California pizza franchise Pieology
has opened two stores in Shanghai recently. They are kind of like Subway, in that you pick your crust, your sauce and then a huge number of toppings, claiming to give you 78 billion different pizza options. I went recently. I had two options. They were both an insult to pizza.
The formula, and let's be upfront that this definitely feels like a corporate formula
and not something created by people who love food, is simple: pizza for people who don't like pizza, and would rather have a crispy black cracker topped with things like kimchi, cilantro and BBQ sauce. The dough is not stretched out by hand but instead put into a machine that presses all the air out of it, leaving a flat disc that you are then free to abuse with toppings. From the awkward handling at every step, I got the impression that the man tasked with making my pizza had been doing this for about, oh, at least... three days? Four? Call it a week. It was, without question, the worst pizza I have ever had in Shanghai, and that includes the "pizza" on the Beer Lady's menu. It cost 88rmb, for which I got access to all the toppings. Even trying to assemble a somewhat traditional pizza didn't help; when you start with cheap ingredients, you end up with cheap-tasting pizza.
But clearly not everyone thinks so. Basketball superstar Jeremy Lin is an investor in Pieology Pizza China, according to the franchisee's website
. And it's true that there are many people out there who are bored with life, bored with pizza, and need the existential pick-me-up and the transgressive thrill that a cracker full of discordant toppings, covered in "after-bake sauces", provides. If you're angry at Homeslice
, pissed off with Mamma Mia
, upset with yourself, let down by Domino's
and generally traumatized by airy crusts, good tomato sauces and reasonable toppings (or even Domino's boundary-pushing options), then perhaps Pieology
is for you. Two locations in Shanghai to date. Have at them.