- We talked to four chefs about their favourite chain pizza.
- There are classics like Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and Little Caesars.
- There are some local pizza chains too.
It’s a commonly held belief that there’s really no such thing as a “bad” pizza. At the end of a long night of bar-hopping, the simplest $US1 slice of cheese pizza or frozen pie feels like heaven.
While artisanal pizza certainly has its place (particularly in pizza hotspots like New York, New Haven, and Chicago), most pizza fans have a healthy appreciation for pies made by the big chains. These large-scale pizza-makers know a thing or two about consistency, and even professional chefs have a soft spot for these nostalgic eats.
We asked four chefs to share their personal favourite chain pizzas, and here’s what they had to say.
Little Caesars is a classic, particularly their Detroit-style pies.
When most Americans hear “deep-dish,” they associate the term with “Chicago-style pizza,” a pie so thick and multi-layered that it absolutely requires the use of a knife and fork. However, this great nation has other deep-dish pizzas to consider – most notably, the version coming out of Detroit. Detroit-style pizza involves square slices cut from a pie with a thick and crispy crust, which can be easily eaten without utensils- essentially, a perfect halfway point between New York and Chicago crusts.
Michigan-based chef Jim Mumford of Jim Cooks Food Good loves Little Caesars Pepperoni Deep Deep Dish pizza, calling it “such a guilty pleasure. That Detroit style, with the burnt cheese rim and super crunchy crust, is everything. Side of ranch non-optional!”
Also going to bat for Little Caesars is executive chef Brandon Thordarson of Moxie’s Grill and Bar in Texas. “I stop for a Hot and Ready pizza once a week. You can’t beat the value of a $US5 cheese and pepperoni pizza. For me, a good pie such as Little Caesars must/does have chewy, soft dough [that’s] not too thick. The sauce should be acidic & sweet with herbs and [the pizza should] have the right ratio of sauce to bread to ensure it’s not dry. Lastly, the cheese. Just give me straight-up mozzarella and make sure to cover the pizza. Little Caesars has the best bang for your buck and great taste to boot,” Thordarson told INSIDER.
MOD Pizza’s custom pies let you create the pizza of your dreams.
A popular chain with over 300 locations in the US and internationally, MOD Pizza specialises in customisable individual pies. While MOD does offer a few house-designed pizzas, like the Mad Dog with mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, ground beef, and marinara and the Lucy Sunshine with mozzarella, parmesan, artichokes, garlic, and marinara, guests are heartily encouraged to build their own flavour combos, selecting from MOD’s 30+ topping options.
Chef de cuisine Kristal Damron of Reward Your Appetite Catering in Phoenix, Arizona loves the mix-and-match possibilities available at MOD.
“MOD Pizza has become a staple for my family during our busiest days. We love the variety of toppings and watching our pizzas bake in a wood-burning oven right before our eyes. My go-to order is a deliciously complex custom combo of red sauce, garlic, basil, mozzarella, chicken, mild Italian sausage, green peppers, black olives, roasted broccoli, roasted red peppers, red onions, roasted garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and oregano,” she raved.
A local mini-chain based in Colorado, Pizzeria Locale — most famous for its partnership with Chipotle — serves Neapolitan-style pies with high-quality ingredients.
With two locations in Denver and expansion plans on the horizon, Pizzeria Locale – a concept originally launched as a sit-down pizzeria in Boulder before its fast-casual transformation by the Chipotle team- has garnered acclaim for its southern Italian-inspired pizzas with super fresh ingredients and toppings.
Chef Rich Byers of The Corner Office Restaurant and Martini Bar in Denver appreciates Pizzeria Locale’s focus on quality, telling INSIDER that “this pizzeria is my chain go-to because of its fresh, high-quality ingredients and the always consistent and good flavour combinations. They have simple options, a few recommended pizzas and a build-your-own [program] with great dough. [The dough has a strong] balance between crisp and chewy. Reasonable prices, as well.”
When he visits Pizzeria Locale, Byers typically walks away with a ricotta, sausage, and rapini pie.
A “hometown hero” from Pasadena, Blaze Pizza now serves its signature pies all over the country.
