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Chain Reaction: Domino's Artisan Carbonara

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[Photographs: Will Gordon]

On Monday I wrote about Burger King's new bacon sundae, which surprised me by being very good. I had low hopes, because I don't like BK ice cream and I am skeptical of bacon's ability to fix bad food. I am quite fond of bacon on its own terms, but I disagree with the people who expect it to magically heal any and every sickly foodstuff it encounters. This stunning sundae notwithstanding, I still generally believe that bullshit plus bacon equals bacon-covered bullshit.

I'm sure you're all with me there, because you're all reasonable people who are also quite handsome: You know that slapping bacon on a poorly conceived or executed dish is just a waste of time and bacon. But what about adding the good stuff to an already successful operation?

I stand by my assertion in Monday's post that bacon has no place on a scallop, but I regret saying "bacon turns pizza into a greasy mess." It was frankly irresponsible to make a blanket statement about such a nuanced and controversial matter, and I thank Serious Eater Pipenta for setting me straight in the sundae story comments. Bacon can indeed work on pizza. Which brings us to today's topic: Can it work on a Domino's Artisan Pizza already freighted with chicken, Alfredo sauce, and a dubious legacy?

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Let's get the definitional issues out of the way. First, why is this pizza "artisanal"? Because it's rectangular and thinnish of crust, silly! If you scoff at that argument then aha! you've fallen right into Domino's trap: It says "We're Not Artisans" in giant letters on the box, which goes on to explain how they "don't wear black berets, cook with wood-fired ovens, or apprentice with the masters in Italy." Huh? Let's move on. So how is this pizza "carbonara"? Because it features pork and irregular dairy, and because Domino's says so. Good enough for me. Eatin' time.

Well, the chicken was good. The fair amount of breast meat scattered atop the eight square slices was moist and tender, and it actually tasted of chicken rather than just water-injected, factory-perfected moist tenderness. It brings me no pleasure to report that the rest of the affair was less successful.

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It turns out that even after we graciously cleared bacon on conceptual grounds, this stuff had the nerve to raise yet another definitional crisis: It was limp and pink and wimpy, with no evidence of having been smoked. Whether it comes from bellies, legs, or parts unknown, Domino's bacon is essentially ham. That's cool sometimes; ham's great! I liked the Domino's version in their Stuffed Cheesy Bread, but it doesn't get the job done on the Artisan Carbonara, which is marred by a floppy constitution that cries out for crisp, assertive bacon.

Slice's first look at the Domino's Artisan line found improved crusts undermined by inferior toppings. My Carbonara experience suggests that the crust has slipped to the topping level. It was grievously undercooked, which I realize can be a one-time problem caused by a harried or inexpert anti-artisan. But the intermittently blackened cheese is evidence that the crust problem runs deeper than isolated employee error. There seems to be some sort of design problem related to cooking time and oven temperature, because by the time the bottom of this pie was cooked, the top would have been ruined.

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The flaccid crust was exacerbated by the goopy Alfredo sauce, which was nicely garlicky and slightly oversalted but mostly just served to gum up the works. (There was also a thin film of "robust marinara," but I wouldn't have noticed it if the literature hadn't tipped me off.) The Alfredo overload made it hard to tell if the crust had been sprayed with the standard Domino's garlic-butter-oil ointment; it didn't taste much like wheat or yeast or any other nice thing.

The cheese was lightly charred, as I prefer it, but the 100% mozzarella that Domino's likes to brag about might not be the ideal composition for cheap pizza cheese, because industrial mozz just doesn't taste like much of anything except a lot of salt and a tiny bit of sweet cream.

Domino's Artisan Carbonara failed me. The situation might not be hopeless—cut down on the sauce, improve or at least precook the bacon, figure out how to crunch up the crust so the pizza doesn't resemble a Hot Pocket from the dark days before they perfected the microwave crisping sleeve technology—but it doesn't look promising, either, since the chicken was the only isolated part of this pizza that succeeded in or out of context.

About the author: Will Gordon loves life and hates mayonnaise. You can eat and drink with him in Boston or follow him on twitter @WillGordonAgain.

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