Domino's new Gourmet pizzas put to the test

Updated on 17 October 2011 | 0 Comments

Domino's have launched a new 'Gourmet' pizza range. Priscilla Pollara takes a taste.

When the newly designed blue and white boxes were handed to me at my front door, I noticed two immediately disappointing things: my palm and wrist were covered in rings of oil and there had been very little change out of a £20 note.

A tad predictable for a takeaway perhaps, but not an altogether great start from the all new Domino's Pizza 'Gourmet Range'.

A new type of menu

On a fresh hand-stretched pizza base, Domino's Pizza - known for its popularity among couch-surfing university students and anyone who prefers it to Papa Johns and Pizza Hut - has introduced a new gourmet range.

The three piece affair is made up of the Rustica, Firenze and the Florentine, each vastly different from the other, and more crucially, each very different from the rest of the DP range.

The thin-crust 'Italian' Pizzas (that all have a mozzarella cheese and sundried tomato and garlic sauce as a base) have come about as part of a strategy to win more business off ‘middle-of-the-market’ Pizza Express, the high street chain whose re-design and menu additions (and ever-attractive Orange Wednesday’s 2 for 1 offer) has re-popularised its dwindling position in the restaurant stakes.

It is these middle class, mid-week customers Domino’s - which was founded in a small town in Michigan in 1960 - are hoping will alter its recession-hit spiralling fortunes.

“It has been specially developed to appeal to a different type of pizza-eater who is looking for a lighter pizza and more distinctive flavours, which are akin to those you might find in a traditional pizzeria,” says Simon Wallis, the brand’s marketing director. “We want to make dining in, the new dining out with Domino’s Gourmet Range."

An introduction

I placed each pizza box on the table in front of me:

On the left was the Rustica: this is a pizza that comes topped with ‘juicy chicken breast strips, naturally smoked bacon rashers, baby spinach and SunBlush baby plum tomatoes’.

The Florentine, next to it, was peppered with feta cheese, spinach and another round of SunBlush baby plum tomatoes.

And, last but not least, the Firenze pizza was a fierier affair, layered with pepperoni, Peruvian roquito peppers and Ventricina salami.

The test

At first sight, the pizzas seemed overwhelmed with toppings (so much so on the Rustica in fact, that the red sauce underneath was clouded from view).

As for the taste, I can’t say I was as impressed. These are the sorts of pizzas, I concluded, which one could scoff and finish within 10 minutes on a very hungry day. For it’s that hunger that would help one see past the rings of oil left behind as each slice is picked up. And it would be that desperate need for a filling round of carbohydrates that would help conceal the pizzas’ weak, unmemorable taste.

Much of my Rustica bacon was charred and brittle, breaking off into small pieces in the mouth. The crust was equally burnt and the pizza’s dough was a tad biscuit-like hard. The chicken, a meat that so often loses texture in the oven, was very dry and needed to be eaten alongside some of its accompanying plum tomatoes to introduce flavour.

The Florentine was the most disappointing of them all, sadly, since the feta, tomato and rocket combo had tasted as though someone had placed a freshly-prepared salad over the pizza’s top once it had emerged from the oven. I enjoy all three of those ingredients, but I’m unsure as to whether feta cheese – which owns a naturally overpowering, tangy taste – works well on hot garlic, tomato bases.

The Firenze was the best of the lot. Perhaps Domino’s has had more practice on such a pizza (which can be simply described as a pepperoni pizza with expensive toppings). It was as spicy as its description had warned, and the greasiness of it all (dare I say it), worked well with the natural oily nature of the salami and pepperoni.

The problem

My main bug-bear with this trio of ‘newbies’ has little to do with the burnt parts and the short-sighted addition of unnecessary ingredients.

It’s more that at £17.99 for a large size, all those issues above – including the guilt-enducing slice-dripping oil – make the ‘gourmet range’ a bad choice for a take away meal.

If Domino’s are hoping to make the ‘dining in’ the new ‘dining out’, they need take another look at their finances: at that price, Pizza Express would deliver more than one pizza to the table – and even a couple of drinks, too. In fact, for £18, a couple could enjoy a perfectly nice supper at a restaurant – and there would be no boxes to throw away at the end of it, either.

Would I order it again?

The gourmet range has only just launched, but while inevitable tweaks will be made, they’re not pizzas I would order again.

As an Italian, I like my pizzas thin, soft, slippery and sparsely populated: a basil leaf, olive oil, a slab of mozzarella and a light covering of tomato sauce would do me – and most of the pizza-loving Italian population – very well.

I readily admit that there is a time and a place for good/bad ‘takeaway pizza’: hangovers, ‘duvet-days’, a solution to not wanting to cook. And it is in these three moments, that the undeniably high calorie count and unhealthy nature of this type of meal is set aside for sating that one-off, quick-fire need for something ‘naughty’.

Yet, on this variety, Domino’s are hoping the toppings will do all the talking. They do, in some respect, but it doesn’t seem that the takeaway chain has done much background work on what goes well with what. Is this just a set of better ingredients on a thinner base? I think so.

But that’s not to say I wouldn’t order from Domino’s Pizza again (after all, some of their range is better value for money). The online service is now so nifty and user-friendly, that a minute-by-minute update alerts the customer where his or her pizza is at any one moment.

The chief executive says of the ‘Gourmet range’, "It's not Domino's going upmarket. It's more about broadening the appeal."

But I think they have a way to go yet.

Also worth your attention:

Is this the new takeaway pizza craze?

A guide to making Mat Follas’ Pizza Florentine

Broccoli on pizza? Jo Pratt shows you how


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