California Pizza Kitchen 

It’d be hard to sway me from ordering the wild mushroom pie at California Pizza Kitchen. That’s a staple in my house, with a delicious harmony of cremini, shiitake and portobello. (Slice it up thinly and it makes a great appetizer for guests. But I digress.)

CPK apparently wants to be known for more for than just pizza, and has added new items to its takeout menu.

There’s a colorful roasted vegetable salad on the menu cover, so I started there. When you get it home, you’ll find it’s a do-it-yourself project. The romaine lettuce comes separately from the veggies (roasted red and yellow bell pepper, chopped asparagus, fried greens and spinach), which are in two sturdy, reusable containers. Save yourself the trouble: This dish does not travel well and gets soggy. Besides, it’s meant to be eaten warm.

The caramelized peach salad was a hit, and so refreshing on a hot day. They also throw in dried cranberries, red onions, toasted pecans and Gorgonzola cheese. To really make it a meal, add sautéed chicken breast, salmon or shrimp. Takeout diners may also appreciate the copious pieces of freshly baked bread that come alongside — with real butter pats.

Another CPK newcomer: carnitas tacos filled with a enticingly slow-roasted, super-tender pork along with homemade avocado salsa verde. You’d swear it came from the kitchen of a mom-and-pop Mexican place.

That same great pork is the topper on the new habanero carnitas pizza, which packs serious punch thank to the habanero salsa and zing thanks to the cilantro pesto. And who doesn’t love that gooey quesadilla cheese?

New appetizers include bang bang shrimp tossed in spicy sweet chili sauce with scallions and sesame seeds as well as mac and cheese made with fusilli instead of elbows. (Not that kids would know the difference.)

Some CPK diehards will stick what they know. Everyone’s must-try: The Original BBQ Chicken Pizza, which the West Coast company claims to have invented in 1985. Whether they did or not, it’s darn good, topped with gouda, mozzarella, red onions and hunks of smoky barbecued meat. Change it up with fresh pineapple or applewood smoked bacon.


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