REVIEW: Papa Johns Garlic Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza

Papa Johns Garlic Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza Whole

When Papa Johns showed up fashionably late to the stuffed crust pizza party in December of 2020, it may not have been timely, but it certainly arrived with a splash. The somewhat silly-titled “Epic Stuffed Crust” was no different than what Pizza Hut innovated in 1995, and yet, in my humble but experienced opinion, the Papa beat the Hut at its own game.

As a child of the 90s, the stuffed crust is an ever-shining beacon of culinary genius and one that will keep Pizza Hut in my heart forever. But its quality has gone so downhill in recent years that I never go there unless it’s to try a new unique item, unlike Papa Johns, which I keep on speed dial. For its third iteration of the Epic Stuffed Crust, Papa makes the pizza even more Papa-ified by incorporating the signature garlic sauce that makes it stand out amongst the other chains. It’s an Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza with a garlic parmesan seasoned and drizzled crust, original pizza sauce, melty cheese, and your choice of one topping, which comes standard as pepperoni.

Papa Johns Garlic Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza Crust

This review is pretty straightforward – if you like Papa John’s Stuffed Crust and its Special Garlic Dipping Sauce, you’ll like this pie. In fact, I only have two gripes with this pizza.

  1. I just moved to a denser and crazier part of the city where, for some reason, the one topping promotion is $20.99 instead of $13.99, so it cost more than I expected.
  2. I wish there was more garlic.

Papa Johns Garlic Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza Cheese

This is a cheesy, indulgent, downright delicious, and addictive pizza that very well might be my favorite iteration of Papa John’s best-in-class stuffed crust, but it isn’t all that garlicky. The seasoning on the crust is excellent and does very well to elevate the epic-ness of having tons of perfectly ooey gooey cheese in the crust, but it leans much more into the parmesan than the garlic for a nice crunchy umami bite that’s wonderful, but not garlicky.

Papa Johns Garlic Epic Stuffed Crust Pizza Slice

The toppings at Papa Johns have always seemed like the freshest and most abundant of all the mainstream chains, which is why it has been my favorite for over a decade. The sauce is sweet yet robust, the cheese has a nice dense flavor, and the pepperoni brings a nice crispiness and a hint of spice. Speaking of which, any time you’re ordering a pizza from a chain like this, make sure to get it well done. You’re very rarely, if ever, going to get a burnt pie, but these places crank out so many pizzas at such a fast rate they may pull it when it’s a touch underdone, and requesting well done, like I did, will ensure you get a properly cooked and delicious pizza.

While this could use some actual diced garlic like you’d find on garlic knots to really bring the concept home, it’s still an absolutely delicious pie that’s, without a doubt, my favorite new fast food item this year. Plus, if you’re getting this for $14 instead of $21 like my unfortunate metropolitan-dwelling self, it’s a helluva deal, and I’d grab it while you can.

Purchased Price: $20.99 (but should be $13.99 in your area)
Size: Large 1 Topping
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 slice) 420 calories, 16 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 990 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Papa Johns Doritos Cool Ranch Papadia

Before consuming the new Doritos Cool Ranch Papadia, I’d never tried a Papadia. Is it because it’s an awful name, and I genuinely dislike ordering terribly named things? Maybe. It’s why I never wanted to order the Arby-Q or the Bell Beefer.

My first thought was, why not call this what it is — an unsealed calzone? And then I had THIS brilliant realization — ohhhh, it’s an Italian quesadilla… a Papadia! That, however, is incorrect. According to the Internet, the Papadia name was inspired by the piadina, a folded flatbread sandwich native to northern Italy.

And while I stand by my assertion that this is a stupidly named food object, I’m glad I ordered it. Because the Papadia — specifically this new Cool Ranch Doritos variety — was tasty.

Available as preset chicken, steak, or beef varieties (with the option to construct your own), the Cool Ranch Papadia is a “Flatbread-style sandwich covered with bold ranch seasoning, loaded with Doritos Cool Ranch Flavored Dressing, melty cheese, ripe tomatoes, onions & chicken.” Web copy also suggests, “Comes with a side of Doritos Cool Ranch Flavored Dressing for dipping.”

I’m sorry to say that my store didn’t have the Cool Ranch-flavored dipping sauce. Instead, I was given a tub of regular ranch and a half-hearted shrug.

The shell’s exterior was heavily dusted with Cool Ranch powder and was way ranchier than Taco Bell’s Cool Ranch shell. It carried with it all of the zestiness one would expect from its namesake chip. If you have an aversion to Cool Ranch, you’re going to have a bad time with this thing. (I might also ask what you were thinking by ordering it to begin with, though.)

The inside was about what you’d expect from a Papa Johns pizza, ingredient-wise, meaning— the chicken was a little prefabricated tasting but identifiably chicken, the onions seemed fresh, and the tomatoes… okay, well, look: I hate hot tomatoes. I would never intentionally order tomatoes on a pizza. But because we at The Impulsive Buy order the food unamended, there they were. And the tomatoes were of fine quality, don’t get me wrong. They’re just not for me, you know?

