Wasted Calories: California Pizza Kitchen

On March 27, 1985, attorneys Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax traded in the courtroom for the dining room. They opened CPK and decided to dress alike.

Yesterday, a spirited conversation about pizza broke in our company kitchen. One of our IT guys, Jeff Nelson, was reheating a pizza in the oven and I asked him where it originated. “We made it at home,” he said. Hmm, the only “pizza” I have made at home involved a Boboli pizza crust, bottled barbecue sauce, roasted chicken, red onions, and fresh cilantro. Sooo 1980s.

Of course, I ripped off the idea from the original location of California Pizza Kitchen in the Beverly Center in Los Angeles. When they opened in 1985, this place was the bomb. Until then, no restaurant that I knew of (and I lived in Los Angeles!) had ever substituted barbecue sauce for marinara. There was Spago up on the hill on Sunset , but  you had to be a celebrity to secure a table at Wolfie’s spot. Then you had to pay a bazillion dollars for a boutique pie just so you could sit so close to Michael Bolton you could count the split ends of  his frizzy mullet (hint: bazillions). CPK was the gourmet pizza outlet for the masses.

Yes, this is a long lede into my rendezvous with CPK last night. I was  jonsing for pizza when I left work so I decided to call CPK. (BTW, their number was not in Directory Assistance—add $1.75 for the cell call.) I will say this—at 6:40 p.m., they were doing a bristling take out business and the staff was efficient and over-the-top nice.

Too bad the pizza crust tasted like the like the cardboard box that held the pizza until I got home (five minutes). Too bad the barbecue sauce was almost non-existent. Too bad the chicken was stringy. Too bad my friend Evan Grant is going here this week. Too bad I tasted a much better version of CPK’s barbecue chicken pizza at Puck’s fast casual spot  in the Denver airport last Thursday.

Pancakes are soo last week. Now, I’m binging on pizza. Best take out or delivery please! I want to gain 20 pounds before bikini season. I hate it when my hip bones do this.

38 comments on “Wasted Calories: California Pizza Kitchen

  1. Coal Vines…Dallas location…order their “White Special”… instruct them to halve the garlic content…pickup…enjoy.

  2. sadly, “takeout and delivery” are the opposite of good pizza

    i still love CPK! so happy to hear they are doing a good business. they’re one of the only people to ever do whole wheat crust AND they do a great job at it. yay for pear and gorgonzola pizza on a whole wheat crust!

  3. If I’m eating pizza in the restaurant- Nonna’s white pizza with clams. No question. I guess you could get it as take-out. I hear it’s good for breakfast the next day, but I’ve never had it last that long.

    Delivery- I don’t really make as big of a deal about this one. I’d settle for less because they bring it to me, I guess. Campisi’s all-the-way, Lovers Lane cheese with hamburger or Rocco’s lasagna pizza.

    Zini’s has a bbq chicken pizza. I’m not in love with it but sometimes it hits the CPK spot. And it’s delivered, which usually makes all the difference in the world.

  4. For takeout, go to Cigarz Bona, located in a small strip across from the YMCA on Gaston (near Garland Road). The sign just says “PIZZA.” I think it’s wonderful.

  5. scalinis and coal vines both have to be eaten in store IMO…

    Louie’s seems to fair a little better…

  6. Uncle Nancy: You know the answer to this already… Best pizzas in town are to be had at Marco’s and Louie’s. End of discussion.

    Also have a soft spot for my special-order goat cheese, prosciutto and sun dried tomatoes at Fireside Pies.

    Please come to spring training Uncle Nancy, so we can go eat at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, best pizza in the U.S. of A!

  7. i read that chris bianco wasn’t slinging the pies anymore. he’s sick or something. but i’m sure it’ll be fine for someone who likes Marco’s and Louie’s! haha. teasing evan because he states his opinion with such authority

  8. @bluebird: I’ll have to look into Chris Bianco’s health situation. This is the worst news of spring training so far!

    And blue, me and my authoritative opinions are just how I roll. And by the way, Hi SideDishers. Miss y’all. Can’t wait for Uncle Nancy to unveil next Supper Club. She deserves a big hand for what she does. She’s the web community Queen.

  9. I had Two Rows last night (half price Monday pizza). Although they have a woodburning oven, the temperature was obviously very low. My bbq chicken pizza was doughy, borderline gummy.

