In the final moments of 2020, Papa John’s is introducing stuffed crust pizza. I mention the year because since I learned of this news, there’s only been one question running through my mind: what took them so long? I grew up in Brooklyn, where children are raised having, shall we say, feelings about pizza. Real pizza is not the kind served in a “hut,” we were taught, and no pizza should be associated with whatever this was. Then, in 1995, everything changed. The values of my entire generation were corrupted as the glow of our television sets announced that the future had arrived: Stuffed. Crust. Pizza.
Pizza Hut had blurred the lines between cheese and crust, blowing our minds and making us wonder what else was possible in the world of pizza architecture. It also forced a spiritual reckoning upon the children of Brooklyn, making us wonder if the “disgrazia” pizza chains we had been indoctrinated against were, perhaps, not the houses of horrors we believed.
I did not get to taste this pizza of dreams, as my Sicilian-American father raged against the idea of driving to Long Island for any reason, much less to go to a Pizza Hut. But the image of that long, cheesy pull stuck with me, a bridge to the big wide world that existed on the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel.
Years later, when I was an adult who could make her own pizza decisions, I finally visited a proper Pizza Hut with a slanted red roof and a salad bar. But... the stuffed crust wasn’t there. It been a limited time offering, our waiter explained, only trotted out occasionally when the business wanted to whip the public into a frenzy. As I sat there with a plate of bruised romaine lettuce and a broken heart, I struggled to make sense of it all. If science had given mankind the power to add cheese to crust, then why didn’t Pizza Hut do it all the time? Why wasn’t everybody putting cheese in the crust? How was any of this fair to the American public?
Now, here we are in the waning hours of 2020. It has been 25 long years since we first learned of stuffed crust pizza, and it is only now that Papa John’s has decided it has a place on the menu. I still do not care for Papa John’s pizza because old biases are hard to overcome, but philosophically, I am both hurt and befuddled by this. Why would Papa John’s spend a quarter of a century focusing on things like ostrich meat crumbles and new-and-improved pineapple pizzas, and not stuffing its crust full of melted cheese? Where is the logic? Where is the patriotism? Why now?
There are four days to mull over these important questions, and four days to sign up for the Papa Rewards program, since Papa John’s stuffed crust pizza will be a members-only experience from December 21-27. It goes nationwide on the 28th, and if you order with the promo code STUFFED, you can get a large one-topping stuffed crust pizza for $12. I don’t know if it will be good or not, but I hope it sticks around forever solely on principle. It wouldn’t be right to lure us in with stuffed crust pizza just to take it away again. We are a nation divided, and we need menu items that remind us of our shared values. Namely, a love of superfluous melted cheese.