© 2011 . All rights reserved.

Unveiling Naked Pizza

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?

So I put Naked Pizza - or as censored for the local market - N_K_D pizza, to my Super Scientific Six Slice Pizza Test.

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)

THE CRUST

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.

A 'skinny' crusted slice of the N_K_D Smokehouse pizza, with BBQ sauce, chicken and red onions

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.

My 2 cents for N_K_D: Kudos to your team for churning out a decent, above average crust despite all the no flour limitations and nutritional goop you guys have going on in there.

THE SAUCE

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.

Sneak peak into the N_K_D pizza secret sauce lair

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.

THE CHEESE

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.

Healthy at its best...an excessively cheesed up mushroom 'n cheese slice.

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.

THE TOPPINGS

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 Superbiotic pizza right before it hits the oven...

...and right after it emerges fresh out the oven.

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!)

N_K_D Pizza's adorable topping icons...I WANT THAT PINK TURKEY! (as a pet, not on my pizza)

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.

The Smokehouse pizza that came to the rescue four hours (of partying) later

THE PRICE

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:

8”-9"

10”-11"

12-13”

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.)

N_K_D Pizza
Marina View Towers Tower B, Unit R1
(Behind the Radisson Blu)
Dubai Marina, Dubai
Phone: +971 (4) 453 4313
Website: http://www.nakedpizza.biz/





27 Comments

  1. I, too, am on the hunt the best pizza in Dubai. Still haven’t found one, it’s hard finding something over-the-top here (especially after visiting Italy!)

    Naked Pizza had some pretty decent pizza. The Farmhouse pizza shot here looks a lot like the Smokehouse pizza I tried.. Hmmmm…

    • InaFryingPan

      ha! There is no such thing as a farmhouse pizza except in my clouded midnight blogger memories. There’s a Farmville, and a Smokehouse, and I have elegantly fused the two into a non-existent Farmhouse pizza. It was Smokehouse, you’re totally right – and I have made the change now!

      Thanks for pointing that out :)

  2. Thank you. Wow! Amazingly in depth, entirely full frontal and quite beautifully presented to review. As mentioned, we’re not gourmet, simply committed to providing an all natural, whole food alternative to delivery pizza – with emphasis on DELIVERING an affordable, tasty and hot pizza in about 25 minutes via phone or online ordering – something just about all the other guys just don’t seem to feel is very important – weird.
    In the process demonstrating that fast-food can be delicious and help, not hurt. (Not spending too much time on the soapbox, let’s talk pizza…)
    Couple of notes:
    The pizza above is Smokehouse, not Farmhouse, although that’s a cool name too.
    Our small is 10 inches which you noted in the graph, but not the preceding paragraph.
    Our twitter handle is @nkdpizza We invite bone honest truth in public comments on twitter and our facebook wall. Give it to us straight.
    The Michelin 3-Star-trained chef is Manuel Mattei (appropriately Italian and our partner in Miami)
    Light on the cheese for you next time, got it friendo.
    Hope to be delivering to you soon – 5 more on the board for this year, about 75 in the U.S. Stay tuned.

    • InaFryingPan

      @Robbie – thank you for being so forthcoming with info, both during the opening as well as now. Apologies for the goof up’s…hope I have done justice with the corrections to my post. When I’m chomping on something, my mind sometimes numbs itself to all the other important details – so thank you for bringing these up!

  3. arva! excellent review – you just go all out on your posts, loved reading it!! I am assuming they have a grt many or atleast a few vegetarian options. it’ll be great to include the vegetarian angle in your food reviews for herbivores like moi.

  4. Sally

    Love the in-depth review of the taste and price – really excellent. My best pizza ever was from a little delicatessen in Rome just by the Trevi fountain – simple mushroom and cheese topping. I still remember the taste!

  5. Nausheen

    Great post! There are few things I miss more than a great New York slice. This was a pretty good fix.

    • InaFryingPan

      @Rajani – so glad you enjoyed reading it! They do have veggie options…the superbiotic pizza that I mentioned above is totally veggie, as was the mushroom and cheese. Their menu (http://www.nkdpizza.com/menu) has a couple others like the Mediterranean and Greenhouse that are veggie too, or you can just custom design your own one too.

      @Sally – The little delis and tucked away pizza joints are usually the best. Their small scale lets them focus on quality, rather than quantity. That mushroom and cheese pizza you ate in Rome sounds like it would totally hit the spot.

      @Nausheen – Thanks! You bet lady, NYC pizza…MEGA-DROOL.

  6. Wow….your review makes me feel like I actually visited the place and ate that pizza. Great photos Arva! I feel the best pizza is made at home…..will share my version sometime soon!

  7. Wendy

    Wicked review, I really want to go try it out now :) Looks delicious!

  8. saleem

    Wish I had accepted your invite, guess you will take me their next time you go there to eat.

    • InaFryingPan

      @Sukaina – Home made pizza. That’s probably it, THAT’S why I don’t go out to eat pizzas anymore. Once I took my pizza-making-at-home class in NYC two years ago, I started eating less and less of it at restaurants outside. Nothing compares to a high quality homemade crust, taleggio cheese, and a drizzle of white truffle oil (kudos to Mark Bello, my awesome pizza teacher) Can’t wait to see taste? :) your homemade version!

      @Wendy – thank you! would definitely suggest tweeting them @NKDPizza and letting them know whether you liked/loved/hated it…

      @dad – we missed you! but as I said, I would be up for making a second trip with you and mom to see what you guys think.

  9. parthans

    Wow – fabulous review – for a decent pizza – you should try Roundtable Pizza :) They are here in Media City and their Gourmet Veggie pizza is To Die For!!

