REVIEW: Papa John’s Epic Pepperoni-Stuffed Crust Pizza

Papa John s Epic Pepperoni Stuffed Crust Pizza Whole

I imagine that Papa John’s Epic Pepperoni-Stuffed Crust Pizza might have made Little Caesars — who released a similar product not quite a year ago — cry, “Et tu, Papa?” But I won’t subtract points for lack of originality. This combo feels quintessential; pepperoni and stuffed crust go together like pepperoni and pizza!

Before we get into the real meat of this review (ha, ha), I should point out that this crust is not just stuffed, but per Papa John’s website, also “seasoned.” This was a relief to read, as at first glance, the generous smattering of unexpected black flecks had me sort of concerned. The seasoning was zesty — hard to pinpoint one taste exactly, but it was simultaneously garlicky, salty, and a bit cheesy — and while I think the stuffed crust could have stood on its own, the addition wasn’t unwelcome.

Papa John s Epic Pepperoni Stuffed Crust Pizza Slice Side

Biting into the puffy, pillowy crust, I was pleased to notice that the taste of the pepperoni came through nicely but didn’t entirely steal the cheese’s thunder. It felt like a lovely complement, both in terms of the salty, meaty flavor popping against the mellower, creamy taste of the cheese, and the pop of slim, crisp texture contrasting the cheese’s silky thickness. But, while tasting this marriage of cheese and pepperoni satisfied my appetite, it couldn’t satisfy my curiosity; to do that, I had to peel back the crusty curtain.

Tearing open and rolling back the crust to reveal the cheesy, pepperoni-y secrets folded within had two effects. The first is that dissecting my pizza so thoughtfully made me feel kind of like a serial killer, or at least a very obscure sort of surgeon. The second, more pertinent point is that I could see exactly how many pieces of pepperoni went into the crust on each slice: two to three.

Papa John s Epic Pepperoni Stuffed Crust Pizza Slice Top

Honestly, that doesn’t exactly sound substantial enough to base a whole product around. Imagine how disappointed you would be if you ordered a pepperoni pizza and only got two to three pieces on each slice as a topping! You could argue that a little of this particular food item goes a long way, but I’m not sure the kind of person who orders their disc of meat and cheese with extra meat and cheese crammed inside is the kind of person who worries about oversaturation. It seems that at least three more pepperoni pieces could have been curled around the cheese stuffing without overlapping, and if you’re going to release something as all-out as pepperoni stuffed crust in the first place, why not fill every last gap you can?

Papa John s Epic Pepperoni Stuffed Crust Pizza Innards

Though maybe I’m just jealous because the site mentions that the pizza is “topped off with more pepperoni,” but mine didn’t come with any outside of what was in the crust. Maybe that’s on me for missing some step in online ordering, but I assumed a pizza with pepperoni in the name would include it as a topping by default!

I must disclose that I’m a stuffed crust fanatic, which might suggest that my bar for this offering would be quite high. But ultimately, I think it just means that I’m more willing to accept it for giving me the luscious cheese filling I crave even though its pepperoni potential underwhelms.

Purchased Price: $13.99
Size: Large
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Information not available on website.

REVIEW: Papa John’s NY Style Pizza

Papa John s NY Style Crust Pizza Whole

Papa John’s has been busy lately with a bunch of new offerings, including the Triple Bacon, Shaq-a-Roni, and Epic Stuffed Crust pizzas, all of which earned generally positive reviews from my esteemed colleagues of culinary critique. Now comes the NY Style Pizza, which launched nationwide on December 27 and will be available through March 13, 2022.

I’m sure this will shock you to your core, but no, Papa John’s did not successfully replicate true New York-style pizza. Yes, these are foldable and (somewhat) oversized as Papa John’s advertises, and I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt that it is also hand-stretched as the website claims, even though I was not there to witness that. But if you tried serving this at a pizzeria in New York City, then a brouhaha, fracas and/or kerfuffle would probably ensue. Perhaps even all three.

Usually, my main qualification to do a review on this site is simply that I have a functioning mouth, but in this case, I do bring some pizza credentials. I grew up in New York (actually New Jersey, but we decided long ago as a state that it’s better to just say New York), so I’ve had my share of authentic New York pizza. And now, as a resident of Texas, I’m used to be being both disappointed and amused when I try New York pizza around here. Truthfully, some local joints come reasonably close, and maybe even closer than I give them credit, but I do deduct authenticity points when someone says, “Here’s y’alls pizza.”

