Last month, the detestable racist that is former Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter admitted that he lied when he claimed to have eaten 40 pizzas in 30 days. As if we need more reasons to hate the guy, now he’s just inventing new controversies — and in just about the most pointless way possible. Why lie about something so stupid? Some people eat pizza every day, and as a pizza lover myself, I’ve probably eaten nearly 40 pizzas in a month without even realizing it.
So, out of pure spite, I decided to do what that dickbag John Schnatter couldn’t — eat 40 entire pizzas in 30 days (crust included).
I just had to define some parameters first. There are a lot of strong opinions when it comes to what makes a “real” pizza — ingredients, city of origin, etc. — but the only thing I was going to consider was size. See, in my mind, eating 40 personal pizzas would be cheating. After all, I’ve probably eaten 40 Bagel Bites in a single sitting before (really) so all 40 pizzas needed to be at least a “small.” And since Google defines a small pizza as being 8 to 10 inches, diameter would be the sole rule in this challenge — every pizza had to measure at least 8 inches in diameter, anything less would be defined as a “personal” pizza.
With that, I began my journey with a call to Domino’s…
Day 1, February 12, 2020
I started with a Hawaiian pizza from Domino’s. When the discussion of this challenge started, the idea was thrown around that I should eat only Papa John’s pizza, but I quickly shot down that terrible proposal: I only wanted to mildly endanger my health, plus, the one upside of the whole endeavor was to celebrate the diverse beauty that is pizza. Given that — and the fact that I’ve only had Papa John’s once in my life and found it to be abysmal — I decided that none of the pizzas could be Papa John’s except for the final one.
I didn’t plan to go all Super Size Me with this challenge, but I did weigh myself beforehand, just so I had a “before” number to compare it to later. While I’m hardly comfortable sharing it, I started at 236 pounds, which is about 50 or so pounds more than I’d like.
Anyway, after ordering my Domino’s, although I paid no mind to the fraud that is their pizza tracker, it arrived in good time.
Since this challenge wasn’t established until late in the afternoon, I ate only half of it for dinner, which meant I had some catching up to do over the next few days — after all, I calculated that I needed to eat 1 ⅓ pizzas daily to reach 40 within 30 days.
Pizzas Eaten = ½
On this day, I decided to begin with an embrace of breakfast pizza, something I hadn’t had since I was a child. I grabbed a small Boboli (which just exceeds eight inches) and spread butter on it in place of olive oil. Then I fried up some bacon and eggs, placed them on the pizza and added some sharp cheddar. It proved to be a hearty breakfast, but I ate it all, since I’d waited until almost noon to eat anything.
For dinner, I finished my Hawaiian pizza from Domino’s.
Pizzas Eaten = 2
My wife wasn’t altogether thrilled that I’d accepted this idiotic challenge — in fairness, it meant that I’d have to eat separate meals from her and my kid for an entire month — but this was never more bothersome than when I took her out for Valentine’s Day. While she ordered a totally appropriate strip steak with broccoli rabe, I got a wood-fired pizza with “herbed ricotta, mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes and spinach, topped with smoked bacon.” It was delicious, but for a kid-free Valentine’s Day date night, it was somewhat lame.
I ate half of it, along with another quarter for a late-night snack. I’d also polished off another bacon, egg and cheese pizza for breakfast.
Pizzas Eaten = 3 ¾
This was hardly an exciting pizza day. I had another breakfast pizza, this time on Target’s brand of pizza crusts (as they’re a little thinner than Boboli) and half of a leftover plain Domino’s from the other night.
Pizzas Eaten = 5 ¼
Luckily, my daughter’s fifth birthday party fell during my pizza challenge. Or better put, we’d planned for it to be a pizza party long before I started down this road, so it worked out pretty conveniently. While I was so busy during the party that I only ate five slices, the whole thing was a huge success, if only because we got to beat the shit out of an Olaf piñata.
Pizzas Eaten = 5 ⅞
Less than a week in and I was already starting to tire of pizza, so I only ate half of one for dinner. As good as it was at my daughter’s party, the leftover pizza was even better. Back when I did my round-up of Italian chefs talking about the food from Goodfellas, chef Genia Townsend of Nee Nee’s Italian Steakhouse explained to me that when you’re cooking with fresh ingredients, the aromatics will open up after they’ve been cooled and then reheated, which is why stuff like pizza tastes better the next day. The more you know!
Pizzas Eaten = 6 ⅜
Two breakfast pizzas. For the first time, I started to properly consider what the fuck I was doing to myself.
