When we opened the doors to Naked Pizza and smelled that pizzeria smell, a slight sense of relief came over us. We’d heard all about Naked Pizza’s health-food brand of pizza and were half-expecting an aroma of wheatgrass and kale. Not so. Another surprise: the complete absence of tables. If you’re the sort to seek out a healthy meal even if it means carbon-footprinting your way to Altamonte Springs, just know you’ll be relegated to eating your pizza outside on one of the two bright-green, wrought-iron garden benches – or in your car.
This is a wee storefront decked out for the eco-conscious, iPad-toting Japanophile, from the cutesy emoticon-like graphics on the menu to the faux-bamboo accents of the minimalist décor. The all-female staff was a refreshing sight, as were the interesting videos (all produced by Naked Pizza) airing on the high-definition screen. But the volume was muted in favor of the pop-rock being piped in from overhead, which seemed odd, because the story of Naked Pizza is a good one. The franchise was born out of New Orleans in an economically depressed post-Katrina climate. Their goal: to show pizza doesn’t have to be the doughy, goopy, thigh-expanding food it’s come to be in this country. Using Twitter and Facebook, Naked Pizza has built a loyal fanbase, making its business model as lean as its product.
After numerous iterations, Naked Pizza’s recipe was perfected, their brand took hold with Big Easy diners, and a niche was carved out of the proverbial pie. According to their website, the healthy reinvention means a slice can amount to a paltry 64 calories, thanks to a multigrain dough mix fortified with probiotic cultures and topped with skim-milk mozzarella cheese. “No added sugar or freaky chemicals,” the menu pledges, resulting in pizza that has “fewer calories, more fiber, more protein, less fat and more taste.”
After eating our way through three different 10-inch pizzas, it was clear that Naked Pizza makes a first-rate pie. The superbiotic ($12.99), a thin-crust pizza loaded with artichokes, spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms, garlic, onions and cilantro, erased any notions of “healthy pizza = cardboard texture.” Even the regular crust, made from the same 12-seed/grain mix, was properly doughy and flavorful. The Sonoran ($12.99) blended chicken with fire-roasted peppers, mushrooms and onions in a pie that held up great the next day. Don’t let the name deter you – the pizza isn’t dry like its namesake desert. Don’t care for red sauce? Their white pizza uses a base of garlic-infused sunflower and olive oil, so while our simple, olive-topped 10-inch bianca ($6.48) failed the day-after test (it turned to a board of bitterness), we liked it just fine the night we ordered it. Best of all, we didn’t experience the incapacitating heartburn, weighted gut or post-meal guilt that typically comes with eating pizza.
When a company makes an attempt to stick it to the fast-food establishment, a dismissive bias is sure to abound among skeptics. Pizza isn’t supposed to be good for you, but Naked Pizza’s salubrious approach and social media savvy is determined to turn that notion on its head. For a pizza joint, that’s thinking outside the box.
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