This week, I reached out for a Garlic Parmesan Crust Pizza from the No. 4 pizza chain, Papa John’s, with 5,200 restaurants dotting all 50 U.S. states and 40 countries ’round this crazy blue marble. This is the first time that Papa John’s has introduced a new crust in 35 years, so this is kind of a big deal.
Here’s the Garlic Parmesan Crust Pizza breakdown: Papa’s regular hand-tossed crust laced with garlic and Parmesan-Romano cheese, plus pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, and one-topping of your choice. Because I’m a man of the people, I went with the heavy favorite: pepperoni.
Total calories: 320 (per slice). Fat grams: 13 g. Sodium: 810 mg. Carbs: 38 g. Dietary fiber: 2 g. Manufacturer’s suggest retail price: $10.
While the big boy pie makers, Pizza Hut, Domino's and Little Caesar's, have been free-stylin' special crusts, like stuffed, pretzel, and knots, Papa John’s has stuck with its old reliables: plain hand-tossed and thin. Now, finally, here comes Garlic Parmesan Crust, all shiny and new and making noise in the industry.
There’s a saying in the kitchen, you can never have too much garlic. Unfortunately, for Papa John’s new crust, you can have too little. If garlic is your thing, you’re going to be disappointed in the barely noticeable garlic flavor pop. And the parmesan-Romano cheese baked into the crust gets lost in the overall pizza experience.
What’s left is a regular Papa John’s pizza, which is plenty all right. Papa John’s says “better ingredients, better pizza” and who’s to call BS on the boast? The sauce is decent, okay maybe a little sweet, and no complaints about the cheese. There’s a good amount of pepperoni on a large. It’s a fine, serviceable delivery pie, not enough to dump your favorite neighborhood joint, but it'll get you to tomorrow.
Introducing a new crust must be welcome relief for Papa John’s franchisees, who’ve shuddered each time another news story about Papa John’s founder John Schnatter came on TV. First Schnatter was heard uttering a racial no-no at a company conference call. Then he was ousted as CEO, then chairman of the board.
Then he announced publicly that Papa John’s pizza didn’t taste as good as when he ran the show, claiming that he ate 40 pizzas in 30 days. While that may impress Joey Chestnut, I’m thinking the real problem may be Schnatter’s eating habits. Just last week, Schnatter’s wife filed for divorce. It just keeps getting worse for the brand, although the stock price keeps rising.
Schnatter's a weird one. It’s hard to imagine Ronald McDonald’s calling a press conference to trash Big Macs while dropping racial epithets. The Colonel doesn’t bad mouth KFC’s Extra Crispy. The Burger King enjoys a good Whopper.
But let’s not let Schnatter wreck things for Papa John’s in Houston. Our franchisee is a big community booster who stands up for Houston whenever it hits the fan, even donating a free pizza to everybody who adopts a pet at Citizens for Animal Protection.
Ken Hoffman reviews a new fast food restaurant item every Wednesday. Have a suggestion or a drive-thru favorite? Let Ken know on Twitter.