In order to keep a somewhat level playing field, I'll try the standard crust with ham variety from each. I know pepperoni would be more traditional, but I'd rather have something from an identifiable section of the animal. The pizza will be graded in the following categories: crust, cheese, sauce, and taste. The ratings will be highly subjective, of course, but at least it'll give some defined areas of comparison.
First on the table is my current go-to choice, Papa John's. I suspect I default to them because it was the closest to my house and could be picked up on the way home. Being the creature of habit that I am, I always look to them first for my pizza needs. They claim “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.” I'll be the judge of that.
On a scale from uncooked dough to dry crackers, the crust is something like medium toast. The surface is crispy but the center is very bread-like. It's strong enough to support the pizza when held by the outside crust edge. While not the “important” part of the pizza, it would be nice if the crust edge was edible on its own. This fault exists to varying degrees in all pizza chains and there are many ways of dealing with it. Papa John's includes a garlic butter dipping sauce, but the standard offering from most chains does not contain “crust enhancement” so this will not be considered. As long as there were something else to eat, I wouldn't eat the crust edges.
The cheese is evenly distributed, with no exposed bread or sauce. The ham topping is generally beneath the top layer of cheese. The quality of the cheese affects how well it melts together from it's shredded form. This pizza shows no individual “melted shreds” indications. It is one contiguous mass of cheese. It is oily as well. I took a paper towel and laid it down on the pizza surface. I then pressed lightly with my palm to see how much oil would be soaked up. Anywhere my hand contacted the paper towel was saturated with oil, with the higher pressure regions having an orange color. It was a “fuzzy” handprint as the paper towel soaked some of the oil to the sides, away from direct contact areas.
The quantity of sauce was lighter than I expected. It's not a pizza element unto itself. It seems more of a binder between the crust and cheese. It seems effective enough, but nothing particularly spectacular.
Since I've already admitted I like it, saying that the pizza tasted “good” really wouldn't mean anything. The cheese wasn't stringy. The crust supported the mass well. The ham was tasty. The sauce worked well enough. At least as I go on I'll be able to give some better or worse comparisons between them and something of a known quality.
I wanted to do this one first because that way I won't compare to what I “think” my favored pizza tastes like. This is a recent and recorded experience so it should make for a more valid comparison. Keeping in mind my initial bias, I'll give a final ranking at the end of the week. Next up for tomorrow: Pizza Hut.