We Eat It So You Don't Have To: Subway's Flatizza
Do you remember those little Lunchables pizzas? You know the ones--served on a hard little open-faced cracker, tomato sauce with all the zest of a jar of Gerber baby food, topped with chips of alkali-cured pepperoni and a powdery white "cheese product"? Have you ever thought about microwaving one of those?
If so, better switch careers--you've got a future at Subway.
The Flatizza (I'm still not certain if it's pronounced fluh-tease-uh or flat-eat-zuh), a miracle of modern food engineering, comes from the same people that brought you such glorious innovations as gray, slimy meat (served one thin strip per two inches of sandwich, of course), caulk-gun mayonnaise, and, of course, tuna salad that can be expelled with an ice cream scoop.
The product and the process are extraordinarily simple. First, someone in a Subway/construction supplies factory takes a bunch of excess dough and pounds it into a 6" by 6" square, a lump of navy-issue hardtack with the cold consistency (and flavor) of a greasy pizza box and the warm consistency of a slightly hotter, slightly less rock-solid greasy pizza.
Then, your "sandwich artist"--mine was named Santiago and was pretty cheerful--casually Frisbees the stone slab onto Subway's antiseptic cutting board and slathers a bunch of bruise-colored tomato solution on top of the oversized cracker. After a scoopful of your favorite (or in Subway's case, most stomachable) topping and drizzle of crumbly, dry cheese dubiously labeled mozzarella, it's off to the oven for your Flatizza.
I mean, I think those things are ovens. Microwaves? Radiation ventihilators? Whatever. It gets like, 78% of your food up to room temperature.
While my Flatizza got irradiated, I asked Santiago about the Flatizza--what did he think of them?
"I like them, man," he says with a nod and a smile. "They're good."
Although he did seem a little disappointed in my topping choices: chicken and pepperoni, an attempt to recreate the long lost sub of yore, the Chicken Pizziola.
"They're not popular, though," he continues.
"We only sell around 8 or 10 a day," the cashier chimes in. "And that's with the two for five dollar deal...but we don't do that deal here anymore."
The oven-contraption beeps and from within its bellows, Santiago draws the Flatizza -- browned and bubbling cheese, sauce, and chewy meat products in parabolic mound atop the unleavened cracker. The cashier slips it into an adorable little imitation pizza box with "FLATIZZA" stamped on the top, and passes me a drink.
"Seven thirty-six," he says. It seems a little high, but I don't have time to do the math in my head -- I feel like I ought to have gotten two Flatizzas for that price. After all, it's effectively a six-inch sub, but with less bread and probably less toppings. I sit down, open the box, and inhale my meal. God help me, I pick it up and chow down.
OK, not beautiful, but durable!
Photo by Ryan Cady
Or try to.
In spite of the fact that Santiago had retrieved a pristine pizza slicer from the back and sawed at the flatbread vigorously, the carbohydrate refuses to tear. I bend it back and forth - it's pliable, like warm, dense clay. After a few tears and nibbles, I manage to rip it in half, spilling sauce and bits of pepperoni all over the box, and the table, and me.
This first bite essentially sets the tone of the entire meal--much like the proverbial Hot Pocket, the center of the pizza-substitute is cold, and the cheese is unmelted. The toppings bubble up in a dome at the center of the Flatizza, leading to maximum spillage, discomfort, and, worst of all, leaving large triangular crusts with no toppings, crusts that have hardened to the consistency of uncooked grains of rice. It doesn't taste bad--it tastes like Subway ingredients always taste: a little bit like hospital food, except probably stuffed with more antibiotics.
By the time I'm preparing for the final few bites, I'm nowhere near full, but the idea of eating anything more makes me want to yack.
After the meal is finished--it takes me a full twenty seconds to gnaw down the last bit of dry, diamond-dust-flour crust--I take all seven of the napkins required to clean up the shameful, saucy endeavor and stuff them into the tiny cardboard pizza--er, Flatizza--box. In a heightened moment of irrationality, I raise the box to my lips, taking a chomp out of the greasy corrugation. The taste was about what you'd expect, but compared to its previous contents, the texture was sublime.
Photo by Ryan Cady
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