A Pizza Sinner Attempts Redemption

Domino’s New Pizza

Domino’s New Pizza

I Paid: $10.99 for an 11-inch pepperoni pizza (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4 stars

Marketing: 5 stars

There may be no human being walking the planet with a lower opinion of the Domino’s franchise than yours truly. Here is a brief anecdote to illustrate the point: A few years ago, I helped strike the set after a friend’s wedding. After the event, I found myself back at the hotel, famished. It was late, and I was unable to find anything open other than Domino’s Pizza. I ordered one. It arrived. I took one bite. The crust was like cardboard, the sauce was one-dimensional, and the cheap, nonstretchy, non-dairy-tasting cheese caused me to lose my appetite. I wound up throwing out the entire pizza and going to bed hungry.

How do you bounce back from that? Not with terrible sandwiches, nor with godforsaken pasta bowls, nor with Oreo pizza, the worst dessert-type product I have ever had the extraordinary misfortune to put in my mouth.

A better approach? How about running brutally honest commercials that denounce your own product for having cardboardlike crust and sauce that tastes like ketchup? YES! Acknowledge that the brand has walked itself into the dumpster with year after year of massively substandard products. OK, now you’ve got my attention.


The remedy, according to Domino’s: Build a whole new pizza. One with an herby, buttery, garlic-seasoned crust. Use a sauce that actually tastes like tomatoes, and 100 percent real cheese on top (which raises the question of what the previous pizza contained … but no matter).

Here’s the kicker: Domino’s did it. The pizza is good. It isn’t great. It isn’t better than a sincere neighborhood pizzeria’s, and it’s no coal-fired East Coast wonder. But it is better than a crappy neighborhood pizzeria’s pizza, and most, if not all, of the major delivery chains’, including Papa John’s (which seems to me to have been taking a slow march toward mediocrity after a notably excellent first few years).

The new Domino’s pizza is not particularly greasy. Garlic, cheese, and tomato flavors dominate. The slightly buttery crust is relatively soft but has a bit of crunch and pleasant chew to it. There’s a brightness to the sauce that recalls what sauce should actually taste like. In an absolute sense, this is a pretty decent pizza. In a relative sense—compared to the old Domino’s pizzas we grew to know and loathe—it’s like pizza from a different planet. A decent planet. Not a hellish planet with rancid marshmallow-fluff oceans and mountains made of greasy, substandard pepperoni slices.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.