The ranch sauce was evenly applied throughout and complemented the other toppings (innards?) nicely. I wouldn’t say it wasn’t distinguishably “Cool Ranch,” but honestly, it was a bit hard to isolate the sauce.

One thing I found curious about the preset arrangement was the lack of bacon. Chicken, bacon, and ranch is a classic culinary trio that’s pretty hard to beat on a sandwich, in a salad, on a pizza, or in a chalupa. Maybe it was a cost-saving measure; if so, thumbs down. That said, this was a really enjoyable item overall. I’ll order it again before it leaves — only this time, I’ll swap the retched tomatoes for bacon, pocketbook be damned.

Purchased Price: $7.99
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 840 calories, 32 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 140 milligrams of cholesterol, 2330 milligrams of sodium, 82 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 55 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Papa Johns Crispy Parm Pizza

Cheese pizza is the most underrated item in the fast food world. Often looked at as “plain” or “boring,” cheese pizza’s perfection is in its simplicity. While I do enjoy various toppings on pizza as well as “creative” offerings, it’s nice to do a palate cleanse once in a while. Papa Johns’ new Crispy Parm Pizza seems like a perfect chance for my taste buds to hit the reset button.

The menu item takes Papa Johns’ thin crust and adds a layer of toasted parmesan cheese to the bottom. As someone who has thrown shredded cheese into a hot pan to make a crispy cheese bite on more than one occasion, I was very into this idea. You can order it with up to one topping, but I am pleased to have stuck with just cheese.

Driving home, the unmistakable smell of parmesan filled my little Ford Focus. It made me all the more excited to try the item. Visually, it was a standard issue-looking cheese pizza. I immediately flipped a slice over to look at the crispy parmesan on the bottom. There was a fairly decent amount adorning the crust’s underside. It was, however, not super crisp to the touch. I had hoped it would have a more crispy bite when trying it, but that wasn’t the case.

My first taste confirmed that the “crisp” parmesan doesn’t really add any textural difference to the item. I think once the pizza gets put in the box, the parmesan loses its crispness from the heat reflecting off the cardboard. But it does add a lot of flavor to the pizza, working well with the sweet red sauce and salty mozzarella to deliver a satisfying slice.

While I was disappointed the item didn’t fully live up to its name, I still enjoyed it. Papa Johns’ Crispy Parm Pizza has all the makings of a really good pizza, but it just trips a bit at the finish line. I think if you have the time (i.e., aren’t planning to immediately eat it when you bring it home), throwing it in the oven on a sheet pan might crisp up the bottom more. That sort of defeats the purpose of bringing home pizza for dinner, but it might be worth the extra step.

Purchased Price: $12.99
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 slice) 260 calories, 15 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 650 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Papa Johns Papa Bites

Alas, “bite-ification” – when foodstuffs become snack/bite-size – has officially hit Papa Johns.

In December, it launched its new limited-time Oreo Cookie Papa Bites (fresh dough, topped with cheesecake filling and Oreo cookie pieces, baked and drizzled with icing).

Quickly after, it added two savory versions: Chicken Parmesan Papa Bites (fresh dough, grilled chicken, parmesan cheese, and pizza sauce that’s finished with garlic parmesan seasoning) and Jalapeno Papa Bites (fresh dough topped with its signature cheese, alfredo, jalapenos, and served with ranch dipping sauce).

They’re described as “eight savory or sweet delectable pillow pockets,” so I immediately thought of the pizza rolls found in the freezer aisle but with creative copywriting because the name “pizza rolls” is trademarked.

But I was wrong.

They’re more akin to stuffed, twisted breadsticks cut up into eight pieces and served with dipping sauces.

Before I get into a play-by-play, I will say that all varieties were flavorful on their own and didn’t really need any of the dips. I appreciate I had the option of slathering my bite in sauce, though, because I know folks love sauces, which includes myself! I always get an extra garlic dipping sauce.

Papa Johns also touts that these are all made with its fresh, never frozen dough. I’m not fancy enough to be able to tell frozen from fresh, but that Papa Johns pizza dough taste comes through despite all the mix-ins. Also, texture-wise, it’s not like the tough crust, but rather the soft, springy dough expected from its pizza.

Oreo Cookie Papa Bites

I started with the dessert collab with Oreo because I’m a dessert-first kinda gal!

Even though I could see chocolate cookie dusting, I didn’t get any Oreo chocolate cookie flavor. The icing also didn’t really taste like the creme. It tasted like dough with a plain ol’ icing. Dipping it in the side of icing also didn’t do anything but make it even more one-note tasting. I wanted to love these because they would’ve been a great add-on to my usual order, but they fell short. I had higher expectations because the Oreo name is front and center! If these were called Dessert Papa Bites, that would’ve tempered my expectations.

Jalapeno Papa Bites

After the disappointing Oreo one, I was ready for something savory, so I jumped to the Jalapeno version. The pungent, spicy, and sour aroma was calling my name because I also enjoy eating Papa John’s pepperoncini.

