When I was in college, a friend of mine invited me to lunch at California Pizza Kitchen (CPK). I had never heard of the restaurant, but I liked pizza and I liked my friend so I agreed to meet her there.

The restaurant was located in one of the nicer areas of Houston, TX near The Galleria. After chiding my friend for her expensive taste, we settled into a booth. As I perused the menu, I remember thinking how exotic the items seemed.

As a college student, I didn’t have high expectations for pizza. If it had cheese, sauce, and meat served on a crust, it was usually good enough for me.

CPK changed my perception of pizza. They made me realize just how good it could really be. I ordered the Jamaican Jerk Pizza and my friend ordered the BBQ Chicken Pizza. Although my pizza was delicious, I thought I had died and gone to pizza heaven after I tasted a slice of the BBQ pizza.

That was the moment when my love affair with CPK began.

Now I’m no longer a broke college student with a limited palate. Instead, I’m a well-traveled husband and father of three finicky eaters. However, they love pizza and were excited to go to CPK.

We arrived at 6:00 pm on a Friday night, the restaurant and were immediately seated. Our server was cordial and attentive throughout the evening.

My kids ordered dishes from the CPKids Menu: My daughter, Nee, who is conservative, ordered a cheese pizza, my more adventurous son, N, order the Hawaiian pizza (fresh pineapple, Canadian bacon, tomato sauce and cheese), and my toddler picked a pepperoni pizza.

My wife ordered the Pesto Chicken Pizza (THIN CRUST PIZZA: Grilled chicken breast marinated in a basil pesto sauce with mild onions, Mozzarella cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto sauce and toasted pine nuts).

I’m also an adventurous eater so chose one of CPK’s new menu items: Four Seasons Pizza (Made with imported Italian tomatoes, oven-roasted artichoke hearts, salami, fresh mushrooms, mild onions, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and fresh herbs).

The kids enjoyed their pizzas while my wife and I had a split decision. She enjoyed her Pesto Chicken Pizza, but I was not as overwhelmed by the Four Seasons. Luckily, my wife couldn’t finish her meal so I eagerly devoured the remains of her delicious pizza.

For dessert, I tried the new Butter Cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side (the ice cream costs extra). When I bit into the cake, I got a glimpse into what fried butter must taste like. Although the cake’s crispy outer shell was tasty, I could only stomach one bite because it was too rich and sugary for my tastes. My kids happily devoured the rest of the dessert.

Overall, we had a good dining experience. But from now on, I plan to stick with the pizza that made me a CPK fan in the first place.

Stay Strong,

Disclosure: I received $50 in CPK Pizza Dough to in exchange for this review.