Drive-thru review: If you like spicy pizza, this one's for you

By: Ken Hoffman King Features Syndicate
December 23, 2013
photo - Ken Hoffman - Drive Thru
Ken Hoffman - Drive Thru 

This week I reached for a slice of Chipotle Chicken & Bacon Pizza from Papa John's.

Here's the blueprint: chipotle sauce, slices of Papa John's chicken poppers, shredded mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, crumbled bacon and chopped Roma tomatoes on a hand-tossed crust.

Now, Papa John's is lifting Taco Bell's trick of raiding the fridge for ingredients already found in its other specialty pizzas and using a little of this and a little of that to create a whole new pizza. This could be a new marketing strategy: "New pizza. No added cost. Papa John's!"

The Chipotle Chicken & Bacon Pizza is pretty, that's for sure. There are yellow and white cheeses; red, ripe tomatoes; smoky dark bacon; and golden-brown crust. The colors work for me.

What doesn't work is ... where's my red base sauce? When you eschew red tomato sauce for creamy chipotle sauce, you're messing with the pizza paradigm. As a pizza purist, I get jittery when a chain based in Kentucky starts messing and freestylin' with the basics.

When you replace tomato sauce with creamy chipotle sauce, is this even still a pizza? Just because it's round, and cheese is within 50 feet, that doesn't make it a pizza. Remember when Domino's dumped a Philly cheesesteak on a circle of dough and called it a pizza? I'm still in therapy.

The Chipotle Chicken & Bacon has a target audience: people who like their pizzas spicy. With the chicken poppers and chipotle sauce, this pie has a grown-up taste. I liked it. The spice isn't overpowering, but kids might find it too much. So order a regular pepperoni pizza too, to keep peace in the house. Smart, Papa John's.

A slice of Chipotle Chicken & Bacon Pizza is a big handful. It's overloaded with toppings, so the flop factor is high. Be careful - either fold the slice New York-style or use two hands for the first couple of bites.

And with all those toppings, the Chipotle Chicken & Bacon Pizza is a diet-buster. Three slices in and you've crossed the 1,000-calorie red line. One way to cut back, just a little, is to ask for thin crust. That saves about 50 calories per slice. It won't help your fat intake, though. Nobody gets out completely unscathed.

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