There’s a lot of bad pizza out there, mostly made by national restaurant chains who care more about their bottom lines than they do quality products (Domino’s recent claims otherwise notwithstanding). Far rarer are the truly great pizza places, places that have a taste all their own, serving pizza you can find yourself waking up craving at 3am. And somewhere in the middle of those two extremes is Larry’s Pizza, an Arkansas-based chain of restaurants started in 1992 by Larry White in Little Rock. The location nearest us, in Bryant, is the second oldest store in the chain. The restaurant itself is large and clean, with numerous tables and booths to choose from. Seating was a bit haphazard, though, as we were just kind of waved on to the dining room upon entering and told to seat ourselves. We sat near several other tables, and there didn’t seem to be a server assigned to any specific section; whoever saw a table first became that table’s server. This led to a bit of confusion in the staff about who had been waited on or not, but we were finally able to place an order.
The menu boasts a variety of typical build-your-own toppings and sizes ranging from the 7.5″ small to the 16″ large. In addition, there are a great number of specialty pizzas on the menu, including everything from the expected Supreme and Meat “Madness” pizzas to stranger offerings like Baked Potato and Cheeseburger (the former with a sour cream topping and the latter substituting mustard for the sauce). We decided to order two of the small pizzas: Jess made a three-topping “build-your-own” with diced tomatoes, bacon, and green olives (see below left), while I ordered the Garlic Chicken specialty pizza (see above right).
The resulting pizzas were…well, they weren’t terrible. Larry’s certainly doesn’t skimp on toppings like most chains do, and other than a brief screw up by the kitchen (for which our server apologized by saying “them boys can’t read tickets”), we were served very quickly. At the same time, though, the pizzas weren’t all that great either, and their major downfall was the crust. Larry’s doesn’t offer a choice of crust thicknesses – which is fine by me, because I’ve always felt that too many pizza places offer a hundred different types of crust without getting any of them right. Unfortunately, Larry’s has the same problem with their single offered crust, a thin, flavorless crust lacking any sort of texture or support for the ample toppings. A bit longer in the oven would perhaps help the sogginess, but I don’t know that it would do anything for the lack of taste.
Larry’s Pizza is the sort of pizza place that is pretty typical for small towns – a big, cheerfully-lit place with a game room to accommodate families after church. As far as that goes, Larry’s excels, filling a valuable niche in the community. For me, though, such mediocre pizza just doesn’t cut it, and there are places in Arkansas far better than Larry’s, like Damgoode Pies in Little Rock, or Layla’s Gyros and Pizzeria just a block over from Larry’s – both of which have delicious, flavorful crusts and toppings that don’t taste like they came off the Sysco truck. Larry’s is an excellent place to carry small children or large groups, but the serious pizza lover might be better served going somewhere else.