Ol’ Papa John just can’t seem to stop turning other things into pizza. He has a seemingly insatiable love for it, whether it’s a Philly Cheesesteak, a cheeseburger, Fritos chili pie, spinach dip, or even a cookie. Okay, sure, the last one isn’t that far-fetched, but still.
I have a few suggestions for future Papa John’s mash-ups:
Deluxe Nachos Pizza – nacho cheese sauce base, all the usual nacho toppings, maybe some tortilla chip crumbles on top. Tagline: “This is nacho grandma’s pizza!”
Lobster Roll Pizza – mayonnaise/lemon base topped with buttered lobster chunks, celery and scallions. Tagline: “We’re on a roll with this pizza!”
General Tso’s Pizza – teriyaki glaze base topped with crispy glazed chicken, broccoli and hot peppers. Tagline: “There is tso much flavor baked right into this pizza!”
Matzo Ball Pizza (seasonal item) – matzo crust with a schmaltz base, topped with chicken, carrots, shallots and garlic. Tagline: “Don’t pass over this deal!”
Just some food for thought, if you will. Also, I fully expect some of these to become realized in the future. You’re welcome, Papa.
With all this talk of crazy pizzas, you may think this review is about a crazy pizza. Well, think again! Also, read the title of this review!
Papa John’s newest creation is the Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizza, a name that evokes one of the oldest, simplest and most traditional pizza creations straight from Italy. It’s history time!
The year is 1889. Italy has been unified for 28 years, but the southern portion is still as salty as pasta water about it. The Italian king and queen decide to visit Naples, which used to be the capitol of Westeros – er, sorry, the Kingdom of the South, in an attempt to convince them that hey, it’s all good, bros.
The queen is totally sick of the gourmet French cuisine that is normally served to royals, because who doesn’t, so she summons famous pizza-tosser Raffaele Esposito to bake her three pies. Goldilocks-style, she rejects the garlic one and the anchovy one, but finds the one with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil to be juuuust right.
The queen’s name? Daenerys Targaryen, of course.
Oh, wait, sorry again. It was Margherita.
And thus, the Margherita Pizza was born. Or was it? There’s strong evidence that this whole story is bogus, so take it all with a big grain of Italian sea salt.
Pizza Margherita is one of only three pizzas with a Traditional Guaranteed Specialty EU label, which means that it comes with some very strict rules in regards to preparation. Papa John’s has, of course, followed none of those rules.
I mean, they’ve got the basic components. Tomatoes, mozzarella and basil are present, but in no way are the arranged in the way of a traditional Pizza Margherita.
Papa John’s describes the Chicken Margherita Pizza as “loaded with grilled all white meat chicken, basil pesto sauce, fresh cut Roma tomatoes, mozzarella and pizza sauce”.
Upon opening the box, I was greeted with the scent of tomatoes and a hint of pesto. Not a bad start. I also noticed there was a healthy amount of both tomatoes and chicken spread across the pizza. Topping coverage is important, people. It’s the #1 way a pizza can give me a sad face. Okay, pineapples are #1. But it’s a close second.
The tomatoes were absolutely juicy and tasted fresh, bursting between my teeth. That sounds more gross than delicious, but it wasn’t. The chicken was moist and tender, and seemed to be seasoned with something, but I couldn’t quite tell what, as they were covered in sauce.
While I enjoyed the chicken, it seemed to suspiciously resemble, in both structure and texture, those pre-cooked chicken strips you can buy in bags at the grocery store from Tyson or Foster Farms. I like those chicken strips perfectly fine, but let’s just say it’s a good thing Papa John’s didn’t throw “fresh” in the description of the chicken.
If you do a Google Image Search for “margherita pizza”, you will see some very pretty pictures of pies covered with circles of melted white deliciousness. You will also get hungry. This is what mozzarella on a margherita pizza is supposed to look like.
Papa John’s did not do that. The mozzarella on their Chicken Margherita Pizza looks like…well, it looks like mozzarella on a pizza. Absolutely nothing special about it. Fresh mozzarella has a distinct taste to it, and this was just the same ol’ cheese PJ’s uses on the rest of their pizzas. It stinks of not trying.
One of the things I was most enthusiastic about in regards to this pizza was the pesto sauce. I love pesto. I love pesto so much. And while, once again, this is definitely not part of a traditional margherita’s design, I appreciated the attempt at including at least some form of basil.
That is, until I tasted the pesto on its own. It seemed like it was watered down – where was the boldness, the garlic, that rich, savory taste I love so much about pesto? It was there, it was just too faint.
And then they went and added pizza sauce to it. Why? Papa, you already had tomatoes as a topping; couldn’t you have just made the entire base pesto and ran with it that way? With the pizza sauce and the pesto mixed together, the former overwhelmed the already underwhelming latter, furthering my pesto disappointment. It just became muddled.
I’ve spent a lot of time griping about Papa John’s Chicken Margherita Pizza, and I feel my points are justified. But it’s a completely edible pizza at the end of the day. I liked the chicken and the tomatoes were really fresh and juicy. I guess I just wish they hadn’t pretended that it actually is a margherita pizza. That name comes with certain expectations that certainly were not met. I also wish they’d kept the pizza sauce off and gone with a really robust pesto base. The combination of all these factors just left me disappointed. You could say it was more of a mehgherita pizza, amirite guys?
(Nutrition Facts – 1/6 of a small pizza – 230 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 600 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 9 grams of protein, 4% vitamin A, 4% vitamin C, 10% calcium, and 8% iron.)
Item: Papa John’s Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizza
Purchased Price: $12.00
Purchased at: Papa John’s
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Fresh, juicy tomatoes. A history lesson! Chicken was moist and tender. I’m pretty proud of those fake pizzas and taglines. The idea(?) of a pesto pizza.
Cons: Totally not a margherita pizza. Picky queens. Pesto tasted watered down. Ending the review with a bad pun. Addition of pizza sauce was unnecessary and muddled everything up.