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Charlotte's Godfather's Pizza is a trip down memory lane

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Pizza is part of my brand.

I say this as someone who thinks the word “brand” should only be applied to cereals and hair care products, not human beings.

But, like the bastardization of the word “literally,” that is ultimately not a linguistic hill worth dying on.

So, pizza is part of my brand. And nostalgia is pretty foundational to my person, too.

That means when I saw the news that Godfather’s Pizza — or the Friday family dinner staple of my childhood — was returning to Charlotte, I was absolutely the target audience.

My dad, in the way that dads have hard opinions about things like semi-popular Midwestern pizza chains, was fiercely loyal to Godfather’s in his heyday. That’s why, despite my mom’s insistence that the Myrtle Beach location nearest us liked to undercook its pies, it was our pizza night go-to.

Three things about our trips there stick out in my mind to this day: It was oddly dark inside for a somewhat family-oriented restaurant, it had a very distinctive pizza smell and it had arcade games my parents would let me play while we waited for our food.

Not your father’s pizza joint ambiance

The chain’s new Charlotte spot, 3020 Prosperity Church Road, was well-lit and lacking in games when I headed in about a week after they opened this month.

That pizza smell, though, was strong enough to astral project me right back to 6 years old, a good grade on a spelling test in my pocket, and nothing to do over the weekend ahead but run around a YMCA soccer field for an hour.

Simpler times, but at least now I have complete control over the order.

The place was packed with folks waiting for walk-in orders, making me glad I’d ordered ahead through the store’s website. My food — a medium “original” crust pepperoni pizza with a side of cheese sticks — was ready when I got there, hot and accurate.

Unlike the Godfather’s of my childhood, there’s no sit-down option at Charlotte’s new location, so I headed home to pair my pizza with a movie and nice cold glass of water like the wild child I am.

Pizza boils down to four core components to evaluate when trying a new spot: crust, sauce, cheese and toppings. And one usually stands out above the rest.

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A pepperoni pizza from Godfather’s Pizza in Charlotte. Lorenza Medley CharlotteFive

This time, the sauce dominated. The flavor, especially the slight tanginess, was extremely reminiscent of the Godfather’s of yore. It was a pleasant flashback given how bland many chain restaurant pizza sauces are.

Both the cheese and the pepperoni fell more in the OK category. The cheese blend was pretty standard, but I prefer something with more melt and pull. I also would have liked more crunch from the pepperoni.

The Honda of restaurant types

The crust was the most thought-provoking part of the meal.

In my memory, the Godfather’s standard was more of a hand-tossed style, not super thick but also not thin. But this pie was approaching an almost deep dish crust.

I like a thicker crust, so I’m not complaining. It had a nice consistency and didn’t overpower the rest of the pizza. Still, when you head into a nostalgia trip expecting one thing and find another, it’s easy to fall into a spiral of questioning yourself.

Mini-quarter life crisis aside, it was a solid fast casual dining experience – descent flavor without breaking the bank. Exactly what to expect from the Honda of restaurant types.

Was it the best pizza I’ve ever had? No. Will I drive to another part of town to get it regularly? Probably not. But was it worth a one-time trip down memory lane?

Absolutely.

This story was originally published October 31, 2022 7:00 AM.

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Mary Ramsey is a service journalism reporter with The Charlotte Observer. A native of the Carolinas, she studied journalism at the University of South Carolina and has also worked in Phoenix, Arizona and Louisville, Kentucky.

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