When the American pizza chain Little Caesars announced last month that it would be making a comeback in our country, it hit more than a few Filipino millennials with a wave of fast food nostalgia.
The restaurant was popular in the Philippines back in the ‘90s, but when other global pizza brands began to gain prominence, it slowly disappeared from the food scene.
The chain announced its soft opening on Dec. 27, so we recently went to the branch in Ermita, Manila, for a visit. It was a little two-floor establishment in a rental building. The facade has that familiar “Little Caesars Pizza” logo in bold orange, coupled with a cartoon Caesar about to consume a single-bite slice smaller than his nose.
The first floor has four small tables in front of the cash register/ordering counter. Most of the tables for customers are on the second floor.
Up on the second floor, you’ll be greeted with yet more rows of white and orange balloons with their celebratory squiggly tails. Otherwise, there isn’t much else by way of decoration.
So, on to the important stuff: How are the goods?
We tried the Single Serve Combo (PHP160/US$3.06) that comes with two slices of the Hula Hawaiian pizza and a drink, plus a 12-inch 3-Meat Pizza (PHP370/US$7.08).
On top of that, we added on the Caesar Wings’ Combo (PHP489/US$9.36), which includes four pieces of wings, a 12-inch cheese pizza, two pieces of their cult favorite Crazy Bread (breadsticks, basically), and another drink.
The restaurant was playing nostalgic blasts from the past, particularly NSYNC (perhaps as a nod to its glory days in the Philippines?).
The cheese pizza tasted just like any regular cheese pizza. It wasn’t bad, but there was nothing different or distinctive about it. Also, it was limp and soggy when we held it up, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
Marinara sauce and hot sauce are available if you ask for it, but sad news for ketchup fans — they don’t have it.
The wings were more of a downright letdown — due to its itty-bitty size and its … opposite of freshness. It was as if we were chowing down on old reheated buffalo wings.
It was tangy like it should be, but there was also this overpowering musty flavor on top — we didn’t dare take another bite, even though it would have been easy to off the wee things quickly.
The Hula Hawaiian pizza had a balanced amount of ham and pineapple — the sweet, juicy pineapple chunks didn’t overpower the pizza, but rather, complemented the contrasting salty flavor of the ham.
Then we took a bite from the 3-Meat Pizza. You can taste the freshness of the ingredients that included Italian sausages, bacon, and pepperoni. It was juicy and crunchy — a perfect combo.
And then, the breadsticks. My God, they were heaven-sent. We get why these are so damn popular. One bite and we knew exactly why there’s an a la carte order of the breadsticks on the menu (PHP80/US$1.53 for four pieces).
An order of the Crazy Bread comes with a marinara dip, but really, is so well-seasoned and flavorful that it can stand on its own — it’s mostly thanks to the garlic butter parmesan combo sprinkled with garlic powder on top.
Little Caesars manager Priestine Lim told Coconuts Manila that since their soft opening, they’ve had an average of 50 to 70 transactions per day. They’ll be having their grand launch on Jan. 26, Saturday.
“There’s a lot of guests coming into our store reminiscing about the 1990s era when there was Little Caesars before here in the Philippines,” Lim said. “They’re welcoming it back to the country with a very nice hype to it.”
At the moment, they only do delivery on orders within the immediate area.
“There’s a lot of people coming back for the Crazy Bread, the garlic butter parmesan breadsticks. People are really happy about it coming back,” she added. “The flavor itself will really stick to the breadstick.”
We asked her about the small size of the wings, too. Lim said that they’re still adjusting the serving size because everything is imported from the United States.
“We’re still trying to see how the people will react to it … but so far, hopefully, it gets bigger. We have already coordinated with the international team about it,” Lim said.
Despite that #fail on the Caesar Wings, we’ll probably be back to get our pizza and breadsticks fix.
Little Caesars is located at the Metrosquare Building Unit 4 Ground Floor,
UN Ave corner of Alhambra St. in Ermita, Manila
Open Monday to Thursday, 10am – 10pm; Friday, 10am – 11pm;
Saturday to Sunday, 10am – 9pm