For reasons that are now difficult to recall, late last year, we discovered that you could have Chuck E. Cheese pizza delivered directly to your door. This seemed — again, for reasons that are difficult to recall — hilarious to us and something that we must do as a collective — for team-building or some shit (or at least for a free lunch on the company). And so, via DoorDash, we had four pies delivered to the office: 1) a basic cheese; 2) a cauliflower-crust version for the keto adherents among us (which no longer seems available, replaced by a gluten-free Smart Flour version); 3) a five-meat symphony of cholesterol (the five meats in question: pepperoni, sausage, bacon, ham and beef); and 4) a Cali Alfredo, a white-sauce option topped with spinach, sausage, mushrooms and roasted chicken breast.
It was an exercise in nostalgia meets acid reflux.
‘This pizza stands solidly on the bottom rung of franchise brands that don’t have Skee-Ball on the premises’
Miles Klee, Staff Writer: I don’t think I ever liked Chuck E. Cheese pizza as a kid — growing up in New Jersey, it’s gonna take more than stale dough and ultra-processed tomato paste to impress you. And most of my time at the Big Rat Palace was devoted to playing the kind of video games I wasn’t allowed to have at home, or seething with jealousy at whichever friend had convinced his parents to throw him a birthday party there. What I’m trying to say is that even before it registers on my tongue, the taste of pizza served up by Charles Entertainment Cheese is loaded with contempt and bitterness.
Or so I thought. Perhaps I’ve let go of these old grudges, because my sampling of Mr. Cheese’s offerings this time around was far less fraught. Yes, it still has the consistency of something cooked over several days with a 40-watt lamp; the sausage bits are cloyingly sweet; their “alfredo” abomination might as well be a wheel of bread slathered in mayo. But all in all, this pizza stands solidly on the bottom rung of franchise brands that don’t have Skee-Ball on the premises. I even found myself pleasantly surprised by the crispy crust. Turns out when you’re not eating this in a room of shrieking children, with the scent of vomit wafting from the ball pit, you can almost… kind of… maybe… appreciate it? I salute the skateboarding rodent.
‘My tongue is dry with the taste of cheese and the memory of smelly socks — the signature aroma of any Chuck E. Cheese establishment’
Andrew Fiouzi, Staff Writer: The problem with mediocre, borderline shitty pizza is that the taste of mediocrity lingers in your mouth like someone else’s fart you’ve accidentally swallowed. As such, the longer this methane adjacent taste of mediocrity inhabits your taste buds, the more time you have to question your initial slightly more positive assessment.
Here’s my first thought: Chuck E. Cheese pizza isn’t even close to the worst pizza I’ve ever had. In fact, the cauliflower crust meat lovers version was surprisingly inoffensive and the regular cheese pizza had a nice enough garlic crust to make the calories seem worthwhile. I don’t hate myself today, so after two slices, I called it quits. I walked away feeling optimistic about the state of Chuck E. Cheese pizza. The kids, I thought, they’ll be all right.
[15 minutes passes, but the taste of Chuck E. does not]
As of writing this, my tongue is dry with the taste of cheese and the memory of smelly socks — the signature aroma of any Chuck E. Cheese establishment. Regret, I have some. But not enough to feel dizzy. Like the Chuck E. Cheese pizza, even my disappointment is lukewarm albeit still coagulating. Sorry Chuck E., you rat bastard, I still don’t like you.
‘Chuck E. Cheese tastes like your lost youth!’
Tim Grierson, Contributing Editor: Maybe it’s because I was eating Chuck E. Cheese, a pizza I consumed as a kid, but I found myself in a pretty nostalgic mood chomping down on it. There’s a certain kind of factory-made pizza that brings me back to childhood, when you don’t have a developed palate and just like whatever pizza is put in front of you because… it’s pizza. Pizza connects to memories of birthday parties or post-game celebrations. When you’re young, pizza is associated with fun — so much so that the pizza really doesn’t matter that much.
So, yes, a pretty ringing endorsement: Chuck E. Cheese tastes like your lost youth!
The truth is, I’m easy when it comes to pizza. I don’t require too much. I want it to have meat. I want it to have a thinnish crust. I would like there to be cheese. It doesn’t even have to be hot. (Just stick it in the microwave, or eat it cold, which is also delightful.) Pizza is reliable in that way. You have to try really hard to ruin pizza. Just don’t burn it, and it’s good.
