I’m a snob. There, I said it. The hard part is over and this post can commence like a meeting of AA with better coffee and no clothes. I’m a big ol’ snob and I kind of resent the ironic tone of the Domino’s ads and pizza box. “We’re not artisans,” it begins, as if one ordered Domino’s to experience the full throttle perfection of a New Haven or Chicago pie to begin with but just got frustrated with the lack of computer systems and cute boxes. “We don’t wear black berets, cook with wood-fired ovens, or apprentice with the masters in Italy.” Nor do we trim our plush, black moustaches or refrain from using tried stereotypes, but whatever. I can deal. This is all below a line for your proud pizza parent to sign after its conception. Oy. With this strange marketing concept, eaters start with the knowledge that Domino’s, like your single neighbor Chuck and his closet full of lingerie, is desperately trying to casually deny an identity it secretly desires.
But seeing as I’m a fan of all things admittedly artisanal or not, I still wanted to eat one of these. I had neither the cash nor the hunger to order three of these, but did go out on a limb and order the Italian Sausage and Pepper Trio one night. At $7.99, I’m not sold on the price. Maybe because there’s a pizza joint nearby that offers a freshly made slice with two toppings roughly the size of an infant for $3, or maybe because I’m wondering if this is a result of the artisan tagline. It’s basically their regular pizza in a different shape. I built a medium pizza with the same toppings for an annoying $13.34, so while this is more cost effective, it just doesn’t scream artisanal. It would have served two people if we’d enjoyed it, I’m sure. That being said, we did not.
Opening the box, which was unsigned by our embarrassed pizziolo, the pizza was fragrant and thankfully, not dripping with greasy sausage remnants. The whole “tough guy” artisan persona seeps into the ordering system- an eater can take off toppings, but not add anything additional. This pizza came with a red sauce base, parmesan-asiago blend, Italian sausage slices, and green, red, and yellow roasted peppers. It smelled excellent and appeared to have generous toppings. But from the get-go, it was clear that not all the slices were born to be equally delicious.
It was incredibly annoying to have the fact that these were carefully hand-made drummed into our heads and yet still find pieces that were half crust with two measly pieces of sausage and no cheese. I understand that a little human error is expected when you employ bored college kids to goof around and make pizzas, but we couldn’t eat half of that piece because of all the crust.
The sausage was moist, but the tempting fennel and spice aromas were overwhelmed by the fatty, salty flavor. This was pretty one-noted, and needed some spice. If I could make a replacement to this pizza without fearing the wrath of the artisan pizza bros, it would be the addition of a spicier sauce, red pepper flakes, and replacing the banana peppers, slippery, vinegary pieces better suited to a deli sandwich, with roasted jalapeno pieces. The roasted green and red peppers complimented the sausage in a nostalgic way for me, as my family used to get wonderful sausage and pepper pies at a pizzeria near my grandmother’s, but the banana peppers were just a sharp and cloying annoyance. I ended up picking them off.
Ironically, if Domino’s enforced the artisanal approach instead of making fun of it, I think they could have a good pie. The topping choices are decent, if uninspired, and the square party pizza style slices are easy to share and portion. I think it’s snooty to not allow any substitutions or changes to a reasonable extent, and somewhat of a cop-out to use existing toppings from their repertoire. Instead of not allowing the customers to substitute toppings, how about having toppings exclusive to the artisan pizzas? Marinated eggplant, sundried tomatoes, fried egg, fresh mozzarella or goat cheese and red potato come to mind as things I’d definitely be interested in ordering from Domino’s simply because it would be different. By shedding the artisanal values and ingenuity, they stunt themselves in appealing to the every-man. Domino’s is an average, mass-produced pizza company. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if they want to step outside of the box, their customers should be pleased and surprised by the deviation from their norm.