Crust wars: does the Pizza Express supermarket range still hold its own against its own-brand rivals?

Four supermarket pizzas
We pitched five supermarket own-brand pizzas up against Pizza Express to find out which comes out on top

It’s a tough time for Italian chains. The beginning of the year saw closures of Strada, Prezzo and Carluccio’s branches. Then came the dramatic collapse of Jamie’s Italian; and now, even Pizza Express, the bastion of romana-style pizzas and dough balls since 1965, is beginning to buckle under the weight of its own expansion.

The chain, which has 470 sites in the UK and 130 overseas, is facing debts of £1.1 billion, sparking speculation that it may have to start closing restaurants.

For many, this news may come as no surprise. Up and down the country, small chains and independent pizza joints are offering everything from sourdough slices to Chicago-style deep-dish at competitive prices. In the shops, Pizza Express’s make-at-home selection faces stiff competition from own-brand offerings, which boast sourdough bases and artisanal toppings. So how does the creator of the Sloppy Giuseppe fare against supermarket rivals? We put six of the most tempting to the test.

Pizza Express Romana carbonara pizza

£5.50 for 325g, Ocado

Can proscuitto, mushroom, mascarpone and, oddly, tomato sauce, truly be described as ‘carbonara’? The base is rigid and flavourless, the toppings are scarce, and the runny mascarpone sauce blankets everything in a layer of blandness. 4/10

Lidl Deluxe chargrilled vegetable and pesto pizza

£3.29 for 560g, Lidl

Rather too handed on the cheese on this pizza, resulting in an unappetising layer of oil. The vegetables have a nice char and patches of pesto can be seen throughout, but most of the flavour is lost among mouthfuls of cheese and undercooked, claggy dough. 5/10

Tesco finest* spicy salami wood fired pizza

£4.50 for 405g, Tesco

A good covering of salami and a nice kick provided by the tomato and ‘nduja sauce and fresh chillies. The base is a little bland, and a little soggy on the bottom owing to sauce being slightly too runny. All in all, not a bad pizza but might not have you rushing to finish the lot. 7/10

Aldi Specially Selected ham, portobello mushroom and mascarpone pizza

£3.29 for 521g, Aldi

The ham is generous and flavourful, and the mushrooms have been cooked down to a lovely, meaty texture, complimented by creamy mascarpone. The dough is alright – chewy and light, but lacking in the flavour of the wood-fired and sourdough pizzas. 8/10

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference wood-fired mushroom, kale and pecorino pizza

£4.50 for 435g, Sainsbury’s

Kale on a pizza? It works, providing welcome greenery to this rich, creamy white pizza, covered generously in cheese and mushrooms. A few grinds of black pepper wouldn’t go amiss, but this is easily remedied. 9/10

Waitrose 1 truffle and mushroom sourdough pizza

£4.80 for 438g, Waitrose

A generous layer of mushrooms, parsley and dots of creamy mascarpone throughout. A gorgeous marriage of creamy bechamel, subtle truffle and umami mushrooms, with a seriously good, almost fluffy base. ‘Serves 4’ is optimistic. 10/10