Blaze Pizza is a Storrs Center restaurant popular among the UConn community, known for its assembly-line personal pizzas and for being packed at all hours of the day. However, according to The Daily Campus Opinion Editor, popularity does not signal quality. In this edition of Editor vs. Editor, he argues why Blaze does not deserve the hype it receives as a Storrs staple, while The Daily Campus Life Editor vouches for the pizza place’s ranking.
Harrison, Opinion Editor:
Blaze Pizza is simply overrated. There are a host of beliefs that folks in Mansfield might hold about the national chain, but we’ve all heard a few outlandish claims: “Blaze pizza is the best pizza in Mansfield,” or even “Blaze pizza is the best restaurant in Mansfield.” But whether evaluated as pizza or just as food, Blaze doesn’t deserve the title of “best.” It certainly isn’t the worst restaurant or pizza in Mansfield, but claims beyond these are generous.
In my opinion, Blaze is mostly popular because it’s an adaptation, unusual within pizzerias, of line-style cuisine where the customer picks every aspect of their food such as may be found at Chipotle or Moe’s. While this is a fun concept, it’s disrespectful to the staff, who are overlooked by the customer for their entire shift. The physical design of Blaze restaurants even contributes to the disrespect of the workers: their entire kitchen is visible by guests, and they created a large window for customers in line to watch employees preparing boxes and dough in a room that would otherwise be private. As a former pizza worker I can say this is very unusual for a pizzeria, which is an uncomfortable enough work environment without the customers’ constant eye.
Blaze caters to our consumer desire to control the entire process of production, and to exert our power over service workers. Pair this experience with moderately expensive prices, unremarkable-quality ingredients, and you have a forgettable experience which doesn’t nearly compete for the “best” of any category in Mansfield. There are just too many restaurants around town which are better value, better quality and respect their workers more.
Hollie Lao, Life Editor
Blaze Pizza is a staple in Storrs Center and a favorite food offering within the UConn community. With the restaurant’s versatility, variety and quality, that is a position I will wholeheartedly defend. Living in Storrs doesn’t make for the most diverse or abundant slate of dining selections, yet I do my best to highlight solid options around campus.
Out of these places, though, Blaze rarely needs an introduction. The restaurant consistently attracts newcomers with its welcoming atmosphere, an ordering process that is easy to understand and its accommodation to different diets. Moreover, Blaze keeps customers coming back with a worthwhile rewards program, a wealth of options to try on the next visit and consistency in food preparation. As a foodie who has been frequenting Blaze since my sisters attended UConn and up through my own UConn matriculation — so seven years and counting, if you can believe it — I can attest to the restaurant’s status in the area.
The fast-casual atmosphere of the restaurant is versatile for whomever you grab food with (or if you order on your own, which is completely valid, too): your family when they come to visit, a chill date or a meal with friends. The set-up, as my competitor concedes, is fun and unique for a pizza restaurant. However, I don’t necessarily believe it is entirely disrespectful as a concept to the workers. I have spoken with workers in open kitchens, who express that visibility adds a level of pressure, but they prefer the set-up to keep them and their fellow workers accountable to their jobs and each other. In fact, a worker shared that they believe the open kitchen concept has prevented toxic work environments, whether caused by an employee who sexually harasses others or a demeaning supervisor.
Furthermore, Blaze’s level of customization, quality of ingredients and the taste of the pizzas make the price worthwhile. Ten dollars is the average price of meals in the area. I think this is reasonable for a build-your-own 11-inch pizza in which you can choose the kind of crust — gluten-free, high-rise, cauliflower, keto or classic — the kind of sauce — red, spicy red, pesto, white or a combination — as many cheeses as you want — vegan cheese, shredded mozzarella, ovalini mozzarella, gorgonzola, feta, parmesan, ricotta and goat — as many meat toppings — pepperoni, vegan chorizo, Italian sausage, meatballs, chicken, bacon, salami — as many of the 16 vegetable toppings and any of the finishes, including seven different drizzles and arugula. I admit, I enjoy having a lot going on with my food and a lot of options, but I understand this level of customization could be overwhelming. Have no fear, Blaze also offers many tried-and-true combinations on its menu.
In addition, the options and attention for meal accommodations makes Blaze stand out as a reliable establishment for people who have certain diet restrictions. There are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free ingredients available that don’t make the dining experience any less enjoyable. The workers are knowledgeable about and willing to accommodate these diets: changing gloves, cleaning the pizza cutter, etc.
It’s not a traditional pizza place, so if you’re looking for a classic red pie, I admit it may not satisfy that craving. But Blaze certainly satisfies a large demographic for being just what it is.