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Make no ‘bones’ about Pizza Kitchen

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Are you the sort who saves your pizza bones? Do you nibble the crust carefully until all the goodies are gone and then cast the rest to your plate? Or are you the type who eats the dry untopped edges right along with the rest of the slice, not daring to waste a single bite?

Well, this isn't a personality test. I can't tell you anything about yourself either way. I just find it curious.

For the record, I rarely save mine. I'm sure there's an indication of the health of my psyche somewhere in that. But whatever you do with your bones, you'll want to get down to the California Pizza Kitchen in the Gateway to try what's attached to theirs.

The legendary gourmet pizza stop has finally made its way to Utah. California Pizza Kitchen is credited with the creation of gourmet recipes that broke with tradition in the late '80s in Beverly Hills. We don't really think anything about it anymore. Special sauces and non-traditional toppings are found at pizza joints everywhere these days. But few realize that California Pizza Kitchen, or CPC, as it is fondly called, could almost be called the home of the original BBQ chicken pizza.

CPC also has an impressive array of gourmet pizza recipes, as well as interesting salads, appetizers and pasta. I suggest going with enough friends to order several things and then share.

We started with two appetizers: the focaccia and the Singapore shrimp rolls. The focaccia came crusted with herbs and onions, and chopped tomatoes with basil and garlic for topping. I love the crust at CPC. It's light and crispy with a slight sweetness.

The shrimp rolls came elegantly wrapped in paper-thin transparent wrappers, filled with noodles, green onion, mushroom and shrimp, with a robust ginger sauce for dipping.

For dinner we ordered a BBQ chicken pizza. It was supremely fine. I almost want to call the sauce delicate, because it was sparing and sweet. Paper-thin red onions and chunks of white chicken finished the pie to make a delicious combination worth telling friends about.

We also tasted the Santa Fe with its lime- and herb-marinated chicken, onions, cheese and cilantro, and the Peking duck pizza, featuring duck breast, shiitake mushrooms, wontons, green onions and a ginger Hoisin sauce. Though deciding on those was hard, they were not a disappointment.

Dessert was tasty. I'm usually nervous about chains for their tendency toward pre-fabricated treats, but I was happily surprised this time. We shared the key lime pie and the chocolate souffle cake. The pie was large and had a silky texture and true lime taste. The graham crust was crumbly and the whipped cream fresh. I was impressed.

The small souffle cake was served hot and came resting in a pool of vanilla bean cream sauce with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. It was rich, for sure, and I couldn't get over how happily surprised I was again at the quality.

I recommend California Pizza Kitchen wholeheartedly. The prices are great, the recipes are interesting and the food is fresh. And while it isn't traditional, it is decidedly California, which always means interpreting a particular genre to suit a culture of diverse tastes. Fortunately, you don't have to "get it" to like it; you just have to taste it for yourself and enjoy.

Prices for appetizers range from $4.79-$6.79, soup $4.99, salad $4.99-$9.99, pizza $7.79-$10.79, pasta $8.29-$13.99, dessert $4.59-$5.59.

California Pizza Kitchen

*** 1/2 (out of five)

Hours: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Location: 156 S. 400 West (in the Gateway), 456-0075

Payment: checks, major credit cards

Reservations: none needed

E-mail: stephanie@desnews.com