Pasadena, California native (and executive chef of Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air) Hugo Bolanos has very fond memories of a local pizzeria that hit it big, Blaze Pizza: “I grew up in Pasadena and we had a small pizza shop open up that has now grown with locations all through the US. Blaze Pizza started in Pasadena, and I am proud to say that I have been a loyal customer ever since its inception at its first location. [Things are] even better [for Blaze] now that our own Laker Nation Leader, Lebron James, is a big supporter and part owner.”
Bolanos described his favourite Blaze pie – the “Hot Link” with spicy red sauce, jalapenos, sausage, black olives, red onions, banana peppers, and mozzarella – by saying that “it’s all things fiery for me that I love and it comes out in seconds with a great crispy crust.”
Like Little Caesars, Michigan-based chain Jet’s Pizza focuses on Detroit-style pies, to excellent effect, according to chefs.
Another Michigan pizza chain selling its homeland’s preeminent pizza style, Jet’s Pizza boasts locations around the nation, all serving Detroit-style square pies.
Pizzaiolo Tony Scardino of Dough Bros Pizzeria in Chicago considers Jet’s Pizza a prime example of a quick-service restaurant doing their thing the right way: “Jet’s Pizza is everything a QSR pizzeria should be. No product of theirs shines more than their Eight Corner! Nestled into a pizza box is two beautiful Detroit-inspired pizzas. Every true pizza lover knows that when you have a square or rectangular pan pizza, the coveted slice is always the corner. Jet’s recognises this reality and provides you with nothing but corners!”
The airy crust found at Papa John’s elevates it above other large-scale pizza chains, according to chefs.
According to executive chef and co-founder Paul Friedman of Peli Peli in Houston, Texas, Papa John’s invests more time and care into its dough than most other gigantic pizza chains, which gives it a notable advantage. “I like Papa John’s the most because their dough is airy and fluffy, and I swear they use a blend for their sauces. Having owned pizza shops in the past, I really appreciate these details in their operation, because it must be difficult for a national concept. I also love that [their quality is] very consistent throughout their stores,” Friedman explained.
When it comes to picking a favourite Papa John’s order, Friedman opts for “The Works,” a pie loaded with pepperoni, Canadian bacon, spicy Italian sausage, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, and black olives. “[I like] the balance of meats and veggies [on ‘The Works’],” Friedman told INSIDER.
Executive chef Derek Dupree of Bernie’s Lunch and Supper in Chicago also pointed out the ingredient quality used at Papa John’s, which, according to Dupree, exceeds that of their close competitors: “Papa John’s is my go-to. It sounds corny, because their slogan is ‘better ingredients, better pizza,’ but I really do feel like they use better ingredients. I also love the garlic butter that comes with the pizza!”
Thanks to its consistency, wide availability, and the fact that it tastes great right out of the fridge, Domino’s earns its delivery-pizza popularity from chefs.
Even if you live in a city with few late-night food delivery options, you probably have access to a Domino’s at the end of a long evening of carousing, with its world-class Pizza Tracker technology, its speedy drivers, and its decidedly non-artisanal pizza that’s still super satisfying.
Executive chef Raymond Weber of CUT by Wolfgang Puck in New York City believes that Domino’s “has great consistency and, for the most part, what you order is what you get. For a chain restaurant, their dough and cheese are better than their competitors.” His go-to order? A deep-dish pie with pepperoni and black olives, paired with an ice-cold Sprite.
Executive chef Chris Coleman of Stoke in Charlotte, North Carolina is also a proud Domino’s fan, particularly because of the garlic butter-brushed crusts and the well-balanced tomato sauce: ” I like the garlic butter they brush on the crust, and their tomato sauce has the right blend of sweetness and acidity. Also, their bacon seems to be the closest to real bacon from any of the major chains. My go-to pizza is bacon, banana pepper, and then I add a little dash of my brother’s homemade hot sauce and a lot of parm.”
Another vote for Domino’s comes from executive chef Matt Ayala of Cochon Volant Brasserie in Chicago. “For the price point, you can’t beat it. I like to pull a cool [slice] out of the fridge when I get home late from work. But I do enjoy it delivered hot, too. Domino’s never lets me down!” Ayala told INSIDER.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.