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The North Bend Eagle


Taste testers preview, rate new Gambino's fare

by Nathan Arneal
Published 6/8/11

Some of North Bend’s most discriminating taste testers gathered at Gambino’s Pizza Sunday to try six experimental pies.

Making pizzas
North Bend Gambino's co-owner Ed Gray puts the finishing touches on one of the new pizza recipes being tested in North Bend.

OK, maybe not all of the dozen or so taste testers were so discriminating. One young girl filled in every blank on her rating sheet with a “1,” which stood for “awesome.”

The event was a part of Gambino’s Taste of Italy program, an effort to get the public’s opinion on six pizzas that may eventually become permanent menu additions in all Gambino’s restaurants. The chain has 55 locations in a five-state area stretching from Nebraska to Texas.

“I think we’re trying to build to more of an upscale type of pizza,” said Jan Gray, co-owner of the North Bend Gambino’s. “We really do have a tasty, gourmet-type pizza with brand new crust. That was one of the first things people said. With that first bite they were like, ‘Oh, this is a different crust.’”

The new crust, which features oregano and Parmesan cheese, is only available with the six Taste of Italy pizzas.

The process began with a group of franchise owners trying out new recipes in Topeka, Kan. That group included North Bend’s Ed Gray. After tweaking the recipes to fit their tastes, the group arrived at six new pizzas

“They’re really nice pizzas,” Ed Gray said. “The flavors are a little bolder. The crust is a little bit different.”

The next step was to take the new flavors to the public.

The North Bend location is one of just six Gambino’s restaurants that will test market the six new pizzas during the month of June. Sunday’s test was the beginning of that process.

Taste testers were asked to rate each pizza on a scale of 1-5 in 10 categories: presentation, temperature, portion, value perception, taste, seasoning, doneness, sauce, toppings and crust.

Ed Gray said one of the favorite pizzas of the group was the Siciliana, a spicy pizza with sliced Italian sausage, pepperoni and caramelized onion.

Another favorite— and the only one that the taste testers completely devoured— was the Sei Formaggi, a cheese pizza featuring Alfredo sauce, roasted garlic and five types of cheese.

The six experimental pizzas will be available for the rest of the month in medium size only.

Ed Gray said it was fun to get in on the ground floor on innovation within the company.

“After so much time you need to add to your menu and make it a little more exciting,” he said. “You want to give people more options than just the same ol’ same ol’.”

If the trial run is successful, the new pizzas will be added to the menu company-wide in the fall.

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