 'The Primo' Tavern Style Pizza
Tombstone 'The Primo' Tavern Style Pizza - Becki Robins / Mashed

I compared this pizza to pretty much every pizza I've ever eaten, including the hamburger-topped one my mom used to make. This means it was automatically above baseline before I even took it out of the box (I really, really hope my mom never reads this but if she does: Hamburger does not belong on pizza).

After it was cooked, I evaluated it based on how the flavors were distributed, how strong they were, and whether or not they were better or worse than similar pizzas. For this particular pizza, I compared the toppings to what I might expect to find on a traditional Chicago tavern-style pizza since it's important for manufacturers to deliver on their promises.

I will admit that meaty pizzas aren't usually my go-to, so keep in mind that my opinions are not a reflection of the pizza-eating community in its entirety. The peppers and onions definitely added visual interest to this pizza, and it may or may not matter to someone else whether they were a strong component of the overall pizza-eating experience. To me, this does matter, but please feel free to disagree.

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