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One day last week, I found myself in Baton Rouge at lunchtime, in the Bluebonnet/Mall of Louisiana area. What the hell, I thought, I’ll try the California Pizza Kitchen at Perkins Rowe. I admit to buying the odd CPK frozen pizza for “desperation dinners,” and was a bit curious to compare the boxed product to the fresh, in-house version.
Truly, I wasn’t expecting much, and I wasn’t disappointed. CPK has pulled off a coup, albeit of a dubious sort. The frozen margherita pizza tastes exactly like the fresh pizza. Same texture, same degree of cheese-browning, same shape/size/thickness of crust. Surely it’s a miracle of modern, food-processing technology. Except that the qualities acceptable in a $5 frozen pizza from Wal-Mart aren’t really so desirable in a restaurant pizza for $12.
An arugula salad looked promising, at first glance. It was lightly dressed with a wine vinaigrette and thinly shaved parmesan on top. Closer inspection revealed hunks of overly salty, sun-dried tomatoes (is it still 1984 in CPK’s test kitchens?) and a scattering of roasted peanuts. I can’t even think of anything snarky to say about the roasted peanuts–they’re just dumb all around.
In conclusion, CPK’s frozen pizzas are worth $5. CPK, in person, is forgettable. If you find yourself in the Perkins/Bluebonnet area, go to the Arzi’s outlet in the mall food court for chicken shwarma.
We’ve come a long way since the food revolution going on in the 80’s, during which time CPK brought “gourmet” pizza to California malls; at the time, the only wood-burning oven in Los Angeles was at the original Spago on Sunset Blvd. CPK was an okay thing then, relative to the other mass market offerings, but you are so right, Celeste, that the whole thing is ever so dated now. I think Domenica, for example, delivers our current definition of “gourmet” pizza. We won’t look back in 30 years and find the “current version” dated, because it’s more the real thing this time (notably the sparsely-topped pizzas), not a “stepping stone” dish on America’s path to its culinary awareness. The original CPK was pretty good, but when it sold out to investors and replicated, it forever carved its course in mediocrity.
Mediocre: that’s CPK in a word.
I wish I would have known. I would have treated you to lunch. I would love to have met you. My office is right down the street from Perkins Rowe. FYI – next time you are in BR try the Chimes or for great honduran food La Reyna.
I drove right past La Reyna on Perkins, but it was on the opposite side of the street and I didn’t feel like making a U-turn. (How lazy of me…) Thanks for the lunch offer.
You would love La Reyna and the nicest people own it.
Celeste, What’s your favorite pizza in NOLA? Domenica? I really liked it and have almost talked myself into a return within the next few days.
Yes, Domenica is my favorite pizza in NOLA, but Pizza Delicious is gettting beaucoup buzz right now. Haven’t had the opportunity to try it (takeout only, limited to Sunday nights).