Pizzas Eaten = 8 ⅜
Breakfast pizza yet again, this time with sausage and pepper jack cheese. I wanted every pizza I ate to be a bit different, but I was quickly running out of options in the breakfast category.
For lunch, I ate a small pepperoni and scallion. At dinner, I had two slices of pepperoni at my mom’s house. Honestly, none of it felt great.
Pizzas Eaten = 10 ⅝
Okay, I’ll admit it: All of this pizza was making me feel physically ill. Having run out of different types of cheeses for breakfast pizza, I resorted to American cheese, reasoning that it was just fine on a breakfast sandwich. Holy fuck was I wrong. The thing basically tasted like plastic and sausage mixed together, and I felt like shit for the entire rest of the day. I even fought the urge to throw it up, but I held it in for fear that it meant I could no longer count it as eaten, putting me even further behind in my pizza count.
Pizzas Eaten = 11 ⅝
I just… couldn’t.
Pizzas Eaten = 11 ⅝
I got back on the horse with another breakfast pizza. It had sausage and bacon and for cheese I used a little pepperjack and some cheddar. I gave half of it to my wife, who liked it very much, but I was pretty much done with this shit.
For lunch, I had three leftover slices from the pizza I had with my mom — two slices of pepperoni and one plain — all without an ounce of joy.
Pizzas Eaten = 12 ½
I forgot that smoked cheddar doesn’t melt, which made my morning breakfast pizza with smoked cheddar and sausage especially gross.
For dinner, we ordered Little Caesars, which wasn’t as good as Domino’s but far better than what I remembered of Papa John’s. Like an idiot I got the fucking deep dish, so I could only stomach half of it before giving up.
Pizzas Eaten = 14
Breakfast pizza again, then leftover Little Caesars for dinner. Before I bit in though, my wife ominously asked me, “Is that still good?” The question held for my mental state, too.
Pizzas Eaten = 15 ½
I’d never craved vegetables so much in my entire life. Also, the pizza was making me feel so shitty that I’d done an hour on my exercise bike two days in a row. When I began this whole debacle, I spoke to nutritionist and personal trainer Sean Salazar of Anywhere Gym for advice on, y’know, living through it, and he naturally recommended that I get as much exercise as possible throughout, as all the carbs and fat I was eating would make me feel sluggish (a prediction that came true with a vengeance).
He also advised that I try to eat as many vegetables as possible, saying, “If you want to put vegetables on pizza, that’s fine, but nobody puts enough on there to really make an impact. Instead, I’d recommend that any time you’re not eating pizza, eat vegetables.”
Additionally, I’d spoken to renowned pizza chef (and James Beard Award winner) Chris Bianco, who pointed out that pizza doesn’t have to be junk food. “I like to read labels and understand where things come from and know the source of the food. We’re so busy today that no one pays attention to it, but pizza can be a really beautiful food if you consider all of those things. It’s as worthy as any dish to be in the highest echelon of greatness — it just depends upon what you’re putting into it.”
To finally heed Bianco’s advice, I headed to my local Adams Fairacre Farms, which sells a lot of organic and natural goods, reasoning that if I was going to make it all the way through this thing, I had to start making good pizza. Enough with the junk: I was going all-natural, starting with some nice cauliflower crust.
I originally attempted to make cauliflower crust from scratch, but holy fucking shit it’s complicated! Per a recipe from My Recipes, you have to put the cauliflower in a food processor before cooking it for 25 minutes, then you can make a pizza on it. That’s ridiculous! Over an hour to make a pizza? No. No way. No wonder we Americans eat like shit and die early, the alternatives are far worse.
Anyway, I almost gave up on the whole cauliflower crust thing and headed straight to Domino’s, but fortunately I asked someone at Adams Fairacre Farms if they had any kind of pre-made cauliflower crust, which they did, in the frozen section.
For lunch, I used the cauliflower crust along with olive oil, mozzarella, spinach, scallions, garlic, peppers and fresh tomatoes. I then topped it with feta cheese and bacon and slid it into the oven.
I was pleasantly surprised by the crust! Not only was it a nice crispy texture, but the fresh, local vegetables made me feel far better than I’d felt in days. I also had the same thing for dinner, but with ham instead of bacon. It was delicious yet again.
Pizzas Eaten = 17 ½
Back on the shit train. My daughter was home sick from school, preventing me from leaving the house to buy more cauliflower crusts. All I had in the house was a DiGiorno with pepperoni, sausage, peppers and onions. It was gross and it took me all day to eat it.
