Good news for anyone who misses early 200s-era Pizza Hut: An old favorite from that extremely specific moment in time is returning to the menu soon. The P’Zone is coming back to Pizza Hut in honor of NCAA March Madness. It arrives in all its wacky, pizza-calzone hybrid glory — and yes, the all-important marinara dipping sauce is included. You can’t have a P’Zone without a slug of marinara in which to dunk the thing, right?
“March Madness is one of the most captivating sports moments of the year,” Pizza Hut’s Chief Brand Officer, Marianne Radley, said in a press release. “We are excited to bring back the P’Zone as part of our $5 Line-up during a time when family and friends will be gathering in anticipation and excitement. Even if your team doesn’t advance in the tournament, the P’Zone’s comeback is something we know all fans can rally around.”
It’s fitting that the P’Zone is making its return in conjunction with a major sporting event; that’s how it made its original debut, too. First introduced in early 2002, ads for the P’Zone began appearing on Jan. 27 before a shiny, new commercial starring comedian Tommy Davidson dropped on Feb. 3, right before the kick-off of the 2002 Super Bowl. During this initial run, the P’Zone was a limited-time offering; however, it returned to the menu as a permanent addition in 2003. Alas, though, “permanent” in this case turned out to mean…uh… something other than what the word usually means, and by 2014, after a few stints on and off the menu, it was pretty much phased out.
17 years after its original introduction, however, the P’Zone is back — and this time, it’s got its eye on basketball: It’s been dubbed the Official Pizza of NCAA March Madness, despite the fact that it is not, in fact, a pizza. It’s true that the crust is made of toasted parmesan pizza dough. It’s also true that the fillings are the kids of things you’d expect to find on a pizza (choose from three varieties: Pepperoni, Meaty, or Supremo). But the P’Zone isn’t a pizza. It’s a P’Zone.
But while we’re on the subject, I’ll also confess that I’ve never quite understood why Pizza Hut felt the need to invent an entirely new word for this… uh… thing; it’s already quite similar to several existing savory pastries: The calzone and the Stromboli. In fact, I would argue that P’Zone is really more like a Stromboli crossed with a calzone than a pizza crossed with one.
Here’s what I mean:
Both calzones, which are Italian, and Stromboli, which are Italian-American, consist of pizza dough stuffed with various fillings and baked until golden outside and melty and delicious inside. There are differences, though: For one, the calzone is wedge-shaped and meant for a single person, while the Stromboli is roll-shaped and meant to be share; and for another calzones typically use ricotta in the filling, while Stromboli usually use mozzarella. Also, calzones never have sauce inside them; rather, the marinara is served on the side of as a dipping sauce. A P’Zone, then, may be best described as a calzone-shaped object filled with Stromboli fillings. QED.
Then again, I suppose it’s possible that Stromboli don’t have a high enough profile to be useful for a nation-wide marketing campaign; they were invented in Philadelphia and therefore tend to be much better known on the East Coast than elsewhere in the United States. Also, the determination may have been made that neither “Strom'Zone” or “Cal'Boli” have the kind of ring that “P’Zone” does. I may find the word silly, but ever since first hearing it way back in 2002, I’ve never forgotten it.
Anyway, the Pepperoni P’Zone can be found on the $5 Lineup at your friendly neighborhood Pizza Hut; you can also get the P’Zone on its own, with two additional flavors — Meaty and Supremo — from which to choose. And in the meantime, good luck with those game brackets!