I made a bi-annual pilgrimage to northern California from March 22-27, and of course on my to-do list were stops at least one Round Table Pizza restaurant and the Shakey's restaurant in Oroville.
On March 22, we stopped at the RT restaurant in Gridley, CA. I have posted pictures of my previous visit there 2 years ago. Before I continue, let me tell you that I will be posting more photos of this place, our pizzas, and the Shakey's in Oroville, but I am still catching up from our trip and have not gotten to downloading them from our camera yet.
Round Table Pizza, Gridley, CA: We strolled in around 12:15 on a Thursday and by-passed the lunch buffet to order my two favorite topped pizzas: Italian sausage with mushrooms, and a standard Hawaiian pizza, both medium size. While we were waiting, I started snapping off a few shots of the restaurant. The owner was there and brought us our pizzas when they were ready. He asked why I was taking photos, and I told him we were from out of town and don't have Round Table in the Heartland. He nodded and went on his way. A little later, he came back to check on us and asked what we thought of the pizzas. I told him they were great. He said "good", because ... "Due to the new health laws in California, we recently had to change
our dough recipe
to take out the fat." After he mentioned it, I began to detect a slight difference in the taste, but nothing drastic. He said he has been a RT manager/owner for 31 years in that area (he opened one in Oroville and one in Yuba City before this one) and enjoyed making pizzas, but not as much eating them. He said he liked the new crust better. The owner said they do still use scraps from the day before, but in general the only difference to him is the dough does not last as long. "Two days tops, then you have to throw it away." He said the dough also rises a lot higher now, too. I noticed the crust seemed a little crispier without the fat, but the flavor was not significantly different from what I remember about RT. Granted, I only get an RT fix about once a year, so someone who goes more frequently and with less down-time in between might notice a difference.
This got me thinking (dangerous, I know). Would RT's in locations outside of California (like Hawaii) have the same new dough formula, or would they continue to have the same old recipe? And what about other pizza restaurants? Like ... Shakeys??
So, on March 23, we spent some time in Oroville and then hightailed it over to the Shakey's restaurant there. We ordered a vegetarian delight and my standard sausage with shrooms. The pizza tasted as good as the last time I was there (2 years ago). They use the old deck ovens, btw. So, after a while, I saw the manager and I went up to her to compliment her on the fine cuisine. She said her brother bought the place 5 years ago, and it has been there a total of 29 years. She helps manage it. I asked her about the dough. She said that Shakey's had in fact changed
the dough formula
a week ago, but she was not sure if it was due to health laws or some other reason. She then said that Shakey's had also gone to premade, frozen Mojo potatoes. I had ordered some Mojo's with our order and found them to be better than I imagined (I am not a huge Mojos fan to begin with). She seemed to think the reason for going to the frozen Mojo's was not only quicker and easier for the restaurants, but also because they cut out fat due to the California health laws. Again, I might have noticed a slight change in the crust, but not a huge one. I think this is partly because the sauces that RT and Shakey's use are rather herby and spicy with a "zing" to them, and they carry a fair amount of the flavor, as well as some of the toppings we had on our pizzas, like Italian sausage. I will say the Shakey's did not seem as crisp as I expected, certainly not as crisp as the RT.
So, there you have it folks. Any attempts to replicate what we remember about RT and Shakey's will have to be done without the aid of any further diving into dumpsters to retrieve discarded bags of flour mix. Unless non-California locations are using the same old recipes (like Washington or Alabama for Shakey's or Hawaii for RT), they will be lacking any fat ingredient like shortening, vegetable oil, etc.
When I get my photos of the experience downloaded, I will post them in the restaurant review forum.
Keep on making those pizzas.