Pizzas Eaten = 18 ½
While I’d previously tried the Caulipower brand cauliflower crust, I was told by a cauliflower-crust connoisseur that it was the least cauliflower-y of the cauliflower crusts, so I decided to go with Jolly Green Giant and start my morning with a sausage, egg and feta pizza.
It was fucking disgusting. Despite the fact that you have to cook the crust twice — once before you put anything on it and then again with toppings — the crust was all soggy and completely fell apart. It also had a grainy, unpleasant texture.
For lunch, I switched back to Caulipower and topped it with a bunch of vegetables, goat cheese, balsamic vinegar and apples. (Don’t @ me about the apples; it was actually quite good.)
For dinner, I had a third cauliflower pizza — a Caulipower brand frozen pizza with vegetables on it. The pizza was flavorless and all gross and soggy, but I crammed it down my throat in what proved to be a successful catch-up day.
Pizzas Eaten = 21 ½
Day 17 and 18
I unfortunately caught whatever it was my daughter came down with, so I was sick for two days, meaning I ate zero pizzas, cancelling out all that catching up I’d just done.
Pizzas Eaten = 21 ½
While I felt better, I still wasn’t craving any piece-of-shit frozen pizza, so I made a bit of a field trip to get some good pizza in my system. I live in upstate New York, so I ventured down to Little Italy in Manhattan and headed to America’s very first pizzeria, Lombardi’s.
I got the “Buddy’s ‘Cake Boss’ Pizza,” which has prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, arugula, romano cheese and fresh basil.
In a city full of $1 slices, the small pizza was a bit overpriced at $30, but it was delicious, and exactly what I needed to reinvigorate my love for pizza. I split it with a friend and then headed to my next stop — Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, a place I called home from 2008 to 2012.
There was no way that I could do this entire journey without heading to my own personal pizza mecca, Bay Ridge Pizza. Established in 1978, Bay Ridge Pizza is a landmark in my old neighborhood, and to this day, I’ve never found a pizza as good as their “Grandma Pie.” And I’m not the only one who thinks so — it’s been consistently voted as Brooklyn’s best pizza, including just a couple of months ago by the New York Post.
When talking to Gaspare, one of the owners, he explains what makes a Grandma Pie different from a regular pizza: “It’s made on a thinner crust, and the cheese goes on the bottom and the sauce on top. Also, the sauce is different — it’s got plum tomato sauce, which is a bit thicker and more ragù-ish. There’s also the fresh basil.”
The Grandma Pie was everything I remembered it to be: crispy, rich and addictive. As I drove the two-hour trip back home, I ate an entire half of the massive pie. I’d like to say that I’m ashamed of my gluttony to save face, but I’m not. Seriously, you’ll understand completely if you ever try a Grandma Pie from this place.
Pizzas Eaten = 22 ½
For lunch, I ate what was left of the Grandma Pie. Since I regrettably shared some with my wife, there were only two slices, or one-sixth of the overall pie, left. For dinner then, I had a boring, gross cauliflower pizza, which was even more grainy and disgusting than I remembered.
Pizzas Eaten = 23 ⅔
Not wanting to be wasteful, I had my last Green Giant cauliflower crust for lunch. I let it cook extra long beforehand, then I just topped it with regular old sauce and mozzarella. I overcooked it a bit as well in the hopes that it wouldn’t be a soggy disgusting mess, but it didn’t work. It was still soggy, still gross and so grainy it felt like I was eating cat litter.
It was Super Tuesday, so I was up late watching election results. Around 10:30 p.m., I got hungry and did a late-night order to Domino’s — old-school college style. I opted for a crunchy thin crust topped with pepperoni and pineapple, a combination recommended to me when I undertook a deep, scientific analysis of pineapple as a pizza topping. Weirdly enough, pineapple and shrimp was also recommended to me during that research, but if Domino’s has shrimp, I don’t want to know about it.
The thin crust was a wise choice, as I was able to devour the whole pizza before heading to bed. Yes, I know how disgusting this was, but I was also past shame.
Pizzas Eaten = 25 ⅔
My day started with a trip to Target to get some pizza ingredients. I can’t explain it, but something came over me when I stared at the frozen pizzas, and suddenly I loved pizza again. From the very start of this, I’d feared that the whole endeavor would end my love affair with pizza — which has led to a ridiculous number of articles on the subject — but as I scanned the frozen pizza selection at my local Target, so much of what I was seeing looked amazing.