The inherent joke in having Chuck E. Cheese delivered is that you’re missing out on the elements that actually make a Chuck E. Cheese experience memorable. The animatronic singing animals. The arcade games. The self-loathing employees forced to serve screaming children. The depressive parents who instantly regret every life choice that brought them to this strip mall today. All of that stuff is wonderful. Without it, you just have mediocre pizza that hits the spot because you’re hungry. But, hey, no shithead kids giving you a migraine — that’s definitely a plus.
‘It all felt, in a word, cheap.’
Jeff Gross, Social Media Editor: As the saying goes, pizza is like sex: Even when it’s bad, it’s good. This Chuck E. Cheese pizza is very much like bad sex, in that it’s a serviceable facsimile, but worth running away from the moment it gets up and goes to the bathroom.
I only tried the cauliflower crust version, and while it definitely rang true as “pizza,” and didn’t have much of a cauliflower taste, the crust did strike me as having a mass-produced quality. The spray-on garlic aftertaste is particularly strong; the sauce is saccharinely sweet; and the meat is the kind that would appear to have no particular provenance. It all felt, in a word, cheap.
There is no world in which someone not celebrating a cursed birthday with one or more screaming children should want to eat Chuck E. Cheese pizza. But in the coming apocalypse, if we’re all out of food, this pizza’s the kind of thing that might do in a pinch.
‘Fuck all of you for making me eat this’
Nick Leftley, Senior Editor: Look, I grew up in England in the 1980s, so I know bad pizza. I didn’t have pizza that wasn’t Pizza Hut deep pan, or the frozen kind that came out of the oven brick-hard, covered with some kind of dried cheese scab, until I was maybe in my late teens. But ever since semi-edible pizza started arriving to our shores in the late 1990s — and even after moving to New York — my opinion on pizza hasn’t been dissimilar to Miles Klee’s take on burgers: They’re all fine. Yes, some are demonstrably better than others, but even that $1 2 Bros slice I’ve dutifully folded and shoved down my throat whole while running for the subway has always been perfectly satisfactory. I don’t even mind Chicago deep dish, which I’ve always thought is kind of great because, rather than in spite of, the fact that it’s essentially just lasagna on toast. Thus, I wasn’t expecting much of a surprise at today’s taste test.
I was wrong. I only managed to eat a single slice, because after one experience of that meat-piled cauliflower thing, I was done. The meat seemed to have been randomly hurled on top, not so much secured in the cheese as toppings but just flung, like the legendary none pizza with left beef. Which, fine, whatever. But the crust! I’m not really snobbish about pizza crust, but even I’m pretty sure that adjectives like “mushy” and “squishy” aren’t ideal in this context, and that’s exactly what it was. It also had a very strong aftertaste of slimy, boiled cauliflower, which gave me truly hideous flashbacks to my childhood, where I was forced to eat the stuff sometimes to the point of vomiting.
I’m always very vocal that you should never complain about free food, but in this case, fuck all of you for making me eat this, fuck your stupid Chucky Mouse whatever-it-is arcade-restaurant thing, and fuck the world for allowing this to exist. I hate you all.
‘L.A. has a lot of terrible pizza, and this wasn’t even close to the worst I’ve had’
Magdalene Taylor, Editorial Assistant: You know what? Chuck E. Cheese Pizza is fine. If you’re a kid crawling through those tunnels and blowing your allowance on arcade games, you’re gonna be perfectly content to eat it. L.A. has a lot of terrible pizza, and this wasn’t even close to the worst I’ve had. The only genuine issue here is that it’s a product that has absolutely no business being delivered. It’s utilitarian food, like whatever they serve on airplanes. You’re not supposed to go out of your way for it. But I imagine enough parents, exhausted by their picky 7-year-old child’s begging, called up some ol’ hotline to complain about only being able to order it in-store. There’s a reason we’re in the position we’re in. We made ourselves this way.
‘The goody bag was glorious!’
Joseph Longo, Staff Writer: When you order Chuck E. Cheese on Uber Eats in New York, you get the option of a free goody bag or plush doll. I obviously picked the mysterious goody bag. What could it hold?! Starbursts? SweeTarts? A plastic replica of Mr. Cheese himself?
When it came over an hour later, I quickly devoured the shitty sausage pizza, which tasted like cardboard and chemical cheese, and moved on to the goody bag. It was glorious. Tootsie Rolls. Airheads. Even a plastic Frisbee.
You don’t order Chuck E. Cheese for the bland food. You order a meal from the childhood institution for the goody bag — a 10-minute token to being a 7-year-old again. I gave myself a sugar rush, thought about my childhood buddies and remembered the white Honda Odyssey my family drove to Chuck E. Cheese circa 2004. As I sat back down to write, I was physically uncomfortable — bloated and sweaty. But I felt as happy as a kid again.