When it comes to delivery pizza, there is only one man for me: Papa John. I think it has to do with my memories of lonely Friday evenings in middle school. My parents worked late and all my friends lived far away. The only things that cheered me up were the soft glow of “Keenan & Kel” and TGIF on TV and a fresh hot pizza I’d ordered from my local Papa John’s franchise. Much in the style of Kevin McAllister on Home Alone, I would open the box thinking, “One large cheese pizza just for me!” Of course, being a chunky, self-conscious pre-teen, I would never allow myself to eat the whole thing, but the initial opening of the box and the release of fragrant steam made a girl dream.
I wonder how many other people have similar fond memories of a particular pizza company. Does Papa himself, John Schnatter, get fan mail reminiscing about how his pizza was a dependable beacon of light in the dark, tumultuous years of puberty?
Although the company didn’t offer nationwide online ordering until 2002, I swear I ordered from the Web in the late 90s thinking how incredibly cool it was that I could click a button and a pizza would appear. (There was time, however, that the pizza dude never showed up and I was a. too shy to call the Papa John’s store, b. depressed and anxious about the situation, and c. too hungry to wait any longer and made spaghetti instead.) Some pizza-party-poopers have complained that the Papa John’s new Web site, which launched last fall, is over complicated and flashy, but I thoroughly enjoy it. I get great satisfaction from choosing my topping and watching an animation of said topping falling gracefully on to my digital pizza.
I don’t know what makes Papa John’s stand out in my memories so much more than the other major chains. Eight grade: Dean Matthis was dared to drink an entire tub of the garlic sauce, and he took on the challenge with gusto. High school: I endured Catholic Youth Organization meetings just for the free Papa John’s at the end. I even distinctly remember sitting in nosebleed seats at a Caps game when I was home from college demolishing an entire cheese pizza myself. The sauce was magma hot and the cheese pulled to extraordinary length – pure bliss. Pizza Hut, Dominos…I have no such vividly delectable memories.
Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m a Papa John’s purist. I have enjoyed many a pizza pie, from the light pizza al funghi I had on a blistering hot day in August (which probably tasted extra magical because we’d been lost and I’d been so hungry that I’d started to cry…yes, I was 23 years old) to the hefty and satisfying slices of deep dish from Pizzeria Uno and Due in Chicago.
There’s just something about Papa John’s that gives me comfort, and despite all my rhapsodizing, I think it boils down to one thing: the special garlic sauce. At a 150 calories and 17g of fat (more than a third of your recommended daily intake) per tub – and probably infused with some sort of addictive narcotic – it brings each pizza night at home to a level that no other delivery company can beat.