I bought a couple of frozen pizzas from the California Pizza Kitchen brand. I’d never tried the brand or the restarant before, mostly because I’m a snobbish New Yorker and always reasoned that, really, what the fuck does California know about pizza? But when making my selection, I remembered something that food critic Greg Thilmont had told me previously: “People get very factional and partisan about their pizzas. Obviously there’s the New York/Chicago roustabout that’s always going on, and then you can mix in Detroit and New Haven, too. Basically, people have their prejudices about pizza, and those are based on regionalism.” Because of this pizza tribalism, Thilmont had encouraged me to have an open mind, so I opted for these dubious-seeming California Pizza Kitchen variations with his advice in mind.
Both pizzas were just fine — not special, but not bad — fully preserving my New York pizza elitism.
Pizzas Eaten = 27 ⅔
It turns out that the day before, David Wise had passed away. While not a household name, Wise was one of the core writers of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, writing more than 100 episodes. Not only did Wise write more episodes than anyone else, he also created iconic characters like Bebop and Rocksteady, among others. It only seemed fitting, considering the challenge before me, to pour one out for Mr. Wise by trying some of the ridiculous pizzas he wrote into the show.
I turned to my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pizza cookbook (yes, I already owned this, shut up) and eventually settled on sweet pickle and pepperoni, which sounded sufficiently Ninja Turtle-y. I also realized that I hadn’t been nearly ambitious enough. Frozen pizzas and fucking Boboli? What a disgrace I was. As such, I decided to get some good ingredients for my Turtle pie, including making my own crust. I tried my hand at tossing the dough in the air (which actually does help to work the gluten!) but that was hard to do, so apparently lacking turtle power, I gave up after a few minutes.
The final result of the pepperoni and pickle pizza was actually quite good, and not nearly as weird as I thought it would be — it kind of tasted like banana peppers.
Rest in peace, Mr. Wise, I hope they serve pepperoni and pickle pizzas in heaven. Also: This pizza was supposed to be round.
Pizzas Eaten = 28 ⅔
A new low: hospital pizza. We had to go to the ER for a family emergency, so I ended up eating disgusting hospital pizza as a late breakfast. I got one slice of pepperoni and one sausage, which my wife told me “looks like cat food.” The pepperoni was fine, but the sausage was disgusting and I’m pretty sure it was topped with yesterday’s unsold breakfast sausage. (And I know now a thing or two about breakfast sausage.)
In the evening, I still soldiered on and ordered a plain thin from Domino’s. Once again, I ate it all.
Pizzas Eaten = 30
I spent the day out with family, so I had to make do with whatever options were available in the mall. For lunch, I went for a thin “cheese steak” pizza from Pizzeria Uno, and for dinner, I decided to try a “pepperoni and honey” flatbread from the Cheesecake Factory. While the latter sounded strange, I barely tasted the honey, so it basically seemed like regular pepperoni.
Pizzas Eaten = 32
Another thin pizza from Domino’s — this time with double bacon.
Pizzas Eaten = 33
I decided to share my pizza experience with my daughter, so the two of us rolled out dough to make homemade pies. She’d only ever done Bobolis before, so this was all new to her, and she was grossed out by the stickiness of the dough. Eventually, though, she got into it and enjoyed herself. While I ended up with another sadly misshapen pizza, my daughter accidentally rolled out a pretty perfect-looking heart. We both topped them with sauce and cheese and stuck them in the oven.
When I pulled the pizzas out of the oven, I noticed that my daughter’s pizza was significantly smaller than mine (while — thank you Jesus — still being more than eight inches), which made it much easier to eat than my own. While I’m not proud of this — especially since my daughter was very excited to eat her heart pizza — I took it and ate the entire thing, while giving her some of the pizza I made and telling her it was the heart pizza.
So, yeah, I stole my daughter’s heart pizza. I’m just glad she can’t read this yet.
Later on, I grabbed a cold slice of my misshapen pizza, planning to venture back into the Ninja Turtle realm. I’d been talking to a fellow Turtle fan about my tribute to David Wise, but when I told him that I’d opted for a pepperoni and pickle pizza, he seemed underwhelmed, commenting that it wasn’t nearly strange enough to be a true pizza of the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t help but agree, so I went all out by looking up the grossest recipes from back in the day. Eventually, I settled on trying two distinct flavor combinations — half pepperoni and hot fudge, and half marshmallows with guacamole. I also reached out to Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to ask him why, exactly, pizza ended up as the food of choice for the Turtles. He explains, “When I was a teen, that’s all I ever wanted to eat! I even worked at a pizza shop, so when [Peter Laird] and I were creating the Turtles, what they ate was simple: PIZZA!”
