Fast Times

Papa John's Frito Chili Pizza Ain't Nothin' But Schwag

A few weeks ago, Papa John's announced a new pizza and created a bit of an uproar. I won't weigh in on the espionage issue, but I will weigh in on the pizza. With apologies to Anthony Calleo. Or perhaps the opposite.

I've only had the Pi Pizza Truck 420 Slice once, and it was quite a while ago. That said, I remember it as surprisingly well balanced. I don't, however, remember it being all that much like a Frito chili pie. That's not a knock on the pizza.

The Papa John's Frito's Chili Pizza doesn't really taste like a Frito chili pie, either. Likewise, that's not necessarily a knock on the pie. This one does deserve its knocks, though.

Let's start with the chili. It's thin and acidic, like a can of Wolf Brand mixed with lemon juice. There's an overpowering taste of raw chili powder, like a bucket of the stuff was dumped in after cooking. This might not be entirely off the mark, judging by the slightly grainy texture.

Tomatoes on top reinforce the sweetness and acidity, and not in a good way. The cheese has a weird, cottony feel to it, most un-cheeselike. All the flavors just sort of form a wad in your mouth, like the whole thing is already chewed up and homogenized. This thing is heavy. Like, Nibler-dropping heavy. The dense, chewy crust is not helping. It tastes like bloating. Even the crunch of the Fritos, haphazardly scattered on top post-bake, seems blah-ed out.

Mind you, I'm no enemy to take-out pizza. I'm not even opposed to silly "specialty pizzas" delivered to my house in 30 minutes or less. I'm even kind of fond of cheeseburger pizza. This one, though? It's just bad pizza. It's not even *good* bad pizza. Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about.

At any rate, I don't think Calleo and Pi Pizza have much to be worried about. Certainly, the Papa John's "version" of the 420 isn't a gateway pie. Nobody will be lining up to emblazon their arms with John Schnatter ink in exchange for free heart-shaped Fritos pizzas on Valentine's day. If the munchies get you bad enough, you might want to do just that for the authentic 420. For the third year in a row, you'll get your chance. With a Pi themed tattoo, of course.

November 23 at the 8th Wonder Brewery, Calleo is raffling off chances at tattoo glory. If you win, you pay for the tattoo but never again pay for pizza. Since you'll be the one with the ink, feel free to Bogart the pizza.

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Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall