The Monitor Taste Panel: Domino's Dominates

Hungry for pizza? Who ya gonna call? Our panel looks for best flavor, and the results are clearcut.

Pizza lovers everywhere agree: the best-tasting pizza is one covered with slices of pepperoni. But of the biggest-selling brands of pepperoni pizza, whose has the most flavor?

A dozen Monitor tasters gathered at lunchtime the other day to settle the issue. After munching their way through a half dozen large pepperoni pizzas, they were virtually unanimous: the winner is Domino's.

Three national brands - Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Little Caesar's - strive for supremacy in America's fast-food pizza market. The best-seller is Pizza Hut. Domino's ranks second; Little Caesar's, third.

Each has its strengths.

Pizza Hut makes a chewy pizza with a heavy layering of cheese, tomato sauce, and what one taste panelist called a soft "white bread" crust. It was also the most expensive - about $12 per pizza - in our test.

Domino's, famous for fast delivery, has a thinner layer of cheese, but a more tangy sauce. Price: about $9 per pizza.

Little Caesar's, whose "Pizza Pizza" ads caught the public's eye, produces a heavier crust and cheese topping that panelists universally found less appealing. But it was also by far the lowest priced: about $7.

Domino's says its recipes for both crust and toppings are top secret. Whatever they use, it seems to work.

One panelist praised Domino's for "a special blend in flavor." Another described it as "spicy" and "tangy," while yet another said it was "very salty, but with nice tomato taste and good spices." Domino's crust was "dry" but "flavorful," and unlike some others was "not too greasy."

Pizza Hut wasn't far behind. A few panelists thought it was the best.

One Pizza Hut enthusiast, surprised that his favorite had come in second, insisted that Pizza Hut was "hands down the best. The pepperoni had good flavor....The cheese was better and there was much more of it. The crust was not traditional because it was lighter than the others, but it had more flavor."

Little Caesar's finished last. Panelists said there wasn't enough sauce, so the pizza seemed too dry. The cheese also lacked flavor. "Tasteless," "bland", "too heavy," and "institutional," the panelists concluded.

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