Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Trader Giotto's Eggplant Parmesan

I am a fan of eggplant. And the Rodgers have had pretty decent luck with Trader Joe's eggplant products in the past, although the Shellys haven't been quite as fortunate. Plus, I recently reviewed a surprisingly good eggplant parm pizza that I highly recommend. Furthermore, I had heard quite a bit of buzz about this particular dish by Joe's cousin from the old country, Giotto. So my expectations were very high.

Which is probably why I found it so disappointing.

Before I begin complaining, I should point out that TJ's offerings often vary from region to region, and even package to package in some cases. So it's always possible that we got a bad batch. So we'd love to hear your experience with this product in the comments below. Keep in mind, we're very tough graders, and we've made it our mission to be critical of all aspects of Trader Joe's usually-incredible foods.

The cheese and tomato sauce were on par with what I'd expect, though they certainly didn't go above and beyond my expectations. They tasted like run-of-the-mill mozzarella and very-recently-frozen, somewhat-watery tomato sauce. They both lacked zest. They both lacked that special something that would have set them apart from other frozen parmesan dishes.

But the eggplant was the most disappointing part of the meal. It tasted like eggplant, but it was extraordinarily chewy. I cooked the dish for exactly the amount of time called for on the instructions, and I even overcame the urge to yank it out of the microwave immediately and let it sit for 2 minutes, as prescribed. The rubberiness of the bulk of the eggplant slabs wasn't the worst part. The worst part was the skin around each piece. I understand the skin contains a lot of vitamins and minerals, but it was stringy, tough, and difficult to chew. What would have been a moderately pleasant meal turned into a rigorous set of jaw exercises.

I'm sure someone wiser than myself took the time to scour the back of the package and discovered that there are, in fact, instructions for heating in a conventional oven and got much better results, but I honestly didn't see them at first. Usually, if a non-microwave option is listed, I'll do it that way. In this case, I missed them because they're crammed right up against the microwave instructions, to the ruin of my poor eggplant parmesan lunch.

I won't be too brutal with my scoring since I could have cooked this in the oven and didn't. 2.5 stars from me. While eating the dish, Sonia said, "It makes my mouth tingle." Apparently not in a good way. She gives it 2 stars.

Bottom line: 4.5 out of 10.


  1. I've eyed this at TJ's for awhile...Glad u reviewed this.. now I will stay away from this... Funny, how whenever I saw this at the store, the row of Eggplant Parm was always full.... if ain't that a hint? lol...btw, in your local paper did u notice Consumers.org, affiliated w/Consumers Report, took out an add stating that TJ's meats had antibiotics in them? I talked to the manager and he had gotten a meme from head office... the memo said that meats such as the frozen meatballs, seasoned (fresh) tri tip, etc. were some of the examples...

  2. I hadn't heard that about consumers.org, KBF. Thanks for bringing that to our attention. Will have to look into that.

    And yeah, our TJs always seems well stocked with this eggplant parm, too. I should have read between the lines, lol...

  3. Funny, I just had this 2 days ago (and not for the first time!). I actually like it. The tomato sauce tasted 'real' and not overly sweet like many sauces. The eggplant skin is like, well, cooked eggplant skin, but not quite 'rubbery'! Not sure if you did get an 'off' package. It tastes like real eggplant to me, not that overly-breaded practically-eggplantless-stuff that you usually find in eggplant parm subs and dishes. To me, that's a good thing.

  4. I bought this thinking it would be the perfect gluten free take-to-work lunch and gave it two chances and both times I was disappointed. I ended up only eating the cheese because the eggplant tasted so awful.

  5. Hey all, I agree that this eggplant dish missed the mark. But have u guys tried the regular eggplant dish they have. It is breaded eggplant that you can use to make your own eggplant parm or use it on hero sandwich like Subways.

    Was curious if those might be better?

  6. Hey Unknown, are you talking about the "Stacked Eggplant Parm" from TJ's? I haven't tried that yet, but if I see it, I'll probably get it...

  7. If you are talking about the Stacked Eggplant Parm, that is by far the best of all the options of TJ's microwaveable. I have avoided most of the "trader giotto's" branded ones as I find the portions a little small and the quality much lower than the rest.

  8. I just had it for the first time (October 2013) I thought it was pretty good, especially considering the price. $2.69. Some of the egg plant was even grilled - I could see the dark grill lines. And their was a slight grilled flavor. I wonder if it was better for me because eggplant is in season right now, as apposed to when you ate it and reviewed it in May.

    1. That's entirely possible, Krissy...thanks for sharing your experience!

  9. I usually have a stack of these in my freezer. I heat it in a conventional oven and add some fresh grated parmesan on top. I cook it about 15 minutes longer than TJ's recommends and let it crisp on the edges a bit. It's my favorite TJ's frozen item. My daughter tried it one night, she microwaved it and it was inedible. It didn't taste like the same thing. I have been looking for it for a couple of weeks and the stock has been very low or they have been out of it. I just found out today that they are replacing it with a version from another vendor. It's repackaged in a box (although it's still in a white tray). It's not very good. The sauce is sweeter and has an odd, almost foamy texture. I will not give this one another try.