    Two Rows, two words: Cane Rosso.

  10. I have had the opportunity to eat at Pizzeria Bianco twice and both times I waited over two hours. The wait has always been worth the pizza, I am sorry to hear about Bianco and his health. I use his pizza dough recipe from the Gourmet cookbook, it has the right amount of chew, texutre, crisp, and yeasty taste.

    Evan, you should check out Quiessence in Phoenix it is a wonderful spot that I read about in Bon Appetit a couple of years ago.

  11. If you’re up in North Dallas, the pizza from Besa’s Pizza is great; delivery is always 45 minutes or less. Also, the eggplant parmagiana is to die for (if you’re an eggplant fan) and the best deal in town….$7.99 for a huge serving and comes with a serving of spaghetti with marinaro sauce. I order it at least every couple of weeks!

  12. A great book for pizza stories and great recipes adapted for home ovens is American Pie by Peter Reinhart.
    Also another great one is A16: Food & Wine by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren.

  13. besa’s sure does have a diligent online presence. for me, their food is fine, maybe a tiny bit better than its Typical Suburban Italian peers – but any time a pizza thread starts anywhere, it seems to get pelted with Besa-is-great-you-gotta-love-their-oh-my-god-$5.99-to-die-for etc

  14. I finally tried Russo’s in Richardson this weekend. It’s pretty good. Nice crispy bottom, chewy enough, not too sweet, charred edges. No smokiness unfortunately but overall I’d eat it again, which is saying something for a guy who eats pizza maybe 4 times a year.

  15. I’ve had great pizzas lately at Farnatchi’s Oven on Know & Central,Campagnia West Village, and Alphonso’s on east side of White Rock Lake. Yum…must treat myself tonight.

  16. CPK’s frozen White Za is the only thing we use in our house if not doing home made. The trick is to jazz it up with Paula’s Mozzarella Company fresh mozzarella, some fresh basil and red bell peppers. Cook it per the instructions right on the oven rack, just a few minutes more than the recommended 11 to get the crust crisp and the cheese a little brown. Good weeknight dinner with little fuss.

  17. The best take out or delivery in your neighborhood is probably Pizza By Marco, which isn’t even un my top 10. That’s just one of the reasons why you need to move Nancy :)

    In East Dallas-Cigarz Bona, Piggie Pies, Scalini’s, Fireside Pies, Olivella’s and even Louie’s offer decent to above average pies for takeout and/or delivery.

    In the burbs, there are three standouts: Cavalli(Irving), Campania(Southlake), and Corky’s(Arlington).

    Also, have you ever tried the mail order Chicago pizzas? I swear I saw a Lou Malnati’s frozen pie mentioned on this blog before. If you liked stuffed pizza, Giordanos is my personal favorite-but the frieght charges are exorbitant. For deep dish, Gino’s East trumps Malnati’s but both are delish.

  18. One thing that was not mentioned in your story…Jeff Nelson is one helluva basketball player. Great PG. Sick shooter. I guess we can add good homemade pizza maker to the talent list.

  19. I prefer to make pizza at home from time to time. Alton Brown’s dough recipe, rolled super thin, sauce of your liking(I puree garlic basil stewed tomatoes), light coating of fresh mozzarella and romano, pepperoni and shaved red onion. Bake on pizza stone at 500 degrees.

  20. ditto on the Olivella’s shout out. Intrigued about Cigarz Bona as it is just down the street. Thanks SideDishers for the new spot to check out!

  21. I love the pies at Farnatchi in Knox Park. Got to be the best value in Dallas. A good sized pie (6 slices) is only $8.00.
    And, they make their dough on site.

  22. @Idunno: I made hundreds of pizzas at home this past summer using the grill. You get that charred smokiness that many of us seek in the woodburning oven style pizza, and it is incredibly easy to make.

    When i am lazy and do not wish to proof my own dough I grab some raw doughballs at Whole Foods pizza counter. One ball makes two nice medium sized pies, and costs a few bucks. Jimmy’s sells em frozen, but I have not tried those.

  23. I can’t believe no one has mentioned Brothers at Meadow and Central. Cheese pie, straight up. Soooo good!

    Sal’s, too.

  24. I’m thinking crazy thoughts of driving 3 hours south to Austin and indulging in Home Slice Pizza on South Congress. OMFG. Amazing.