Despite thinking I was smelling the light-colored pepper that comes with Papa Johns’ pizzas, the bites did look like they were made with jalapenos as they were darker green pieces as opposed to bright yellow. As expected with jalapenos, there was just a kiss of heat that did not linger. The cheese was so plentiful that it was gooey, like a comforting grilled cheese. The alfredo helped to add a punch of flavor because it wasn’t seasoned on the outside like the Chicken Parmesan one. I preferred eating this flavor with the garlic dip instead of the ranch it came with, but honestly, I like garlic dip with almost everything. Again, dips and sauces are not needed, though!

Chicken Parmesan Papa Bites

The Chicken Parmesan one intrigued me the most because it looked like a stromboli or cut-up Costco chicken bake. I’m not sure if it was because they didn’t thoroughly split the bites apart, but these were wider than the other ones. It may have been a fluke, though, as all marketing materials lead me to believe it should look like the others! Visuals aside, this one was chock-full of add-ins like the Jalapeno one!

Unfortunately, all I could taste was sauce and cheese. The meat could have been a meatball, chicken, or mystery, but I wouldn’t have been able to tell you which. Don’t get me wrong – I especially love Papa Johns sauce, but it’s not chicken parm if I cannot detect chicken! But, unlike the Oreo one, I would get this one again. It was still very tasty and tasted great the next day for breakfast, but the dominant flavors were sauce, cheese, and the garlic parmesan seasoning on the crust.

Like breadsticks, Papa Bites are listed in the sides section. It’s enough food if you ate a box of eight on its own, but it doesn’t satisfy a true pizza craving as a pie does. Maybe a Papadia with a side of Papa Bites could be the winning combo! I give Papa Johns kudos for continuing to be creative with its menu, but some flavors were better than others.

Purchased Price: $4.99 each
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Oreo), 6 out of 10 (Chicken Parmesan), 7 out of 10 (Jalapeno)
Nutrition Facts: (1 Papa Bite) Oreo Cookie – 80 calories, 2 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 110 milligrams of sodium, 13 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein. Chicken Parmesan – 110 Calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 280 milligrams of sodium, 10 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 6 grams of protein. Jalapeno – 80 Calories, 3 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 10 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Pepperoni Crusted Papadia

Papa John s Pepperoni Crusted Papadias Top

If you’re not hip to the lingo, Papa John’s defines its Papadia as “a delicious pizza sandwich calzone combo.” Previous Papadia flavors, featuring stalwarts like Philly cheesesteak and Italian meats, were pretty squarely on the “sandwich” side of the spectrum. But there’s no question which of those three words the new Pepperoni Crusted variety most evokes.

You may be able to tell that this is not my first Papadia rodeo, but it is the first time I can remember distinctly thinking, “Wait… isn’t this literally just a personal pizza folded in half and with extra pepperoni added to the outside?” It’s also possible that I’m more observant than usual today on account of being three cups of coffee deep and so highly caffeinated that I’m hearing colors. But in any case, any potential pretense that you might be eating something healthier than you actually are is out the window with this one.

Sure, it doesn’t look THAT much different than the previous Papadias, but somehow, seeing that familiar exterior festooned with pepperonis so red and round they’re nigh cartoonish just makes the same triangular shape, smattering of parmesan, and rounded crust-like edge scream “PIZZA!” so much louder.

Papa John s Pepperoni Crusted Papadias Split

You probably already have a good idea of what this tastes like just by looking at it. The crust is buttery, the cheese mild, and the pepperoni zesty (plus there’s a side of Papa John’s signature sweet sauce if you feel like making a dish that’s advertised for its portability slightly less convenient to eat on the go). All of those flavors are wonderful, but they’re not really what I want to focus on, because to me, what’s just as, if not more, important for a pizza or pizza-adjacent product is its texture. I want my crust chewy, my cheese dense, and my pepperoni tough enough for a primitively satisfying give when I tear into it. How does this Papadia live up to those super-specific standards? Well, I am not exaggerating when I say that that first bite was a near-religious experience (though again, that might just be the three-times-my-usual-caffeine-intake talking).

As a native New Yorker, I’m used to folding a slice of pizza before I eat it, and I hope this delicious Papadia officially validates that behavior for all the out-of-town friends who’ve made fun of me for it. Because, like I said, a folded pizza is basically what this Papadia is and that improves the experience tenfold (yes, emphasis on the “fold”).

Papa John s Pepperoni Crusted Papadias Flip

To test this assertion, I took a small bite of my Papadia after I’d opened it up, and it just didn’t hit the same way. Perhaps the crust was a bit thinner and the layer of cheese and toppings a bit thicker than I’d usually expect from Papa John’s, but the dissected Papadia still didn’t feel like anything extraordinary. There’s just something about biting into those two thick layers while they’re squished up against each other and masterfully enveloped by a crisp bready crunch on either side that’s so gratifying that I can barely put it into words, even as someone who is literally paid to put food into words. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing, because that means that in order to really understand the magic of the Pepperoni Crusted Papadia, you’ll just have to try one yourself.

Papa John s Pepperoni Crusted Papadias Box

Purchased Price: $7.99
Size: n/a
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 1080 calories, 61 grams of fat, 29 grams of saturated fat, 2710 milligrams of sodium, 77 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, and 50 grams of protein.