Sbarro tests artisanal pizza restaurant in Ohio

Melville-based Sbarro is debuting a new restaurant concept Melville-based Sbarro is debuting a new restaurant concept this month in Columbus, Ohio, showcasing a variety of thin-crust Neapolitan pizzas. Photo Credit: Newsday, 2005

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Melville-based Sbarro is debuting a new restaurant concept this month in Columbus, Ohio, showcasing a variety of thin-crust Neapolitan pizzas in a fast-casual format designed primarily for strip shopping centers, the company said.

Sbarro, a chain of quick-service Italian eateries located primarily in malls and airports, has revamped its recipes in the past year as it moves into the fast-casual segment, where other brands such as Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill have done well. Sbarro LLC, one of Long Island's best-known national brands, began overhauling its 1,000 restaurants in the United States and around the world after emerging from bankruptcy in November 2011.

While the company's new restaurant prototype, Pizza Cucinova, also is a fast-casual format, it is a completely separate concept from the typical Sbarro eateries, the company said.

Pizza Cucinova's menu offers nine specialty pies as well as the option for customers to select their own ingredients, such as roast sirloin, sopressata, fresh mozzarella and shiitake mushrooms, all sourced locally or imported from Italy, said J. David Karam, the company's chairman and chief executive. The menu also features upscale salads, with ingredients such as roasted red and yellow beets, prosciutto and crusty bread.

"Pizza Cucinova is an exciting new fast-casual concept that we've designed to meet rising consumer demand for artisanal pizza options made in front of your eyes with high-quality ingredients," Karam said. "The introduction of these new prototype eateries enables Sbarro to enter a fast-emerging category and capitalize upon the increased stratification within the market."

Customers choose their pizza ingredients as they move down an ordering line, where workers put together the 12-inch pies, all baked within 3 minutes in two wood and stone ovens at temperatures up to 900 degrees.

Sbarro plans to open two more Pizza Cucinova restaurants -- one in downtown Columbus and another in Cincinnati -- in early 2014. The company did not say whether Pizza Cucinova will come to Long Island.

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