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Pink Papa

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I wish I liked Pink's Pizza more than I do. Everybody tells me how great it is. Heck, when it first opened, I told other people how great it was. I think it was just excitement at having a new pizza delivery place at hand that wasn't Papa John's. Then it hit me; in many ways, Pink's is Papa John's.

When was the last time you had a pie from Pink's? Think about the flavors and textures. Then think back to your last Papa John's pizza. You'll notice some eerie similarities.

Let's start with the crust. Both pizzerias serve up crust with a disconcertingly chewy texture, as if the dough has overdeveloped gluten. And while both are both prone to having blackened and scorched spots on their crust, a mark of a hot oven, and a harbinger of toasty, crispy crust on the bottom, sadly, this is not the case with either pizzeria. There is no charring on the bottom, no wafer-thin and crispy crust. Those blackened spots are just manifestations of an oven with unmanaged hot zones. Sometimes, that darkened bit is a carelessly strewn bit of cheese, gratinéed by the heat of the oven. That's kind of nice, actually.

Sauce-wise, Pink's and Papa John's are two of a kind, as well. Both feature slightly chunky, more than slightly sweet sauces that taste predominantly of tomato. That's not such a bad thing, but a bit more interest in the sauce, some additional herbs or garlic perhaps, makes for a better pie all around.

The toppings are where Pink's starts to stand out, and where I find reason to continue ordering from them. Not only do they have some novel creations, they also buy consistently good ingredients. We're not talking artisanal meats and cheeses, or organic produce picked yesterday in the garden out back -- just good, solid toppings. The produce is always reasonably fresh and vibrant, the cheese has good melt and string, and the meats taste as they should.

My most recent Pink's purchase, a 16-inch "Deuce" (topped with goat cheese, mozzarella, spinach, portabellas, roma tomatoes, garlic, and pesto sauce) was, overall, a good example. The goat cheese was fresh and tangy, the mozzarella provided a good blanket cheesiness, the portabellas added some depth and a nice meaty bite, and even the pesto was vibrant despite almost certainly coming from a jar. The only topping failure here was the spinach. If it wasn't frozen, I'd be very surprised. It came in tough little balls on the pizza, dried out on the outside. Once it was picked off, the flavors on top of the pie melded nicely.

Unfortunately, the overall result was pretty much exactly what I'd expect from Papa John's, at a very similar price. That's Pink's saving grace, though. While it might not be that much better, it's also not that much more expensive, and all in all, I'd rather my pizza dollars stay closer to home.

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