Rather than get held at gunpoint by Papa John and his pizza cosca, it was time for us to visit his joint and try out his so-called legendary pan pizza. No need for violence or horse heads, capo. With the green and red logo that is so hard to miss, even the color blind would find his way to Papa John's welcoming doorstep.
Papa John's (SM North) is bustling with red, bricks, and seemingly normal folks. Devoid of Buon apetito crewmen and Can-I-get-yer-order? gum-chewing waitresses, I inspected our salt and pepper shakers in the last effort at protection and preserving my life. Just plain salt and pepper. Check. Now that it's been settled, let the real Buon apetito begin!
While there was no actual Papa John to take our order, at least he was plastered on the walls—a very fit and trim Papa John—and will be dining with us in spirit.
The menu is fraught with choices that would boggle the simple-minded: pan pizza or thin, tick or tin (“thick or thin” pardon our waiter's slang), spaghetti or penne? I half expected milk or creamer, yin or yang, life or death—but good thing the questionnaire stuck to food-related inquiries, as we were really on the verge of attacking the open windowed kitchen with our salt and pepper shakers.
[caption id="attachment_1448" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Cheese Sticks"][/caption]
The name is a misnomer, and even a child could point that out. Sticks ought to be thin and pointy; while this one is flat and round. If the waiter hadn’t chirpily announced the coming of the “cheese sticks” I’d swear he served us a complimentary kid’s meal. I would like to rename this dish, small cheese pizza. As for the taste—no need to get all creative—it tastes like a small cheese pizza. Next!
[caption id="attachment_1442" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Arrabbiata"][/caption]
The pasta came in a small bowl that is better fitted to feed Bambino John. With this serving size, we will need to order at least 3 bowls to get my family back to sanity—and with no bread rolls on the side, this lack of carbs is the surefire way to whack my family, no guns necessary. The Arrabbiata sauce was peppered with tomato and black olive bits to complement the fresh-tasting sauce. At least by Papa John’s standards, this makes the cut.
[caption id="attachment_1447" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Diablo Burst"][/caption]
Diablo Burst Pasta
The Diablo Burst came in the same signature bambino bowl, but we’ve gotten used this level of serving already, so there was no need to get all, “Papa mia!” With its sausage component, it was off limits my plate. However, my borgata claims that it was the meat-infused sauce that made it more appealing and delectable. Too hot for their taste buds though, they wish that in the same milk tea fashion, the level for spiciness could be predetermined by diner. Oh and that shrimps would replace the sausage; after all, doesn’t this dish normally go by the name Shrimp Diablo?
[caption id="attachment_1444" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Fisherman's Catch Pizza"][/caption]
Fisherman’s Catch Pizza, Thin Crust
Blame my less-carbs-is-best mantra for ordering thin crust, when thick crust happens to be the house specialty. What we got was the phyllo-slender crust that would get every male on the planet dizzy with hunger, and with just enough energy to give me the finger.
[caption id="attachment_1443" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="Jalapeno and Butter"][/caption]
The pizzas arrived with 2 bowls of garlic butter and 2 pieces of jalapeno chilis as dip/toppings for the pizza. While these are not enough to alleviate hunger, they at least add to the flavor and cholesterol level, as if the buttered up crust isn’t grease stricken enough.
The pizzas are brushed with what seems to be layers of butter to create that glowing and juicy effect, once served on the table. It’s not enough that we get steaming fresh-from-the-oven pizzas, the shimmering look is just as mandatory for those who want to end up like Super Mario. I’ve always wanted to be Luigi, so I dabbed my pizza slices when no one was looking—busted though once they tidied my plate and uncovered yellow tissue papers. Gross, I know.
Back to the pizza. The Fisherman’s Catch is obviously Papa John’s pizza tribute to the pescatorian with squid, minute shrimps, green pepper and this interestingly named garlic sauce. The mozzarella cheese is rather thickly spread, to my delight, but its suspicious gleam demanded closer inspection—ah yes, it was the garlic butter all along! With the lack of a proper pizza sauce to balance the saltiness (don't bother looking for anchovies because there aren't any), it’s best to call this the salty pizza. Again, I’m not being creative anymore since. After all, this one ain’t a catch.
[caption id="attachment_1445" align="aligncenter" width="614" caption="All Meats Pizza"][/caption]
All Meats Pizza, Thick Crust
This pizza happens to be the anti-thesis of the Fisherman’s Catch in Phyllo-butter crust. The meat content is enough to battle out even the deepest of all hungers, while the hand tossed crust is baked golden but not glistening with butter. While I never felt the temptation to pluck a piece of pepperoni—which is bad manners, by the way—I watched in awe as the meat eating bunch ate in peace and harmony. No complaints about bread rolls or dripping grease, just pure carnivorous dining bliss.
As we finished our meal, it was gratifying to know that there was a chance of leaving the place with all our limbs intact. They stuffed us silly though—all those carb dishes and only a few strips of green pepper I could call my vegetable serving. At least I was alive and breathing, and only needed a cup of tea to regain my slumbering arteries.
While the hungry and very hungry will definitely come back for more dough-oriented dishes and crusts, there are those who could do with less grease (me!) and bigger pasta servings (me!).
What I would like to now though is: How does Papa John stay slim, with all that butter in his pantry?
I’m dying to know.