Herman Cain's Resurgence Means Everyone Has To Eat His Pizza, Apparently


Apparently, today was "Everyone Eat Some Godfather's Pizza" day, because I see that there are competing articles on the relative merits of the pie sold at the pizza chain once headed by presidential hopeful Herman Cain. This was inevitable -- I'm only surprised that we've had to wait this long for these stories to be written. Let's be glad we've finally gotten to this point and that we can all briefly live through the experience and then move on with our lives. Let's also be glad that Thomas Friedman didn't have the idea first.

First up, we have Patrick Gavin's piece for Politico, "Godfather’s pizza doesn’t cut it." Gavin, as is his wont, sets up the story as a bit of high-concept fun, in which a pair of political consultants -- Doug Heye for the GOP, Karen Finney for the Dems -- are joined by local foodie Nycci Nellis to participate in a blind taste test between Cain's former chain and local shops Pizza Hut, zpizza, Ledo Pizza, and Papa John’s, to see who has the best cheese pizza. The upshot: Godfather's doesn't fare well!

“It’s the most unappetizing,” said Nellis after just one bite. “The cheese is really sour! The crust is like a sponge.”

“That is so bad,” said Finney.

“The crust is trying to be thin crust and thick crust, it can’t make up what it is,” said Heye. “Not good.”

That's from the "blind" part. Once the presence of Godfather's Pizza was revealed, your political consultants reverted to form:

“When I had Godfather’s Pizza growing up as a kid, I remember it being a very good pizza,” said Heye. “This is not the pizza of Herman Cain.”

Finney wasn’t as generous. “You can just tell it tasted like people cutting costs — cutting corners to cut costs — and that’s not what we need right now. We need investment.”

O-kay, Karen.

One thing I appreciate about everyone involved is that they showed tremendous restraint in making 999 jokes -- outside of Finney asking if the pizza costs $9.99 (and referencing a Domino's Pizza price point), nobody mentioned the economic plan. Gavin could have easily have headlined this piece, "Godfather's taste test unanimous: Nein, nein, nein!" However, as my colleague Elise Foley points out, "Perhaps the Godfather's pizza tasted bad because it was driven in from two hours away?" Having been a pizza deliverer for Domino's, I can tell you that the old "30 minutes or less" guarantee wasn't just about giving customers convenience -- it was also an acknowledgement of grim reality that if you let that pie get more than an hour old, it basically became junk.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post takes things in a different direction, sending James Beard Award winning food critic Tim Carman to New Market, Va. (that's where District residents will find the closest Godfather's location) to sample the chain's wares. Carman had criticisms of his own, but nevertheless found the experience somewhat evocative:

When I sat down next to the cooler to review the overhead menu ($8.99 for a small with cheese to $13.99 for a jumbo with cheese), I experienced a visceral flashback unrelated to the physical space or a vague desire to pig out like a teenager, biting into one hot, gooey slice after another. This pang, part nostalgia and part ache for lost innocence, was entirely based on smell: The aroma of freshly baked dough and melted butter unlocked some sense memory buried deep in my skull. I realized that Godfather’s had imprinted its smell on my brain, as permanent now as DNA.

The pizza itself, like this hybrid store, was from another era. In my youth, before I had ever eaten the real thing in Chicago, I considered Godfather’s pies “deep dish.” But the two pizzas in front of me — one with pepperoni and the other with rabbit-foodlike pellets of Italian sausage — were rounds of fluffy focaccia-style bread slathered with sauce and toppings and buried under a mound of processed mozzarella. They had neither the cornmeal walls of genuine deep dish nor the thin, chewy, charred crusts of Neapolitan pizza. These were pies of no great distinction.

Sizing up the changes that Cain's leadership brought to the chain, he extrapolates, "Cain was ahead of his time in helping us chow down cheap, empty calories; he would pave the way for food reformers such as Michael Pollan and Jamie Oliver." I guess, in a way, Cain led us to "surround ourselves with the right advisors" so we could "solve the right problem," as he is constantly vowing to do.

Anyway, that's your day in reporters going out to eat Herman Cain's pizza. To all you editors mulling that "We Let Ron Paul Deliver Our Baby" story, the ball's in your court.

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