Domino's can't be credited for much in the realm of pizza-making, but its marketing campaign works. Sort of. After having tried Domino's many times, we'd written the crust off as cardboard and the sauce as flavorless. While the self-deprecating "we-used-to-suck-real-bad-but-we're-better-now!" ad campaign didn't convince us, it did make us curious. That curiosity deepened when Domino's introduced its new artisan pies.
Meanwhile, Papa John's exists as the chain-pizza-joint favorite, at least at Gut Check HQ. It's definitely not gourmet, definitely not healthy, but it's good enough -- and it gives us an excuse to dip things in garlic butter, an action which, if not condoned by a restaurant, would seem gluttonous and egregious. Thank you, Papa John's, for making this embarrassing-but-delicious condiment socially acceptable (and giving us the option to request extra for $.50). While the Papa doesn't call his pies "artisan," he does offer a selection of comparable specialty pizzas.
Despite our feelings about chain pizza in general, we were sure of one thing -- "artisan" pizzas from either sound like a culinary joke of large, unappetizing proportions.
Admittedly, we dove into these pies with some preconceived notions. In an effort to keep things fair, we opened up this Fight Club Sandwich to all the hungry bellies at Gut Check International Headquarters with a "blind" taste test. (No actual blindfolds were used, as that all feels a little too S&M for the workplace. We did, however, disguise the slices, labeling them "Sample 1" and "Sample 2.") Each subject was asked to rate the slices on a scale of one to ten (ten being the best) using several simple criteria. Some felt so passionately that they left (unsolicited) comments, and we chose to include those along with our (admittedly, rather unscientific) findings.
Domino's Artisan Spinach and Feta Pizza
The pizza arrived in a dainty box, signed by its creator. It looked good enough, but we were still skeptical. It took a few bites before it even registered -- wow, this doesn't suck! It's actually pretty good. The crust was crisp, it had a (relatively) flavorful sauce, and it was made with fresh spinach.
Texture: 5.25 Crust: 5.5 Aroma: 5.625 Sauce: 5.57 Overall Flavor: 6.3125 Overall Score: 6.0625
Comments: "Great Crust!" "Very pleasantly surprised -- tasty sauce, subtle flavors!"
Papa John's Spinach Alfredo Pizza
Papa John's is what we order after a long, awful day, when we're starving but too lazy/incapacitated by hunger to actually do anything about it besides click a mouse a few times and lie on the couch with The Daily Show on until a pizza magically appears. Opening up that box to reveal a glistening, greasy, cheese-covered carb party is a fantastic moment; dunk it in the provided garlic butter, and you've got yourself a fine comfort food.
Opening this box, however, revealed a far less-appetizing slab of cream-colored cheese speckled with deep green. It looked like a bit like a prop pizza from a television show -- unreal, but not in a good way. We still went in with reasonable expectations; "It's pizza! How can a pizza be that bad?"
From the mushy crust to the bland alfredo sauce to the canned spinach to the undercooked cheese, it was so unattractive and un-tasty that most of the slices went uneaten. Yeah, it is that bad.
Texture: 5.025 Crust: 4.375 Aroma: 4 Sauce: 3.25 Overall Flavor: 3.875 Overall Score: 4.0625
Comments: "Really too flavorless. Not good!" "Icky, overcooked spinach." "The spinach is disgusting on this one. Pretty obviously canned or frozen or something."
The Verdict While we don't know if we'd go out of our way to order it any time soon (read: ever), the Domino's artisan pie was the clear victor. If someone invited us over for dinner and served us a slice claiming it was homemade, we may even be inclined to believe them (given they've properly disposed of the box). It wasn't great, it wasn't bad and, most notably, it totally surprised us.