Sbarro is stepping into the “fast casual restaurant” fray with days away from opening its first Pizza Cucinova restaurant in the very popular Easton Shopping Center in Columbus, Ohio. The opening is set for next week.
“This is a completely separate concept, designed to be developed primarily in strip centers,” says J. David Karam, chief executive of Sbarro, which has more than 1,000 units in some 40 countries. “It’s part of a fast-emerging category.”
“I thought it was important to develop or acquire an artisan pizza business,” says Karam. “We’re very confident in this category,” says the 35-year Sbarro veteran. “It’s artisan, Neapolitan-style pizza, with very, very fine dough that requires special handling. We will be featuring top ingredients and will locally source many of them.”
Using dough made with double-zero flour from Italy, the thin-crust pies are baked quickly in a very hot, wood-smoked oven and topped with upscale ingredients such as arugula and prosciutto.
“We certainly believe in the underlying trend that is causing customers to look for higher-quality food, but they still want convenience,” Karam says.
Pizza Cucinova’s Classic pies are all made with extra virgin olive oil and Pecorino Romano. Four different variations, the White, Red, Green, and Margherita, allow customers to choose from sauces such as marinara and basil pesto, as well as different cheeses. Customers can add extra ingredients for $1–$4 each.
The fast-casual concept will also serve upscale salads like Roasted Red and Yellow Beets, with house greens, Feta, roasted walnuts, fresh basil, and lemon vinaigrette; and the Mediterranean, with a mix of greens, olives, Feta, pepperoncini, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, and red wine vinaigrette.
A unique salumeria-style menu item includes sliced prosciutto and crusty bread, soppressata, salami, olives, and pepperoncini. Pizza Cucinova will serve eight beers on tap, wine by the glass, soft drinks, and cheesecakes baked daily.
The new concept’s layout follows in the open, airy fast-casual tradition. Diners enter the restaurant and go down the ordering line, where the restaurant’s staff builds the pies on pizza peels. There’s a big menuboard behind the workers, and customers pay at the end. Reclaimed wood is used throughout the restaurant, including in the tables.