    I dont eat out as often as I would like – lack of company – but every time i go out to a new place – I do write about it :)

    Great review again – am hungry all over again!! *drools*

  10. Lego

    In the U.S., the specialty pizzas are $12.99 for 10-inch, $14.99 for 12-inch, $16.99 for 14-inch.

    The cheese pizza is $4.99, $5.99, $6.99 ( $1.49, $1.69, $1.89 for the toppings) for the respective pizza size.

    The prices are pretty much in line with other major pizza chains.

    • InaFryingPan

      @parthans – hey, thanks for checking out the review! …Roundtable, the chain? I will be honest that I’m skeptical about it, but that said, I remember a time when I LOVED Sbarro’s in NYC, and I still love California Pizza Kitchen…so maybe this is worth a shot :)

      @The Big Geek – thanks!

      @Lego – Thanks for the info, where were you when I was writing this post! But taking into account 2 things – we have 8″, 10″ and 12″ here in Dubai…of course the U.S. takes it 2″ further ;) AND, the prices for the medium and large cheese pizza are actually way cheaper than what we’re getting here…e.g. the US ’medium’ 12″ cheese is 5.99*3.65 conversion rate = AED 21.86, while our cheapest medium pizza (which is 2″ smaller, at 10″) is AED 27.

      All this math is makin’ me HUNGRAY.

  11. Maeesha

    wow…….all i can say is…arva how do you remain so skinny despite all the food reviews you do…! i think you should share that with your readers :)

  12. Holy shizz, this is ooooone in depth pizza review! Calling restaurants at midnight and all! I appreciate it, even though I’m never going to eat at this place. I was partially fueled by thinking that the pizza was going to suck or something, eheh. Glad to hear your NYC-pizza-accustomed taste buds didn’t suffer too much.

    • InaFryingPan

      @Maeesha – skinny? lady, you need to come down to Dubai and see the new post-blog me in person. All fat and bones now.

      @Robyn – That’s huge coming from someone in New York! Though I’m not signing up for those midnight calls again…really hurt to be at work the next day.

  13. Sara S

    How Come people have to pay 5 dhs for delivery since this business is a business based only on a delivery model!!

    Also, I have not seen any communication about reason behind this charge.I mean that 5 dhs is suppose to go to the driver as his tip directly.

    I asked a Naked Pizza driver once about where the 5 dhs go to; he told me 1 dhs ONLY goes to him, while 2 dhs go to the staff in the shop, which is fair since they dont interact with customers, but the remaining 2 dhs go to the OWNERS!

    That is not fair for the driver or the kitchen staff,and the whole business would not exist if it wasn’t for the delivery so why should 2 dhs go to the owners!??@

    How do you explain this 5 dhs delivery charge?

    • Hi Sara,

      Thank you for your feedback and the chance to explain. Yes we are a carry out and delivery pizza business. The majority of the delivery fee goes to the staff which I can assure you is unusual in this business. If you require an explanation for the remaining two dirhams then hold on to your horses… here it is: our standard is to deliver a pizza no later than 30 to 35 minutes. In order for this to happen a great deal of investment is required. Not just in the required kitchen equipment but also the delivery vehicles and the delivery staff.

      You might be interested to know that we have 20 operational delivery bikes and drivers in our Dubai Marina store. This ensures that you get your pizza fast and hot regardless of whether it is a Monday night or Thursday night. Now imagine the cost of each bike, the insurance, the medical and workmen’s compensation policies for each of our drivers the cost of petrol, vehicle maintenance, uniforms and depreciation. I can safely say that our delivery standard is generally far superior to our competitors, who also usually charge at least 5 dhs for delivery or just pad their menu pricing for the same. Having been in Dubai for the past 13 years, one of my key objectives was to provide people in Dubai with better service. We all deserve more than what is currently offered. This means more investment in equipment and more importantly people. We have made this investment and our delivery standards and customer feedback are testament to this.

      If you do not care for our pizza then we are truly sorry because we are so very proud of our product, but also understand that it might not be for absolutely everyone…and this is of course your prerogative.

      I would be genuinely pleased to have the chance to give you a personal tour of our shop to give you a better sense of our operational standards and our operational ethos. Please shoot me an email at tribe@nkdpizza.com and we will set something up.

      As always, we appreciate all feedback from our customers. Full frontal honesty is what we value, good bad or otherwise it is our lifeline.

      Ian Ohan – GCC Area Developer, NKD Pizza

  14. sara S

    ….and that icky feeling they say wont happen after eating their pizza, well not really, i eat 4 slices at 8pm and couldn’t sleep all night. so guess i fell for their marketing campaign, they have a good marketer on board not a special pizza per say.

  15. Arva,
    May we use your blog posting in an upcoming video?

    tim "at" nakedpizza.biz

  16. CompleteFoodie

    The pictures are absolutely mouth wateringly amazing, I can literally taste the crispness in that pizza! Amazing photography skills and style of writing. Keep it up :)

  17. sheryn917

    Have you tried Pizza Pazza over by Mall of the Emirates? It’s my favorite pizza place in Dubai… And I met the owner, a real Italian man that cares about his restaurant enough to wait tables and joke with customers. :)

    • InaFryingPan

      @sara S – thanks for raising all the concerns. I know a ton of people who love N_K_D pizza (reading from the people who tweet about it) and probably others like yourself who aren’t such fans, each pizza lover to his /her own slice I guess :)

      @Ian Ohan – thanks for the super informative reply!

      @tim ryan – you bet!

      @CompleteFoodie – thanks!

      @sheryn917 – No, haven’t tried it but totally sounds like my kind of non-chain, owner-loved resto. Thanks for the recommendation!

  18. Marwick Bravo

    Order the best pizza in Dubai from Bikanervala.ae. Indian sandwiches at Bikanervala are a unique combination of taste & tradition of India.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.
Required fields are marked:*

*