As far as I’m concerned, there’s really only one reason to order from Papa John’s: the cheese dipping sauce. I mean, the butter-garlic sauce is fine, if you like dipping a piece of bread into liquefied butter, but for me it’s always been about the cheese dipping sauce. The marinara sauce I won’t even bother with. I mean what’s the point? It’s like you’re trying to re-create the pizza experience at the end but without any cheese or toppings. Just eat another piece of pizza already.
Way back when–college? high school?–when Papa John’s first came on the scene, it was all about the dipping sauces. That was their schtick. Okay, the weird inclusion of those random pepperoncini’s in the box was nice, but I never really got where that was coming from. Oh sure, I ate them anyway, but they were all limp from basically being steamed in the cardboard with the hot pizza…they just seemed like such a random inclusion. Why not throw a cherry tomato in there instead? Or a few raw mushrooms? Or maybe a hot dog?
No, the whole thing that set PJ’s apart was the sauce thing. Revisionist advertising is trying to make us all believe it was somehow always about fresher ingredients or something, like everybody else used produce from yesteryear, but it was really about being able to add a bunch more empty calories to an already dangerous meal. It seemed like such a revolution. Stodgy old Pizza Hut and Dominoes would never have thought so far outside the box to include such a novelty at no extra charge. Papa John’s was going out of its way to help us enjoy our last bites of pizza. So nice. So thoughtful.
The last couple of times I’ve ordered from Papa John’s, however, they neglected to put in the cheese sauce, and it’s been pretty damn hard for me to conceal my disappointment. Being that I’m the only cheese eater in the house, I’ve contained my frustration. Not that the stuff is actually cheese…I mean, who know’s what it is? It’s more akin to “cheese food” or a creamier, liquider version of the canned squeeze cheese, something I’ve always felt guilty about liking but still find completely irresistable.
This last time we ordered pizza I had to speak up; as indefensible as my love of that stupid cheese-ish sauce is, I couldn’t let another Papa John’s experience go by without it. So I told my wife, “Remind them about the cheese dipping sauce. They forgot last time.” I nagged her about it while she was on the phone. “Don’t forget.” “The Cheese Sauce.” “Don’t forget.” She finally told the person on the phone, she listened, said, “Oh…I see.” Then she got off the phone and said to me…
“They’ve discontinued the cheese sause. They’ll throw another garlic sauce in there.”
THEY’VE DISCONTINUED THE CHEESE SAUCE?!? WHAT THE FUCK?!?
“Calm down honey.”
“I don’t know. She didn’t say.”
I cannot conceive of this. I mean, what is the point of ordering Papa John’s instead of Pizza Hut now? They both get things wrong with equal frequency. They both taste marginally good. The only edge Pizza Hut has is that their prices aren’t like the stock market. Whenever we call the Papa John’s in whose praxis delivery wave we live in we have to play this game to find out what the special price of the day is. “We want two medium pizzas.” “That will be twenty-five dollars.” “Oh…yeah…do you have any specials?” “Um…yeah. Two mediums for twelve dollars.” “That’s what I ordered. Why didn’t you tell me that price?” “You didn’t ask for the special.”
God I hate them. And now that they’ve ripped cheese dipping sauce out from under me like so many Persian rugs, without warning, without apology, without so much as a shrug, I can see no reason to return to them.
I guess I’ll have to settle for one of the three hundred and fifty thousand local pizza joints in my area that have much better pizza, but no sauce at all.