Papa John s NY Style Crust Pizza Slice

With that said, this isn’t bad — it is still pizza after all — and it’s a bit better than I thought it would be, especially considering it’s made using the standard Papa John’s crust, sauce, and cheese. To me, the two things that define New York pizza are the crust being both chewy and crispy with a few of those big air bubbles and the cheese having some stretch and snap along with an unhealthy amount of grease/oil.

Papa John’s fared well on the first requirement, and I think they probably did as well as they could using their regular crust, which I’ve always found to be a little too thick and chewy. This pizza fixed both of those issues, and it comes close to the overall thinness of New York pizza. The outer crust doesn’t quite hit the mark as far as the right balance of crisp and chewy, but it did contain a few modest-size air bubbles and faintly reminded me of New York crust.

Papa John s NY Style Crust Pizza Crust

The shortcoming here is the standard Papa John’s cheese, which has very little of the stretchiness, snap, or general oiliness you might get with a New York pizza. The toppings (I went with pepperoni) were plentiful, so bonus points for that, and even though the slices were a little smaller than most New York pizza I’ve had, they did fold quite well.

Papa John s NY Style Crust Pizza Fold

I didn’t expect to get anything close to real New York-style pizza when I ordered this — and I didn’t — but if you temper your expectations based on what a big chain can deliver using its standard ingredients, and you don’t have many other options in your area, then this is a serviceable pie.

Purchased Price: $13 with one topping
Size: Extra-large (16”)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Detailed nutritional information not available on the Papa John’s website, but it does say each cheese slice has 310 calories.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Triple Bacon Pizza

Papa John s Triple Bacon Pizza Whole

What’s meatier than a Shaq-a-Roni, more novel than a Papadia, and able to clog three times as many arteries in a single bound? Papa John’s new Triple Bacon Pizza! Its claim to fame is containing three types of bacon: crumbles, julienne-cut pieces of Canadian bacon, and good old-fashioned strips.

At first glance, the strips were the most noticeable part of my pie. The chunky juliennes stood out as well, but were more prone to being submerged under cheese (this often made for a nice mid-bite surprise). The crumbles were the shrinking violets of the trio, with their smaller size, denser texture, and deeper color, making them surprisingly hard to tell apart from the dark dots of cheese. The lattice of varying shapes, textures, and shades of red made the pie look almost like a piece of avant-garde art—so like any good art connoisseur would, I immediately ripped it apart with my teeth.

The strips were, well, typical bacon strips, though I particularly enjoyed the variations in texture, with some bites lean and burnt and others fatty and chewy. On the other hand, the juliennes were consistently thick and tender, and since they were Canadian bacon, they had a slightly sweeter, meatier taste. I’m finding it harder to sum up the crumbles, whose standout feature seemed to be that they were just the strips, only torn into pieces. Papa John’s website specifically describes the crumbles as “smokey,” but for me the bulk of the smokey flavor came from the sheer surface area covered by the strips. While the strips were large enough that each one tended to have representation of both crispness and meatiness (even if they weren’t evenly distributed), each crumble typically only captured one of those flavors, which meant they didn’t contribute distinctly to the overall taste.

Papa John s Triple Bacon Pizza Slice

While I deeply appreciated the audacity of laying down full bacon strips across the entire pie, the flavorful juliennes with their perfectly pluckable shape were my favorite of the three types. Hearty enough to stand alongside the slice instead of just blending in, they had a similar appeal to the classic meatball or sausage pizza toppings, while the thin strips meshed with the cheese and sauce as smoothly as pepperoni. I’m not sure exactly what the advantage of the crumbles was. They felt like they were just tacked on as a cheap way to get a third selling point for this new menu item, and I suspect the two star students would shine better without them.

Papa John s Triple Bacon Pizza Bpx

All in all, the savory saltiness of these three breeds of bacon was a great, if not exactly world-shattering, pairing for Papa John’s dense cheese and sweet sauce. It made me wonder how this classic breakfast topping would hold up on a slice eaten cold the next morning, but my household demolished our box too quickly to tell. Fortunately, this meaty marvel is good enough that I don’t mind having an excuse to get it again some time and find out.

Purchased Price: $13 (that’s for the basic Triple Bacon pie, though I splurged an additional $3 to add stuffed crust)
Size: Large
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Information not available on website.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Parmesan Crusted Papadia

Papa John s Parmesan Crusted Papadia Full

In the pizza chain innovation playbook, it’s a must to mess with the crust. So Papa John’s stayed true to form with the new Parmesan Crusted Papadia.

While it’s a standard play to jazz up the crust, the execution is actually pretty genius because it takes a unique offering in the crowded chain pizza space and makes it more unique. It also delivers exactly as promised — a Papadia with a nice crispy parmesan exterior.

