Dubai just doesn’t bring out the pizza lover in me. I can’t think of the last time that I actually went out for pizza. Flipping open a menu at Forgettable Café X and making an impulse pizza decision doesn’t count. Neither does nibbling on frigid leftover slices two days after someone else in your family orders midnight takeout. I haven’t made a plan to venture out with the sole aim of eating pizza since I moved back to the city from New York last February. For a pizza lover who’s sliced her way through the pizza traditions of NYC and Chicago, this is a whole new pizzaless life for me. Maybe after all these years, I’m finally pizza’d out? …or maybe it’s because I, rightly or wrongly, get the sense that most pizza joints in Dubai are either chains or international transplants, while I’m more into the little pizza boutiques, or even shacks, where the shack owners have invested their heart and soul into dishing out each pie, with minimal fuss, no (blatant) commercialism, and no franchises promiscuously splattered across the face of the earth.
Anyway, now that I’ve dissed out pizzas in Dubai without even really giving them a fair trial, let me talk about a newcomer on the local pizza scene – Naked Pizza, born in New Orleans out of Jeff Leach’s vision to come up with, as eloquently described in their PR material, “an honest diversity of all-natural whole food ingredients that taste better and are better for you.” *rolls eyes* Right. Probably tastes like cardboard. I’d know, because I’ve tried diet fads – including premade and shipped diet pizzas – throughout my aspiring-to-be-skinny college years in Philadelphia. And it SUCKED. In many cases, diet food is for people who can't practice moderation. In the equation of portion size x calories = total cals, I've started leaning towards a strategy where I'd much rather eat a small portion of something edible and high quality, rather than gobble a huge portion of a plastic blob attempting to be something edible and high quality. Me no like low cal plastic blobs. Is that what you'd serve me Naked Pizza?
You'll see there no slice of 'health' or 'diet' on there. I just don't care. Not on my pizzas. I'm exactly that type of customer that N_K_D pizza probably gives 2 hoots about.
(Disclaimer: Our group, Famished in Arabia, had been invited to the opening of N_K_D thanks to one of our foodie gurus, Sally Prosser. I got to sample a ton of free slices and even landed a free t-shirt for tweeting the place. Woo-hoo! That said, I’ve tried my best to keep the review below as scathingly honest as possible)
Wow. No cardboard. Light and crusty towards the outside, soft and chewy where the sauce and cheese dribble down to the center. And that holds for their skinny crust too.
When I spoke to Jeff and his team, they stressed on how important it was to get a healthy crust, and just how long it took them to get this right, cause in there opinion, that's where all the evil stuff is in an unhealthy pizza. So this crust is probably gonna rock your world if you're into the whole low carb , high glycemic index deal and have deprived yourself of a decent slice for weeks on end. If you're a regular pizza lover, you probably won't notice the difference. Except that, hey, this is GOOD for ya.
If there were a sea of this sauce that I could just plunge in with a diving mask and tube and suck up all the fresh sweet tomato goodness, I SO would. I was proudly informed that this sauce was the creation of Manuel Mattei (thanks for the correction Robbie!), a Michelin 3-star trained chef - they import the tomato sauce and the spice blend and mix up the magic potion in Dubai. Well done N_K_D pizza, you have me seduced.
Once you're done licking your finger tips for that last drop of sauce, I'd also recommend ordering something, preferably the farmhouse pizza, with their sweet BBQ sauce topped with red onions and chicken chunks. While I'm no discerning midwest cowgirl when it comes to BBQ sauce, and I wouldn't know how to tell an imposter BBQ sauce from an authentic one, I was a fan of the BBQ goodness that N_K_D pizza had going on with their smokehouse pizza. As far as I’m concerned, anything slathered with BBQ sauce is usually pretty awesome...maybe even a piece of cardboard.
My 2 cents for N_K_D: The sauce that whooshed out from under the cheese and mushroom layer on first bite of pizza was incredible. You guys need to slather on WAY more of this stuff cause by the time I reached the outer crust, the sauce became sparse and I started experiencing sauce withdrawal symptoms.
My first bite of their free mushroom and cheese pizza had the sauce whoosh, and then a big clump of mozzarella that demanded some major cow-like chewing action before I could get back to my next bite. The cheese itself is part skim, part full fat outsourced mozzarella, though even with the part skim ratio, I’m positive that loading it on like there’s no tomorrow just cannot be healthy.
My 2 cents for N_K_D: It's such a disservice to drop bleh tasting cheese clumps on a slice holding such thoughtfully designed sauce. If making mozz in house seems too far off, at least do what my friend and I did when we ordered our first pizza pie for the evening: ask the guys behind the counter to go light on the cheese.
N_K_D has the usual rundown of toppings and topping combos that most pizza places do...maybe I've seen less of artichoke and corn on typical pizza chain menus, though again, these aren't rocket science for most pizza places that are a notch above the regular pizza chains (though as far as I'm concerned, corn has as much of a place on a pizza slice as hairballs do on your morning toast.)
Of the four pizzas I tried (three free slices and one paid-for small pizza), the toppings really shone on the superbiotic. Major veggies action spiked with enough garlic to give you, and anyone else within an inch of you for the rest of the evening, that wonderfully deep pungent punch that only garlic can bestow.
The pepperoni deserves a mention too...each pepperoni disc had an appropriately smokey, beefy flavor – and most importantly, was not bathing in a pool of grease that most pepperoni pizzas drown in.
My 2 cents for N_K_D: Your toppings were fresh, wholesome, and satisfying. I can't say that they were anything particularly unique compared to other pizza places I've personally tried (though I have mostly New York for comparison, which I realize is unfair), BUT, what was unique were those little topping icons you've got on the menu. (how cute is that pink turkey!)
