Why Papa Johns’ Pepperoni Stuffed Crust Pizza Is Such a Flop

Papa Johns swings for the fences with a pizza that wants to be everything.

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hand holding floppy pizza
That is one floppy pizza
Photo: Dennis Lee

Papa Johns recently announced the release of a new stuffed crust pizza, the Epic Pepperoni-Stuffed Crust Pizza. The pie’s available right now to members of Papa Rewards (its loyalty program) and will be available to the rest of the public starting April 25. Along with the new pizza (which, again, has both cheese and meat crammed into the crust), there’s a new side available on the menu: Spicy Pepperoni Rolls, which are knots of dough woven with pepperoni, pickled jalapeños, cheese, and pizza sauce. They come with a cup of Spicy Garlic dipping sauce, the hot version of the condiment I already love so much. Time to see how all of these elements come together.

The Spicy Pepperoni Rolls basically have the same build as a pizza.
The Spicy Pepperoni Rolls basically have the same build as a pizza.
Photo: Dennis Lee

Papa Johns Pepperoni Rolls are just too much

These Spicy Pepperoni Rolls have all the components of a pizza—dough, sauce, toppings, and dairyjust with a greater proportion of bread.

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What it comes down to is whether or not you’re into bready sides when you’re already ordering a pizza. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of garlic knots or breadsticks as a side, since that’s a lot of carb-on-carb action. Like, how much bread do I need? And these things, if you can’t tell from the photo above, are pretty bready. I mean, they’re pizza rolls.

If you want a side of miniature pizza with your pizza, by all means, give these a try. I’d rather just eat more full-sized pizza. Otherwise, these things are fine, though they do get pretty heavy when dipped into the oil-based Spicy Garlic sauce, which they need since they’re pretty doughy. A side of pizza sauce might actually work better. The jalapeños gleefully fall out of the center whenever you pick one up, so make sure you’re eating over a plate. Grease stains don’t come out.

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pepperoni pizzza
The outer edge is pretty thick
Photo: Dennis Lee

Does Pepperoni-Stuffed Crust Pizza work?

For fast food pizza, I’d say Papa Johns is okay, though estranged founder John Schnatter is out of the picture for good reason. I’d place this chain in my top five, along with Domino’s (quality’s okay!) and Little Caesars (that price!).

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I’m not here to critique the pizza portion of this pizza slice, since it’s exactly what you’d expect. The sauce is mildly sweet and tangy, the pepperoni is the flat and soft variety, and the cheese has that slightly gel-like consistency I’ve come to recognize in a Papa Johns pie. Due to some delivery complications and delays, each slice was so floppy it wilted in my grip.

hand holding stuffed pizza crust
There are entire pepperonis inside the crust
Photo: Dennis Lee
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Sorry, normally I don’t hold my pizza crust like this. I know, I don’t like the way that picture looks either. I have a weird job. Anyway, as you can see, there’s a lot of cheese baked into the crust, along with entire pepperonis. Like, unadulterated slices. For some reason I found that kind of hilarious—they weren’t chopped up into bits. They’re just, like, in there.

The pizza portion of the slice is fine, but when you get to that crust stuffed with cheese and meat, the whole thing ends up being extraordinarily heavy, so much so that working through it is kind of a chore. I mean, let’s be real, Papa Johns is not exactly light-as-a-feather Neapolitan-style at the best of times, so when the heaviest portion of the pizza is the part you eat last, it gets to be a slog by your second slice.

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Maybe I just can’t hang with the cool kids, I don’t know. But stuffed crust pizzas aren’t for me, even when there are whole slices of pepperoni in there to cut through the cheesy monotony a little. I barely noticed the meat in there, either, probably because the rest of the pizza was already covered in pepperoni. And if you dip the crust into Papa Johns’ famous Garlic Sauce, fatigue hits you even faster.

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I know there are stuffed-crust pizza diehards out there, so please chime in if you’ve got some thoughts. This type of pizza has been a fixture at Pizza Hut for decades, so we know it’s a formula that works. I want to understand the appeal of having a cross between a breadstick, a mozzarella stick, and a pizza roll as a pizza crust, and maybe I will someday, but right now I’m still reeling from the sheer weight of it all.