How 'Bout Them Knockers: Papa John's Pizza

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Each week in 'Knockers' we order from a different delivery restaurant, assessing their efficiency and keeping a running score.

Papa John's Pizza
Denton (2 locations)

Promised delivery time: 30 minutes
Actual delivery time: 26 minutes

Scoring summary:
All important phone courtesy: 9.7
Speed of delivery: 9.9
Higher than college-town price: 7.3
Order accuracy: 6.9
Presentation: 6.8
Pizza quality: 7.2
Condiment quality (including use of good chemicals and additives): 2.5
Taste vs expectations: 7.9
Canine Crust Meter: 9.7
Post-meal satisfaction (a measure of cramping): 3.9

Total: 71.8

Top Ten

See complete 2009 standings here

After a frenzied Sunday afternoon spent hunting down new threads for a beach wedding, my fiancé and I returned to Denton hankering for a disc of Arrested Development and some appetizing pie. J&J's Pizza was our first choice, but after the twenty-fourth unanswered ring I got the hint.

Surprisingly, Denton has few locally owned restaurateurs willing to deliver, so we went corporate and ordered from Papa John's.

Three rings later at 6:08 p.m., Brandon answered the phone. He plugged a two large, one topping pizza promo with a tonal swagger reminiscent of a struggling lounge singer.

I was tempted to ask him to sing a Sinatra ballad.

Brandon was friendly and accommodating of our special order: One large, full-veggie pizza--only half sprinkled with black olives.

"Good deal, man... 30-45 minutes," Brandon said.

Now, $11.14 isn't a total scam but it isn't exactly a killer deal for Denton's poor, malnourished college community. Still, hunger is hunger. At 6:34, the knock: Four minutes ahead of schedule. Score one for Papa John's.

Kaya, my dog, barked repeatedly and couldn't be corralled from the door. She knew that smell and what it meant: Time to dish out all manner of begging for pizza crusts. The little tramp. Our delivery guy, Matt Pederson, was courteous and smiled nervously, perhaps unnerved by the barking dog or my fat black digital camera. I snapped a couple shots of Pederson in those chaotic few moments before tipping the man and digging in.

The pizza was hot alright, but full-veggie amounted to nothing fancy, only onions, green peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and black olives. While the pizza had black olives on only half, as requested, one half bore tomatoes while the other did not. Aside from the lycopene deficiency, the total assemblage was, well, nothing special: The cheese held an unnatural off-white pallor and the onions were a bit stringy. The lone peppercini was a sad little character indeed.

And then there's Papa John's Special Garlic Sauce. While the box might bear Papa John's testimonial to delivering "the kind of pizza I'd be proud to serve to my family," he mentions nothing of his dense, butter-colored Special Garlic Sauce--perhaps with good reason. "Special" in this case might refer to that same "special" place reserved for elderly pets and grandparents when talking to small children. The first ingredient in the Special Garlic Sauce? Liquid or partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Like many poisons, it's manufactured and wreaks hell on your body.

So much for the pizza maker's slogan, "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza."

Then again, "better" is awfully subjective and, well, who orders delivery pizza thinking it's healthy? Overall, the meal was fine--not amazing, just fine. The tomatoes were juicy and the green peppers offered a pleasant crunch, but Arrested Development did more for my soul.

Two hours later our stomachs ached. Alas, eating pizza from Papa John's was like the youthful lesson of coupling with an ex-lover: It fills a void but in the end you might wind up hating yourself.

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