Unfortunately, my first attempt at a true Turtle pizza was unsuccessful, and it literally fell apart when I tried to pick up a slice. I don’t know if it was undercooked or if it was so ashamed of itself that it committed pizza seppuku, but I was forced to remake it with a simpler, pre-made crust.
I ate one slice of each and found them both wildly offensive. The pepperoni and hot fudge, rather than gelling together in a pleasant salty/sweet kind of combination, ended up with the two strong flavors battling for supremacy in my mouth — and the only one who lost was me. The guacamole and marshmallows topping was somehow far more disgusting, however — just a slimy, marshmallow-y slice of mush.
Immediately after eating those two slices, I threw the rest out, lest I got the stupid idea of trying them as leftovers later.
Pizzas Eaten = 34 ⅝
An okay breakfast pizza in the morning, followed by a Red Baron frozen pizza for dinner. The latter was quite good, even if the Red Baron did kill several Allied Forces during World War I.
Pizzas Eaten = 36 ⅝
Breakfast pizza again — sausage, egg and cheddar. It was good, but boring as hell. For lunch, I had a pizza with pepperoni and peppers. Also fine. Also boring.
For dinner, I had a slice at my local pizzeria, Frank’s Pizza of New Windsor. I’d meant to stop by here much earlier, but so much of the time I was trying to make my own pizza or I was ordering close to midnight, so Domino’s was my only option. I opted for just one plain slice, but it was quite good, as Frank’s always is.
While there, I asked my local pizza makers what they do when they tire of pizza, hoping to get some tips for my last day from those who I assumed eat pizza day in, day out. But they said that they don’t spice it up or get crazy, they just bring lunch from home. In other words, they don’t eat pizza if they’re tired of it, which sounded like an impossible dream to me.
Pizzas Eaten = 38 ¾
My last day, which I’d planned out pretty perfectly. I was worried that I’d never quite catch up during this whole thing, and that I’d be cramming five or more pizzas down my gullet on the final day, but fortunately I didn’t quite have to do that. For lunch, I had another two slices at Frank’s, but dinner was the big finale, the thing I’d been dreading from the start: Papa John’s.
I was originally going to try something called “The Works,” but that includes olives and mushrooms, two ingredients I find offensive, so I decided to end this thing much as it began — by ordering what Papa John’s calls their “Super Hawaiian” pizza, described as “loaded with sweet, juicy pineapple tidbits, julienne-cut Canadian bacon, hickory-smoked bacon, a three-cheese blend and real cheese made from mozzarella on our signature sauce and original fresh dough.”
What I got, though, was anything but super. Not only was the ham and bacon barely noticeable, it had only 17 pieces of pineapple — just two per slice! I ate the entire thing on the drive home, and found it to be not offensive exactly, but not anything else, either. It was just fine. It wasn’t the satisfying fast-food perfection that is Domino’s or the greasy, indulgent goodness of Little Caesars, or even the junky, snacky pizza of Chuck E. Cheese — it was just pizza that was almost totally devoid of flavor.
Somewhat tellingly, Papa John’s also includes a pepper and some garlic sauce along with their pizzas, which they promote as “little extras.” In reality, these extras seem more like an apology — they know their pizza isn’t good enough on its own, so they throw in some free shit to make up for it.
Pizzas Eaten = 40
I’d done it. After 30 days, I’d done what that dipshit John Schnatter could not by eating 40 entire pizzas in 30 days.
Surprisingly, when I weighed myself again, I was down three pounds. When I check back in with my nutritionist, Salazar says that this means I was in “approximately a 300 calorie deficit per day. Meaning that you ate 300 calories less than usual, or you burned off 300 calories more per day.” While the weight loss was surprising, it does kind of make sense: I used that exercise bike pretty consistently once I started, and since I had so much pizza to eat, I ceased snacking between meals almost completely.
As for what I learned from this whole experience, well, I mainly found that no matter what I do, nothing can diminish my love for pizza. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up eating some next week. It’s just about the most diverse, versatile, Turtle-rific party food there ever was, and I will never stop putting it in my mouth.
Unless somehow all the pizza crusts in the world became cauliflower crusts, in which case, I’d commit pizza seppuku myself.