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.
After a long period of public soul-searching, hand-wringing, and pizza-improving, it seems that Domino's is finally satisfied enough with its core product line to shift focus to the ancillary wings 'n' sticks 'n' bites 'n' things that round out a modern chain-pizza menu. Slice had some nice enough words to say about the Stuffed Cheesy Bread late last fall, so we figured it was worth investigating the less ballyhooed sister product introduced around the same time.
Domino's Parmesan Bread Bites retail for $2.99, which is a pretty fair price for 16 sawed-off breadsticks that are sized about halfway between a Combo and a Totino's Pizza Roll. I will risk making a dubious correlation between value and calories by pointing out that 16 bread bites add up to 600 calories: Throw that in your personal calories-per-penny junk food algorithm as you see fit; on my scale, the price is fairly right.
The product itself is adequate. The undercooked exterior doesn't provide much textural contrast with the interior, which is a demerit in my book, but I realize there are other books out there. The innards have a bit of a gummy white sandwich breadiness, though in the best possible way (which is an OK way).
The flavor is on par with the texture: It'll do, as long as you don't expect it to do much. The semi-salty crust is dusted with Parmesan and Asiago and then slickened with a faintly garlicky version of the house butter-oil. The interior has no character beyond what might be expected from the reduced-calorie version of a Wonder Bread-flavored soda pop: a little fake sugar, a lot of bleached flour.
Perhaps you're thinking you can beat the system by smartening these bland Bites up with an aftermarket exterior coat, but Domino's is working against that plan on two counts. First of all, they stinge-out by charging you 60 cents per cup of dipping sauce. Six-tenths of a clam might not seem like a ton until you consider than it increases the overall price by 20 percent. That's a pretty generous tip for a double-shot of marinara. And then there's the more pressing concern that Domino's dipping sauces generally range from a low point of crappy all the way on up to inoffensively boring.
Overall, I found the combination of a fair price, a not-overtly-deadly nutrition profile, and an adequate taste to be a curse in disguise. I shoveled them into my mouth absentmindedly, and while they didn't gross me out, bloat me out, or clean me out, they didn't do me any great favors, either. After the seventh one I remembered deciding that two had been enough. That's not because they were "addicting" (my least favorite food word) or even growing on me; it's because they were there and they weren't terrible.
Domino's is currently offering to Bite you 16 times for a dollar if you order two medium pizzas for $5.99 apiece. At that price, what the hell, throw them in if your party is otherwise destined to come up 600 calories short and a buck long. That's the strongest endorsement I can offer.
I know that summary might not water many mouths, but Parmesan Bread Bites really aren't bad. The problem is they don't have a single above-average quality that makes them worth ordering unless you find yourself trapped in a Domino's with nothing but $3, an empty stomach, and cursory cholesterol awareness. Across the board, they're no better or worse a lunch option than a garlic-parmiago bagel with light cream cheese. That's not enough to get me into Domino's, but reasonable breadheads may disagree.