A speedy pizza revolution?
Roseville, CA 95678
Good for: getting a pizza in a hurry
Notable dishes: build-your-own pizza and salad
Remember the early 2000s, when Chipotle seemed like one of the cool new places to eat in Sacramento? Fast-casual Mexican food felt like a revolutionary concept to Sacramento, a lot of young people ate there and it appeared fresh and hip with its modern stainless steel counters, concrete walls and open air ducts. That’s the same kind of vibe one gets when walking into Blaze Pizza in Gold River (there are also franchises in Roseville and Davis), which opened in December.
Blaze Pizza is one of the new fast-casual, Chipotle-esque build-it-yourself pizza chains in town (in addition to Midtown’s Pieology, and Elk Grove and Roseville’s Blast 825) where an often unenthusiastic teenager builds custom pie after custom pie, fires it in a brick oven, and hands it down the line to the register where customers pay and pick up finished pizzas—all in a matter of seconds. Rick and Elise Wetzel of Wetzel’s Pretzels launched the Pasadena-based Blaze chain in 2012; it subsequently picked up big-name investors like LeBron James, Maria Shriver and Boston Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner; and it’s rapidly expanding (it plans to open 60 to 70 more locations this year, to add to the more than 50 open now). It already has tens of thousands of followers on social media sites.
Despite the speed with which pizzas are cooked at Blaze, ordering took a while during our first visit to the Gold River location on a recent weeknight. Most of the time was spent standing in line behind about a dozen people: kids with soccer uniforms, young couples wearing tank tops, a guy on a cellphone picking up a to-go order for his family. The fact that it was busy and also had a lot of social-media hype seemed like a good sign.
It costs just $7.75 for a pizza with unlimited toppings (one-topping pizzas are a little less). To get a feel of the quality of the toppings, we started with a spicy marinara sauce, and then added a ton of toppings: pepperoni, cherry tomatoes, chopped garlic, roasted garlic, basil, jalapeños, mushrooms, sautéed onions, pepperoncini, goat cheese, ricotta and ovalini mozzarella.
The dough on the pizza—which was pressed into shape with some sort of steel contraption, not hand-tossed—was a bit spongy. It lacked flavor and, despite being freshly cooked, was somehow absent both fluff and crunch. Adding a ton of toppings (from the three-dozen or so available choices) easily masked that plainness, though. The goat cheese, garlic and cherry tomatoes were probably our favorite toppings on this pizza, while the rest seemed rather run-of-the-mill.
On our way out, we grabbed all four side salads, which were a great deal at $3.99 each, and made for a good lunch the next day: tomato, basil and ovalini; beet and goat cheese; roasted veggie and Gorgonzola; and a classic Caesar salad. The best two were the tomato-basil-ovalini salad (mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, basil, arugula) and the beet-and-goat-cheese one (beets, goat cheese, almonds, arugula). The other two lacked flavor, but had crunchier textures.
We tried a few other custom pizzas (one can also order “signature” pizzas with names like Meat Eater, Veg Out and White Top), and washed them down with a few Pilsners—there’s a limited rotating selection of bottled beer, and a few house wines. But the only thing that really stood out to us after eating them was that flavorless, textureless dough again. The pizza crust lacks the same passion the corporate office seems to have with marketing itself on social media.
Masullo, Hot Italian and Il Pizzaiolo all have a much more obvious enthusiasm for pumping out quality pizzas which Blaze appears to lack with its mind-numbingly repetitive production line. While the fast-casual pizza concept of Blaze is a great idea for picky eaters with very specific topping preferences and families with several growing kids to feed (and without much spare time), there are much better options for quality Neopolitan pizzas in the Sacramento area.