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Chain Reaction: Papa John's New Italian Meats and Spinach Alfredo Pizzas

While we think mom-and-pop shops make the best pizza in the nation, we'd be remiss if we didn't keep abreast of what the chains are up to. Suit up, it's time for another Chain Reaction, folks.

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Papa John's Italian Meats pizza. [Photographs: Maggie Hoffman]

Papa John's has a couple limited-time pizzas on its menu these days, the Spinach Alfredo and the Italian Meats Pizza. Both are $11 right now. We got our greasy mitts on them (both ordered on thin-crust foundations*) in the name of research.

Papa John's Spinach Alfredo Pizza

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First up, the Spinach Alfredo pizza. Well, it delivers on the alfredo flavor, but on the spinach, I think all of us at Slice/SE HQ we were imagining larger pieces of spinach perhaps strewn atop the pizza. Instead it's chopped medium-fine and placed beneath the cheese.

It tastes like a spinach dip blanketed with a layer of mozzarella. As one wag here said, "It has that sort of swampy, frozen spinach flavor. But it's not super gooey." Another one said, "It's not even good in a bad good way."

My guess is that this was a specialty-pizza sop to vegetarians. This truly is a "limited-time" pizza, though, because you normally can't get alfredo sauce or spinach via the online ordering tool.

Papa John's Italian Meats Pizza

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The Hearty Italian Meats has the 3-cheese blend (mozzarella, Parmesan, Romano), Italian salami, spicy Italian sausage, "Italian ham," and pepperoni. Keep in mind that pepperoni is not necessarily an Italian meat, but whatever, and that we don't exactly know what they mean by "Italian ham," which is why I put it in quotes. It's not prosciutto — tasted more like Canadian bacon.

But, you know, this one was actually pretty decent. You'd think it'd be overkill with four meats, but Papa John's takes a light hand with each one. That can be good or bad, depending on your outlook on meatzza. Personally, I like the fact that it doesn't feel like I'm eating a deli case's worth of cured meats. I do wish we could have found the pepperoni, though. The "Italian ham" looks pretty similar and could be mistaken for it at first.

One surprising note: The Italian salami topping is actually pretty good. Could Papa have read our "Soppressata Is the New Pepperoni" post? We're going to have to order a pizza topped only with this stuff and see how it holds up.

So, long story short: We'll give a "go" to the Italian Meats Pizza and a "no" to the Spinach Alfredo. Adam Kuban, with insights from Maggie Hoffman, Erin Zimmer, and J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

* We've found that the thin-crust base is often the best foundation to order a chain pizza on, since they don't get overly bready and doughy, one of the major weaknesses of chain pizza.

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