December 09, 2009

Not just pizzas at Pizza Hut

I MUST confess that I really never liked thick-crust pizzas which I think shortchanges customers. You get more of the baked dough instead of the wonderful ingredients that top the pizza; it’s like biting into a huge pandesal with the palaman on top. So this is the primary reason Pizza Hut has never really been my go-to pizza joint.

So imagine my surprise when I ended up in one of its press launches. All along I thought the event was about the Divella Pasta brand, which I’ve bought a few times before for my own “genius” pasta creations (read: taking the leftovers in the ref and making some sauce out of them). It turns out, after much guessing from the media guests on “who’s the new pasta player in town”, the answer was eventually revealed to be Pizza Hut.

“We have taken the bold step to proclaim that we are now as passionate [with pastas] the way we do our pizzas”, says Elaine Guzman, vice president for marketing. And yes, the restaurant does use the Divella pasta brand.

(The Aglio Olio. Photos courtesy of Pizza Hut)

All the while we were being asked the identity of the new pasta player in town, we were asked to taste eight different kinds of pasta dishes. It isn’t as exciting as it sounds, mind you, because by the fourth dish, I was ready to keel over from a seriously overextended tummy. But I managed to pick out few winners from the eight that were served under the restaurant’s Pasta Perfetto line.

The Aglio Olio, for instance, had the pasta perfectly coated in olive oil instead of swimming in it, like other restaurants serve it, with the garlic and pepper flakes giving it a crisp punch. The Puttanesca was also quite flavorful with the olives and capers lending it some delectable sweetness, although the dish could stand more anchovies to give it a salty counterpoint. (Of course, Pizza Hut isn't a fine-dining restaurant so ingredients aren't exactly generous as we want them to be.)

The other pastas under the creamy sauce category were adequate but seemed seriously dehydrated, with the cream forming a kind of lumpy dead crust on top. It’s not as bad as it reads; you just have to remove that top to get to the richness underneath.

(Spaghetti Puttanesca)

The winning factor is of course the pasta line’s price points as these range between P99 and P189. Other pasta creations include: Baked Mac and Cheese, Fettucine ala King, Spaghetti Bolognese with Meatballs, Baked Fettucine Alfredo, Lasagna Classico, Spaghetti Shrimp Garlic and Mushrooms, Pesto Chicken Penne, Three-Cheese Ravioli, and Seafood Supremo.

A couple of weeks after the launch of the Pasta Perfetto line, I finally took the chance and ate at a Pizza Hut restaurant, after years of shunning it. I was quite delighted to find it had pizzas under its Viva Italian line which are neither thin nor thick crust and slathered with sumptuous fresh ingredients. I especially loved Florence which featured fresh tomatoes, mushroom, black olives, anchovies and garlic topped with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, and drizzled with olive oil.

The problem is, when I tried to order the same for delivery just a week ago, the operator at the Pizza Hut’s call center said this was no longer available, as well as the other varieties in the Viva Italian line.

Also, the operator said, not all the dishes under the Pasta Perfetto line were available for delivery either. I had wanted to try the three-cheese ravioli, and after being told this couldn’t be delivered, the operator and I went through the list of items that could be delivered. We basically ended with only four of 12 varieties under this new pasta line. Needless to say, this took back the winning points the restaurant scored with me as a customer. Not so Perfetto, ey?

Perhaps this is Pizza Hut’s marketing strategy to get more people into its restaurants, but it seems to me that it is neglecting a growing number of customers who want the convenience of a food delivery service. My hapless experience, however, shouldn’t dissuade you from actually hauling yourselves to the nearest Pizza Hut branch to check out its new pastas which, in these financially-distressing times, admittedly still give some value for your money.

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