CiCi's Pizza

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All You Can Eat Pizza- Can your Stomach Handle the Assault?

Sep 4, 2003 (Updated May 25, 2005)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Prices are very low; There are a few good desserts

Cons:Pizza is bland and forgettable

The Bottom Line: CiCi's has a nice concept with an all you can eat pizza buffet, but it needs to improve the quality of its products.


Founded by Joe Croce in Plano, Texas, in 1985, CiCi's is a pizza- centered restaurant that features an all you can eat buffet for a set price. This restaurant has been around for only 18 years, but it has expanded quickly and it now boasts more than 450 locations in 21 states in the eastern and southern U.S.

Menu Selection:

First and foremost, CiCi's is a place people go for pizza. The pizza is served in a cafeteria- style line and there are usually about 10 different types of pizza to choose from. The choices include the standard stuff, like pepperoni, pepperoni and sausage, cheese, vegetarian, etc., along with a few unique choices like bacon and cheese, spinach alfredo, and barbecue.

If you don't feel ike starting out with pizza, CiCi's also offers a small salad bar with a few basic choices. There is no cottage cheese, macaroni salad, potato salad, or anything like that. The only choices are lettuce and an assortment of toppings and dressings.

Once your finished with the pizza and salad, CiCi's offers one more indulgence: desserts. These include various items baked on a bread/dough base, similar to a pizza. There are desserts that are flavored with chocolate, cinnamon, apples, and other flavors.

Atmosphere:

CiCi's has a pizza- parlor ambiance with dozens of tables and chairs with a more casual orientation that you find with other buffet restaurants. Most locations have a few video games to entertain children and a few television sets with various programs broadcasting with the sound turned low. Music often plays softly in the background.

Pricing:

CiCi's offers one advantage over other sit- down restaurants: the prices are very low! The rate for a buffet is $3.99 for adults and only about $2.49 for children. This price doesn't include beverages, which will add another $1.25 or so to each meal. But even with the beverages added in, the price is still ridiculously low. A family of four (two adults and two kids) can dine here for only about $20.00 total- not much more than you would pay in a fast- food restaurant.

Customer Service:

Since CiCi's is a buffet- style restaurant, most of the customer service is of the self- serve variety. But there is some restaurant provided service as well. Waiters/waitresses will periodically stop by your table to take away your used plates, glasses, and other dishes. Because of this, guests are expected to leave a small tip on the table. They don't necessarily expect the customary 15 to 20 percent tip, in the absence of full- service. But they expect a little bit of spare cash to compensate for the busing of tables.

Final Thoughts:

CiCi's offers a unique concept in buffet- style dining. There are many restaurants that feature an all you can eat buffet, but very few of them center on pizza. In fact, before I tried CiCi's, I had never been in a restaurant like this before.

A restaurant of this sort is great for pizza lovers (which would include about 95 percent of the population). Just like with other buffets, there is no limit to the amount of times you can visit the pizza bar, salad bar, and dessert bar. However, I have a few problems with the quality of food offered here and the number of selections. Above all, I think the quality needs to be addressed. When I have visited here, I have usually eaten about 4 to 6 slices of pizza, mixing my choices around to include a couple slices of 2 or 3 different styles. I then cap off my meal with some dessert. With the pizza, I have found it to be rather dry with sauce that tastes like cheap, store- brand spaghetti sauce. The toppings are not very generous, and some of the pizza flavors are downright nasty! The most disgusting pizza I have ever tried here is the bacon and cheese pizza. It has a very odd, burnt flavor, like breakfast pizza minus the eggs and overcooked, giving it a grease/tar taste that's absolutely putrid! The other pizza choices are not quite this bad, but they are nothing memorable. The sauce and meats are all very bland and the pizzas are cheaply constructed, like food on an assembly line.

Desserts are a little bit better at CiCi's, but you have to be selective to get something that tastes good. The cinnamon rolls are probably the best tasting dessert offered here, followed by the apple dessert, a pie- like concoction prepared on a pizza crust. Other desserts, like the chocolate pastry, are not very good. It features dark chocolate that tastes like most of the sugar has been removed and it's too simple- just chocolate syrup on a dough base with no whipped cream or other additions.

The other problem I have with CiCi's is the selection. The pizza offerings are acceptable, but the salad bar and the dessert bar need to be expanded. The salad bar should include a few more choices, like cottage cheese and potato salad. The dessert bar (which offers about 6 to 10 desserts) needs to be enhanced to include more toppings and more choices. The addition of ice cream, for instance, would help to round it out.

CiCi's claims to have a "16 pizza buffet" but when I have visited, I have found that unless there is a large crowd, the number of offerings is usually much smaller. If CiCi's is experiencing a smaller than normal amount of business, you can expect the variety of pizzas offered to fall from 16 down to about 8. And among these 8 choices you will mostly find the standard offerings (pepperoni, cheese, sausage and pepperoni, etc.). Most of the specialty pizzas will not be available when business has slowed down.

CiCi's atmosphere is kid- friendly, but it stops short of what I would call a kid- centered atmosphere. Yes, there are a few video games. But the emphasis on children stops right there. This is in sharp contrast to a place like Chuckie Cheeses, which is overflowing with youngsters eating pizza, playing games, and winning prizes.

Overall, CiCi's doesn't make the grade in my book. The idea of an all you can eat pizza buffet does have a certain amount of appeal. But unless CiCi's can address the issues of quality, taste, and variety of choices, I think I will pass on visiting this restaurant establishment in the future. My taste buds and my stomach can only handle so much, especially when the pizza sauce tastes like a five year- old can of Chef Boy Ar- Dee.



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