THE POST-DELIVERY / TAKEOUT TASTE
This criteria is particularly important for N_K_D whose business model is all about takeout and delivery. There were no tables to dine at this pizza joint, so a key question is: will the pizza turn into a pumpkin by the time it reaches your doorstep? I didn’t really test this out since I gobbled up the slices fresh out of the oven during the opening rather than ordering for delivery, BUT, two of my friends and I did munch of the last 3 slices of Smokehouse pizza that were left lying in my car nearly four hours after it had emerged from the oven. And....it survived! What’s more, it tasted great. (other factors, such as intense hunger aroused from wild Friday night partying activities might have had something to do with this, but in my defense, I was totally sober and my BBQ sauced slice was almost as irresistible as it had been when it had rolled fresh out the oven). So I have high hopes of their home-delivered pizzas…and I can bet that these taste pretty good right out the fridge the next day too (nothing like a cold slice of pizza to sub in for breakfast on a naughty morning)
My 2 cents for N_K_D: Deliver to Bur Dubai and Deira dudes, I feel left out.
Sticker shock when we paid for our tiny 8 inch farmhouse pizza – 29 bucks?! It just ‘felt’ like it should be cheaper…but then, with my limited local pizza experience, I had no baseline at the time.
When I got home, I compared a basic cheese pizza across the following places:
|Dominos (16)||Pizza Hut (27)||Dominos (34)|
|Pizza Hut (17)||Dominos (28)||N_K_D (37)|
|N_K_D (19)||N_K_D (29)||Pizza Hut & 800 Pizza (38)|
|Papa Johns (22)||Pizza Express (32)||Pizza Express (42)|
|800 Pizza (28)||Papa Johns (38)||Papa Johns (49)|
Ok fine. Maybe N_K_D is not out of line after all. It’s definitely pricier than Dominos & Pizza Hut, in line with pizza places like Pizza Express and 800 Pizza whose menu options sound a notch fancier than our mass pizza giants, and even cheaper than Papa Johns.
(On a separate note, what’s with the Papa Johns prices?!)
My 2 cents for N_K_D: No 2 cents, I feel broke already. But you guys win on this one, I was wrong. Contrary to what I’d originally thought, you aren’t stripping people off (no pun intended) with your prices. But darn, 29 bucks for a small pizza still really hurts. I need to come out with my 12 buck mini cheese pizza and revolutionize the Dubai pizza industry forever.
SO N_K_D PIZZA, WORTH A SLICE OR NOT?
By my trusty six slice rating pie, I think N_K_D pizza is definitely worth a try if you’re in the area. And looking at the price list, worth ordering in at home, especially if health is an important factor for you, and if you’re hoping to get a more refined customer experience over the phone (I even saw some happy customer emails taped to their kitchen walls).
As for me, I think it's a decent, above-average pizza, with an overqualified sauce and the added benefit of containing a bunch of grains and prebiotics and probiotics and probably whatever else falls into the spectrum of health food fads that have cropped up over the last five years. But it's not something that's profound enough to make me get up on my chair and do my vigorous pizza hula dance*, because as someone on their team rightly said, it's not meant to be a gourmet pizza. It's just meant to serve up everything we love in our greasy pizza chains, just far healthier. I’ll probably take my folks there to try it once, or grab a slice if I'm already in the area, but unless they start delivering to my part of town OR bottling up and selling that sauce by the gallon, I’m likely not becoming a regular any time soon.
*said dance has yet to be publicly exhibited, but I'm confident it will be once I've had my pizza epiphany in Dubai.
(Blogger's notes: I read Sally's post on N_K_D and realized just how not fresh the toppings are. Well, they had me fooled on that superbiotic pizza...I'd have thought that ingredients like mushrooms and bell peppers and things were bought from the local market (where practically everything is imported anyway) and chopped up in their kitchens...rather than resorting to shipping canned veggies over to Dubai. Doesn't change that I thought the superbiotic tasted good, but then again, nothing extraordinary compared to other places I've tried in the past. Of course, the social responsibility aspect of this is a whole other topic...)
(...and more blogger notes...
- As both Yasmin and Robbie (co-founder and the brains behind the N_K_D/Naked branding) rightly noted, it's Smokehouse not Farmhouse. Farmhouse does not exist, except in my 12am sluggish state of mind where N_K_D's Farmvil and Smokehouse pizzas marry together to give birth to a hybrid Farmhouse baby pizza.
- You'll see the name of the Michelin star-trained chef (he wasn't a Michelin star chef himself as I'd noted earlier) listed up there now - Manuel Mattei. I couldn't remember his name for the life of me, so thanks for the refresher Robbie.
- I had actually called up all the places listed in my price comparison at around 12am at night. The person who answered the phone at N_K_D had stated that their small pizza was 8". As per Robbie's comment, it's 10". I just called up again and asked them right now, and I was told that it's 23cm - or 9.05". Rule of averages - it's a 9". And I've changed my pizza sizes to ranges (e.g. 8"-9", rather than just 8"), just to be on the safe side. I'm going to take my measuring tape next time.
- My chat with the N_K_D pizza guy just now revealed that the actual basic cheese pizza prices are a couple of bucks cheaper than what I had originally mentioned on my post. I had incorrectly added on the cost of cheese as a topping to the basic pie, but the basic pie already comes with cheese. DUH. I've since corrected the table, so this places the N_K_D pizza prices a notch higher on the affordability scale compared to the others. (If you see any of the prices in that chart looking strangely incorrect, just let me know. Phone service in this city is not the most reliable...as I realized while making those midnight HowMuchisYourCheesePizza calls.
Moral of my personal blogger story: writing posts at midnight when my brain has already called it a night two hours ago? BAD IDEA.)
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Dubai Marina, Dubai
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