ThisWeek infographics artist Erin Holl leads a staff review of Donatos' new selection of hand-tossed pies.
Donatos Pizza, known primarily for thin-crust pizza that's cut into rectangular shapes, has debuted a new hand-tossed pizza that's cut into pie slices. The pizza is currently $10.99 for a one-topping large pizza and comes with your choice of sweet marinara or garlic butter dipping sauce. On Friday, Aug. 28, a few ThisWeek staffers tried the new pizza and here's what they had to say about it:
Katherine Hetrick, editorial assistant
I'm normally not really a Donatos fan because I don't care for the thin crust and the "edge-to-edge" toppings, but I would eat the new hand-tossed pizza again. The pizza overall seemed less greasy and the sauce tasted a little sweeter to me. I like the traditional triangular slices instead of squares as well. I definitely think the hand-tossed pizza is an improvement over the thin crust.
Paul Comstock, community editor
Donatos says research shows 50 percent of its customers prefer a hand-tossed crust.
If you are among the 50 percent who could not care less, a group that includes me, you won't hold it against Donatos new hand-tossed line.
It's still Donatos. Which is another way of saying that if you don't fancy yourself a gourmet who has to have pizza festooned with rare Hungarian herbs (or whatever), cooked with mesquite wood in a stone oven (or whatever), Donatos is about the best you will find.
Amy Lyle, design director
We tried out Donatos' hand-tossed cheese pizza and pepperoni pizza with accompanying garlic butter and marinara sauces.
It was a little odd to know you're eating Donatos when you bite into a doughy crust. I guess it's been too many years of being spoiled with the thin crust. It's also odd to see a Donatos pizza cut into triangles. I feel less guilty eating many squares of pizza than eating two slices of pizza.
That being said, I liked the hand-tossed crust. The bottom was crispy, the center wasn't too soft, and the outer crust was nicely seasoned with the Donatos' traditional cornmeal and parmesan.
The sauce was good on both pizzas. I love a good cheese pizza and I wasn't disappointed. I missed having my pepperoni pieces curled up on the edges and crispy. It just wasn't cooked quite as long as I like. The marinara sauce was great. Very flavorful, it only added to the pizza.
The garlic butter didn't look so great when melted. I'm not sure I understand the concept of pouring butter on top of the pizza, but it was tasty for dipping the crust.
Neil Thompson, copy editor and page designer
Donatos' new hand-tossed pizza dough probably seemed like a good idea at the time for the popular Columbus establishment. After all, chain competitors like Papa John's and Pizza Hut and numerous other pizza specialists around the city make a living off their hand-tossed pies.
But the problem with trying to fit in with the status quo is that you often lose something that sets you apart from your peers (Disclaimer: Age-old high school axioms aren't usually my thing, but bear with me).
After sampling Donatos' newest offering, I can't think of anything that would distinguish its hand-tossed pizza from all the others out there. As far as Columbus pizza choices go, Donatos hand-tossed pizzas are more of the same old average fare - not bad, but nothing to rave about, either.
It all starts with the crust. In my experience, hand-tossed dough can be hit or miss, and Donatos misses the mark with a crust that tastes bland and doughy. Predictably, the consistency matches the flavor. The crust does not taste bad, but neither did I enjoy eating it.
As for the cheese, sauce and toppings, I was pleasantly surprised the hand-tossed pizza crust can easily support more cheese than the traditional Donatos crust. The sauce, I believe, was the same that Donatos uses for all its offerings, which is rather unexciting. The pepperoni, which was the only topping available for sampling, had a delightful crispness to it that is sometimes hard to achieve on thicker-crusted pies. That was probably my favorite part of the pizza.
The pizza also came with dipping sauces - a rich, tangy marinara, which I thought was much better than the pedestrian sauce on the pizza, and a heavy blend of garlic and butter, which many of the reviewers liked but I found to be a bit overpowering (though, I will readily admit I usually do not prefer such sauces). I liked this feature, though it is obviously not an original idea; Papa John's has been doing it for years.
I'm happy that Donatos is willing to bolster its menu to keep up with the rest of the pack. The introduction of the hand-tossed crust has done nothing to weaken its reputation.
But, as I finished my last slice, the only thing I could say to my fellow reviewers was, "I don't hate it." And that, unfortunately, is the problem. Rather than setting itself apart with something bold and new, Donatos just found another way to blend in.
Erin Holl, page designer and informational graphic artist
I thought the pizza was good, but it was hard not to draw the comparison to Papa John's - which is my one and only complaint about the pizza. I say this because we had a Papa John's at Ohio University when I was in college and it was there that the idea of putting garlic butter on top of my pizza and using it to dip the crust became commonplace.
In fact, at the time, it was the only Papa John's I knew of and the flavor of garlic butter mixed with cheese and pizza sauce would be a craving I could only satisfy while in Athens. Back then, Papa John's was the ONLY place that gave you garlic butter with its pizza. It's what set Papa John's apart.
Now, Donatos, which I knew of as a good, thin-crust pizza has decided to start serving the same style pizza and dipping sauces. This saddens me because I like individuality and I'm not sure how I feel about getting Papa John's-style pizza from Donatos. The pizza WAS good, but I think I'd rather get it from Papa John's. To me, Papa John's is where you get hand-tossed crust with dipping sauces and Donatos is where you get thin-crust pizza and I like it that way.
John Godshalk, sports page designer
I'm not really a big fan of "hand-tossed," thicker-crust style pizzas. Donatos original thin crust is my favorite, so anything they do with a thicker crust (even with the same sauce and toppings) just seems to turn out similar to the other run-of-the-mill places. That said, it wasn't bad, it was just average for my tastes. And, if this is Donatos' attempt at a "Papa John's"-style pizza (which i don't like), it's at least a little better, if only for the sauce... Papa John's sauce is not good. My two cents!