The world of frozen pizza has long been dominated by large companies. In Seattle, a group of independent pizza makers, spurred on by the pandemic, is challenging the status quo by bringing hand-crafted, high-quality frozen pizza to the market.
“We call [our pizza] the ‘best ever frozen pizza’ because we think it is, but also, we’re always tweaking and thinking and improving through the freezing process,” Corrie Strandjord, co-owner of Good Luck Bread, told the Seattle Times. “You want to treat it differently based on the life it lives.”
Strandjord and her husband and business partner, Eric Anderson, report selling 600–800 frozen pizzas per week in the Seattle area. The frozen-pizza company, which now employs several other people full-time, was something of a happy accident. Strandjord was once a special education teacher. It wasn’t until 2019 that she began to focus full-time on a different passion of hers: food.
The former teacher started a meal service called Good Luck Dinner and found success. One of the families she was cooking for really enjoyed the frozen pizzas she’d create as something of an off-night meal—they were initially a way to give the families something to throw into the oven one night a week without her making a mess of flour and dough in the kitchen.
“The folks I was feeding really liked it,” Strandjord recalled, “and one couple said, ‘You should do this. This is your business.’”
But it took a stroke of bad luck in order for Good Luck’s frozen pizza to reach a new level. At the outset of the pandemic, Anderson was laid off from his job in operations at Molly Moon’s, the homemade ice cream company. Seeing the twist of fate as an opportunity, the couple dove headfirst into Good Luck Bread—their new frozen-pizza business.
Using Strandjord’s sourdough starter as a base, the couple bought a commercial freezer and made room inside of their own home for manufacturing. Making pizzas by the batch, 10 at a time, the couple was perfecting its process. For example, the Times notes, the couple found they needed to add a second layer of tomato sauce after an initial par-bake. They also spent time trying to find the correct amount of rise in dough that would survive a trip from the oven to the freezer and back again.
Since those initial experimentations, Good Luck Bread has gotten by with a little help from its friends. The operation quickly outgrew the Strandjord-Anderson household. Their friend, Brandon Pettit, owner of Delancey, a wood-fired pizza shop, and Dino’s Tomato Pie, both in Seattle, was quick to offer up his kitchens for after-hours use. The couple officially launched their website the week before the 2020 presidential election, cooking pies through the evening in Pettit’s commercial kitchens.
The frozen pizza company began to develop a following, using social media and word of mouth to spread the word. It was in October 2021 that Good Luck Bread caught another big break: Cookbook author and food influencer J. Kenji Lopez-Alt visited the operation and gave them a shoutout on Instagram. The Seattle Times reports that Good Luck Bread gained 2,000 followers from that one post alone. They soon needed more space and recently moved into their own commercial kitchen.
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Another frozen pizza company making waves in Seattle was founded by Colin Penttinen, chef de cuisine at Roman-style pizzeria Willmott’s Ghost and Deep Dive. Similar to Good Luck Bread, Willmott’s Ghost began getting more serious about its frozen pies at the outset of the pandemic.
“It was more jokey,” Penttinen told the Times, “but then it’s kind of snowballed into a thing, and now I’m making hundreds and hundreds of them.” More precisely, Penttinen said Willmott’s Ghost is selling about 400 frozen pizzas per month, but could ramp up production to closer to 1,000 pizzas if demand called for it.
While Good Luck Bread’s pizza is described as light and fluffy, the Willmott’s Ghost frozen pies are “square, sturdy and crispy,” according to the Times. The restaurant sells its pizzas at eight Seattle-area PCC Community Market stores.
Likely the largest independent frozen pizza operation in the Seattle area, Tutta Bella, a “grocerant”—grocery store-meets-restaurant—is making over 2,700 pies per day and selling them at 30 QFC stores across the area. Frozen pizzas aren’t even Tutta Bella’s bestseller when it comes to grab-and-go food—they sell even more grab-and-go salads out of their stores and at third-party retailers, including Fred Meyer, Costco and Amazon Fresh.
Tutta Bella dubs its frozen pizza operation “artisan-at-scale.” The dough is fermented for two days prior to being hand-stretched. Tomatoes are milled on-site, and herbs and cheeses are hand-processed. The goal is to make the frozen pies as similar as possible to the pizza one would get at a Tutta Bella restaurant.
“If this gets serious, we’re going to have to look at a conveyor system, but we’re committed to artisan at scale,” said Tamra Nelson, vice president of the Tutta Bella Fresh Division.