Home Slice Pizza in Austin Does the Real R&D
OK, so I'm going to reference that darn MetaFilter thread about Domino's again. Someone there said, "I felt bad when the head chef and one other person said that the Domino's hate really struck them hard. At the same time, though, I couldn't help but think... haven't they ever eaten Domino's pizza?"
I felt kinda bad for them too. We all know what it's like to work on something and then have someone shit all over it.
But, seriously. I've done a couple of interviews with local media outlets about the new recipe, and I always spout the totally obvious conclusion: Why not just order from a local pizzeria?
Sure, Domino's claims it tried to improve its pizza, but when you eat it, you taste that crust, and there's just something off about it. I'm not going to say that it tastes like cardboard, because it really doesn't, but it is gummy, is too soft, is not crisp, and it just feels like it's loaded with preservatives. Simply brushing a wash of garlic-herb-infused oil on the rim of the pizza, which is all it appears Domino's did to "improve" the crust, is not going to change that.
The best pizza crusts leave you thinking, "Damn. I'd even eat that plain." You'd never think that about Domino's crust.
So when I see Domino's getting all this attention for "listening to the people" and trying to improve, it's strikes me as just more lipstick on a pig. Sure, it's a brilliant marketing strategy, and people are now talking about the brand (Slice included, ad nauseam), but there's still a lot of talk about it tasting the same or only marginally better.
But all this chatter gets me thinking about another pizza place that has done significant research to improve its pizza. It's a small, relatively unheralded pizzeria that goes beyond lip service and, each year, goes to extraordinary lengths to reconnect with its mission and up its game.
I'm talking about Home Slice Pizza, a self-proclaimed New York–style pizzeria in Austin, Texas.
Every year in September, this Lone Star State pizzeria closes and takes its staff up to the Big Apple to commune with the style of pie it's trying to emulate. Even if you think New York–style pizza is bunk, you've got to admire the moxie on display here.
I mean, look, in one shot, they play "Slice Roulette," where they send everyone in the group out to a different pizzeria to pick up slices and then converge on Washington Square Park to share and sample.
And they hit a good variety of places: Bleecker Street Pizza, Famous Ben's, Joe's, Stromboli, Sal's, Famous Ray's, Nino's, VInny Vincenz, Artichoke Basille's. Even if you don't agree with some of these picks, they'll surely learn from each of them--even if it's what not to do.
And that's after hitting Lombardi's for coal-oven the first day, Kesté later on after "Slice Roulette," and still(!), after that, Roberta's.
I admit that I've never had Home Slice pizza, so I don't know how good it is, but that's some great research. I at least have faith that these folks are trying to make their product as best as can be and as near the standard they hold ideal.
They might not be talking the talk, but they're walking the walk.