Nini’s Ristorante vs. Domino’s Pizza

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Welcome to Week 3 of the Easthampton Valley Challenge!  Tonight’s guinea pigs are Nini’s “Ristorante” on Cottage Street and Domino’s Pizza on Union St right next to Big E.  I know what you’re thinking, “didn’t you already do Domino’s in Northampton?“.  Yes we did, but this is the Domino’s in Easthampton and I wanted to make sure we had full coverage of all the pizza joints in each town, and while I’m sure Domino’s wouldn’t like much store-to-store variation, I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.  We had a smallish group tonight with 5 tasters, which made logistics nice and easy.  I got to use the glorious Domino’s app to order my pizza, and wouldn’t you know it they had a special online-only deal of buy one get one free this week!

Here is our bracket:

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Domino’s Pizza

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OK I admit it, this is the Domino’s in Northampton. So sue me, I forgot to take a picture!

As I said earlier, I used the Domino’s app to order about an hour earlier than I needed it, and it was fresh and ready when I arrived to pick it up.  The staff was friendly, the store was clean, so overall it was a pleasant experience!

 

Nini’s Ristorante

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Credit goes to Noah for this artsy fartsy shot of Nini’s!

 

The Pizza

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Domino’s on the left, Nini’s on the right, grubby baby hands off screen to the left

We decided on a vegetarian option for the evening and went with peppers and mushrooms.  As you can see, the “large” domino’s pie was 14″ while I believe the Nini’s pie was more like 16″.  Visually there is a bit of a difference as the Nini’s crust has a darker color and slightly more uniform topping placement.

 

The Crust

You know your evening is off to a fun start when the words “flavor crystals” make an appearance.  The Domino’s crust was of the “hand-tossed” variety, as chosen on the app, and tasted strongly of garlic and parmesan cheese.  It was also airy and easy to chew, maybe a bit too easy to chew.  There is something of the uncanny valley about the crust on a Domino’s pizza.  It looks like food and it tastes like food, but something’s off about it.

The crust on the Nini’s pie was probably it’s strongest trait, it had good bite and texture, and was cooked just right.  My only critique is that the crust may have been a bit on the thick side, but that didn’t spoil an otherwise enjoyable bite.

Winner: Nini’s Ristorante

Domino's Pizza Category Nini's Ristorante
Crust

 

The Toppings/Flavor

Both pies came with a generous amount of peppers and mushrooms applied, though Nini’s went the extra mile and tossed in some deliciously sweet and crisp red peppers.  Things aren’t all roses and sunshine on the Nini’s side of the table, however; there were reports of slimy mushrooms, which took its rating down a notch in our eyes.  Flavor was seen as adequate on the Nini’s pie, but some found the sauce a bit sweet, and otherwise the flavors were just not that interesting.

The Domino’s pie turned out to be pretty interesting and surprisingly alluring.  One of our tasters preferred it, specifically citing the “junk-foody taste”, which they said made them “want to eat the entire pizza furtively over a dumpster”.  There was lots of seasoning, which made the pizza initially taste interesting, but after a while that starts to wear off and you’re left with something a little bit disappointing.

Winner: Nini’s Ristorante

Domino's Pizza Category Nini's Ristorante
Toppings/Flavor

The X-Factor & Final Thoughts

We couldn’t help ourselves but to talk about the Domino’s pie all night, which has some really interesting qualities, and I it think surprised some of us with its not-total-crappiness.  It is a massively engineered pizza product designed to cost as little as possible to produce while providing a satisfying meal.  It really wasn’t that bad, and it was certainly more interesting to discuss than the Nini’s pie, which was solid but didn’t especially stand out.  However, with all that said, the Nini’s pie was determined to be objectively better in pretty much every way.  It just didn’t have the X-factor that the Domino’s pie did.

Winner: Domino’s Pizza

Domino's Pizza Category Nini's Ristorante
X-Factor

Winner: Nini’s Ristorante

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