The addition can be ordered with any of the existing varieties. It’s a one-dollar upcharge. I went with my favorite one thus far — the Meatball Pepperoni.

After opening its box, I could immediately tell it was cheese crusted from its golden hue. It was like someone folded a doily made of cheese onto the Papadia.

Papa John s Parmesan Crusted Papadia Seeing Crust

The visible shredded dairy melded onto the surface was reminiscent of the pizza chain’s garlic parmesan crust. But this version is so much better because of the added surface area and the wispy cheese edges like the overflow on a grilled cheese sandwich. 2?r now equals C for cheese!!!

Said cheese doily didn’t take away from or overpower the existing meat and tomato sauce flavors. It complemented them really well with extra savoriness that culminated in a much cheesier taste than the original version. I also enjoyed the added texture to each bite. It’s not crunchy like eating Cheetos, but rather it’s more like a light crispness, similar to eating a parmesan crisp!

Papa John s Parmesan Crusted Papadia Bites

With all that said, this cheese-crusted version was a little less “handheld happiness” than the original, as the parmesan crust left quite the oily residue.

All things considered, I would pay the extra dollar for the crispy goodness again and again.

I’m actually secretly hoping that this catches on at other chains and even local pizza joints. Can you imagine an added cheesy exterior like this on a folded NY-style pizza?! SHEEEEEESH (as the TikTokers would say).

This is innovation at its finest, people!! Simple but effective and delicious.

Purchased Price: $7
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Not available on website, but here’s the info for a regular Meatball Pepperoni) 940 calories, 49 grams of fat, 21 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 140 milligrams of sodium, 2390 milligrams of sodium, 79 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 42 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza

Papa John s Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza Whole

The year is 1995. Coolio is busy living in a gangsta’s paradise. Alicia Silverstone — as Cher Horowitz or Hamilton (they accidentally gave her two last names) — was falling in love with her stepbrother, but no one cared because hey, it was Paul Rudd. And, an innovation that would change the junk food world forever, Pizza Hut was stuffing cheese in its crust. The chain also attempted to convince the American people that “eating your pizza backwards” was a thing everyone would start doing.

(Spoiler alert: no one actually did this.)

Fast forward 25 years. Coolio is living…man, who knows where Coolio is living these days. Paul Rudd has eclipsed his stepsister’s fame by a wide margin. Pizza Hut is still slinging cheese-stuffed crusts, and has even been known to occasionally put other things in there, too. (Hot dogs, bacon, shrimp and mayo, Marmite.)

Meanwhile, competitor, Papa John’s? In all these years, they’ve never stuffed anything into a crust.

So, if you were in Product Development for Papa John’s, what would you do? Why you’d introduce your own version of the stuffed crust pizza to capitalize on an idea Pizza Hut begat a quarter-century ago.

It’s 2020, so sure, why not?

Here’s the absolutely bizarre thing about this pizza: the pizza body is no different than a normal Papa John’s body, but the hat? Tastes exactly like Pizza Hut’s Stuffed Crust. It’s almost like a Frankensteinian operation that involves surgically grafting the two pizzas together.

Papa John s Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza Slice

From the slice’s point up to the crust, it is distinctly Papa — the sweet sauce, the cheese that doesn’t do much stretching (and sadly, wasn’t even melted uniformly on mine), and whatever toppings you choose to make it your own. (For the sake of the review, I went with pepperoni.) The point being, you’ve had this pizza. And you are either fine with it or don’t like it; this particular incarnation won’t do anything to change that.

Papa John s Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza Cheese

Then you get to the crust. And, like I said, you’ve probably had this, too, just not from Papa John’s. The thing I find most unusual is that the dough used to make this crust is probably Papa’s regular hand-tossed, or “original” dough, just, you know, stretched. It’s the same way Pizza Hut does it. But Pizza Hut’s hand-tossed dough is decidedly different than Papa John’s, wouldn’t you agree? They’re distinct until they’re stretched and stuffed with cheese around the perimeter! Something about that act makes the two crusts indiscernible.

Papa John s Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza Flyover

Overall the cheese in the crust is warm and appropriately stretchy and a nice way to end a slice. With Pizza Hut’s version, you can add some flavor to the crust, like a garlic buttery blend or toasted parmesan, which elevates things. Papa John’s crust didn’t have butter, but it would’ve added a little something. Not to be a broken record, but if you like Hut’s stuffed crust, you’ll like this, too.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go see if I can find out how Coolio is doing.

Purchased Price: $12
Size: Large
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Unavailable at time of publication.

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