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Domino's New Artisan Pizza: Better Crust, Toppings Still Need Work

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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

A couple months back, Domino's announced its new line of "Artisan" pizzas. Now, Domino's freely admits that they're not artisans. It says so right there on the box. (Then, confusingly in small print, it also says that they might be artisans). They also promise that every single Artisan pizza box will be signed by the employee who made it. Mine came blank.

So what's different about these new pies?

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Well first off, the shape. They're rectangular, and in early advertisements they claimed to be rolled out by a rolling pin, but their irregular shape sure looked hand-stretched to me. I imagined this wouldn't translate into any discernible difference in how they taste, but I was actually pleasantly surprised by the crust. Whether it's the rolling pins or them simply using less dough, it's significantly thinner than the standard puffy, doughy Domino's crust.

Somewhere between their standard crust and their matzoh-like thin crust, it's got a decent amount of chew and a crisp undercarriage.

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Speaking of that undercarriage, the other significant difference in crust is that there's no cornmeal on this one. Unfortunately, I don't think they're free-stretching in flour. It looks like these crusts are stretched out onto an oiled baking sheet (you can tell by the bubble structure underneath), so rather than getting the nice dry, crunchy crust of good bread (or good NY or Neapolitan pizza), you get more of an oily, crispy crust, similar in texture to say, Greek Pizza, or the slices they make at the 99¢ shops in NYC.

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Further improvement: It seems like they don't brush the crusts on these guys with the herb/garlic/fake butter stuff they put on their regular pies, which is very good news indeed. My pie even showed a few bubbles here and there and a bit of light charring. It actually tastes like real pizza crust!

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Now the bad news: There are three different pie options available. Spinach & Feta comes with an Alfredo-style sauce, the "Tuscan" Salami & Roasted Veggie comes with a plain white sauce, while the Italian Sausage & Pepper Trio is the only one that features a tomato sauce. It's their normal "Robust Inspired Tomato Sauce," which is still too overcoooked, over-herbed, and over-sweetened.

I haven't had a chance to taste the first two yet, but the sausage and pepper version was uninspired as far as toppings go. Their sausage is low-quality with the texture of meatloaf, and while the peppers are fine (I especially like the banana peppers), the "Parmesan-Asiago" cheese is dry and tastes like the kind from the green can. A dusting of dried oregano at the end does little except add some dustiness to the flavor.

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It seems a bit silly to me that Domino's, known for their ability to customize offers only three of these pies without the option of any customization at all. The most you can do is ask them to omit an ingredient.

Funny thing is, near where I live there's pretty much no good delivery pizza (and yep, that's in NYC no less)—the regular Domino's pies are pretty close to the best thing in the neighborhood. These new Artisan pies might actually push Domino's over the edge into the best thing around. I just wish that they'd let you choose your own toppings.

Dear Domino's: Good work on what's actually a pretty darn good crust. Now please keep working on the rest.

Has anyone else given them a shot? First reactions?

Bonus Video:

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Managing Editor of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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