Growing up in a Northern California suburb, California Pizza Kitchen was formative for me–a spot for birthdays, teen theater cast parties, and weird high school dates, and the site of my first bite of spinach-artichoke dip (it was fine). My husband was very familiar with CPK’s cuisine and requested that I make him a barbecue chicken pizza last year. It was my first time eating it outside of a CPK. I modified the recipe to accommodate our adult tastes and found the pizza even more delicious than I had remembered.
Barbecue chicken pizza is an interesting beast. It was created by Ed LaDou for CPK’s opening menu, in the middle -80’s. It has since been quite a success and the core components are well-defined. The pizza comes with the original chicken and barbecue sauce. There’s also a layer made of smoked gouda and thinly sliced red onions. Finally, a sprinkle of cilantro is added to the pizza after it has been baked. This gives the pizza a bit more freshness and green. The words “barbecue-chicken pizza” have become synonymous with this line-up of ingredients. Competitors and imitators aren’t too far away from LaDou’s original vision. It is not based on any non-pizza dishes, unlike other CPK proprietary offerings (the California club pizza or the shrimp scampi pizzeria). CPK tried to add something to the pizza world, and I believe they succeeded.
You can’t recreate a favorite chain dish at home with 100 % accuracy. That’s why I think it’s a good thing. So much of what I love about CPK has nothing to do with the food, and the fact that the actual pizza there is just ok is part of