Friday, April 11, 2008

Cici's Pizza Buffets Moves NorthEast

I have written several articles about Cici's Pizza Buffet. I had my first and up until now only opportunity to eat in this famous chain a year ago in Maryland. At the time the Hagerstown, Maryland location was the furthest north east that Cici's had opened. Now to my very pleasant surprise Cici's has opened in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There are now 11 locations in PA - all but this one in the western portion of the state.

I had heard several months ago that a Cici's was about to open in the Allentown/Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania - an area near the New Jersey border. This was causing some exuberance from those that I heard about it from but at the moment there is no mention of it on the Cici's website. On my recent arrival in Lancaster, however, we passed a familiar shopping center to see that since we were there in December, there is now a Cici's! Of course, we had to work a meal in there during the course of this trip.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Cici's and don't want to look back to last April and May to see what I wrote about it - and about what the corporate offices wrote back to me - I will give you a fresh look at Cici's. Cici's is a buffet chain located across the US that offers Salad, Pasta, Pizza, and Dessert - all you care to eat for one SMALL price. Now, I have to give an aside here from my "fresh" description to say that one year ago the price at Cici's was $4.49 per person. Now the price - at least at this new location is $5.49 per person. This is still a bargain - but a one dollar jump is quite a lot. I do not know if this "new, higher" price applies to all locations or this one. I was quite to surprised to see the jump. On the Cici's website it says "All you can eat for under $5*". Note the * - at the bottom of the page it says prices vary by location - so I guess I found one of the above $5 locations. How many others are there? The most recent Cici's television ads no longer mention a price. They just say "at an incredibly low price." Has Cici's now hooked us and will start raising the prices? I hope not. Unlimited soda still remains at $1.59 and the children's price remains at $2.99. These are the prices and they are the same all day and every day.

The Lancaster Cici's was exactly like the Hagerstown Cici's inside. You enter the same way, the counter and dining rooms are identical. When I was at Hagerstown they did not take charge cards - here they did. I was told by corporate after my Hagerstown visit that that had just been a temporary situation in Hagerstown. For Cici's newbies, you pay as you enter and you are given a plastic cup for your soft drink. No hot drinks here so be ready for soda or ice tea. You pick up a tray if you want one and move along a long counter to pick up your selections. You seat yourself and serve your drinks yourself from the soda fountain.

The first area is a salad bar with lettuce, toppings, cold vegetables, and a few prepared salads like pasta salad. You next come to a server with chicken pasta soup and then a tray of pasta follows with two sauces - tomato sauce and alfredo sauce. You next encounter a long row of pizzas. The pizza's are quite different from what you will usually find. Their signature pizza is Mac and Cheese Pizza. They also have the likes of Taco pizza, Barbecue Chicken Pizza, Barbecue Pizza, spinach pizza, white pizza, jalapeƱos pepper pizza, and many others. As was true of my first Cici's experience, the pizza's are not labeled as to what they are. I am told that this is because new and different pizzas are constantly brought out and take the place of something else. They could not keep up with labeling. I was also told not to be shy and ask one of the many people setting out pizzas what anyone is. And, indeed, on this visit I asked and was promptly told with a smile. One thing that was happening in Lancaster - perhaps because they are so knew and still doing things the way things are supposed to be done was when a pizza was put out it was loudly announced by name. Some pizzas - the taco pizza for one had a little song that several employees performed- "Ole!" Each pizza is about 12 inches in diameter and is cut into ten or so small slices - these are not large NY style pies that you fold and eat. Each piece is big enough so that you can enjoy a number of slices and take as many of the many selections that you would like to try. Each pizza is fresh and kept hot. There is cheesy garlic toast as well.

Once you have had your fill of pizza there are three desserts - an apple crumb pizza, hot cinnamon buns, and chocolate brownies. Wash it all down with Coke products, "sweet tea" and unsweet iced tea.

So how was the new Lancaster location? Good. The staff were extremely friendly, greeting everyone as they entered and left. The bus staff were very polite. The counters and the tables were kept very clean. The staff kept stirring the pasta and the sauces, mixing the salads to stay fresh, and continually put out pizzas.

My wife had some criticisms - which I will share - but these are with the chain in general and not specific to this location. I have been told several things about Cici's by readers which I will share here. If you do not see a pizza out that you would like, ask for it and it will be made and you will be brought slices. I witnessed this at Lancaster. I was also told that if you would like something special you should ask for it and if they have the ingredients they will make it just for you. My wife's feelings about this are these - and she kept commenting this to me through out the meal. "How does anyone know this and how do they know what the pizzas are to ask for one?" She feels that somewhere on the counter or on the wall there should be a list of all of the pizzas. In this way if you see a pizza on the list that you would like to try you can ask for it. She says that it all should not be a secret. She, of course, is right. I could understand that there could be chaos with everyone reading the list and asking for something different - but if it is truly the case that you can ask for something that you do not see, then everyone should know what to ask for - and that they may ask.

Now, she wanted something special - a vegetable pizza without cheese, but she would not ask for it and did not want me to ask for it. They do have "zesty" vegetable cheese pizza, so all the ingredients are right there - and pizzas are made in a matter of minutes. But there is nothing indicating that you can just up and ask for your own combination - and her concern was that she only want a slice or two, so what would happen if they brought her an entire pizza. If, indeed, all of this request stuff is true, then it should not be a secret and there should be some sign about it. When we entered the cashier asked if I had ever been to Cici's before and would I like to know all about it. Interested in hearing what a new person is told, I told her to give me the pitch - all she told me (very friendly) was the prices and that you get all the salad, pasta, pizza, and dessert that you want - and that soda was extra. No mention about special requests.

I have had more positive comments about Cicis to my articles than any other buffet. Everyone loves these buffets. They are great for kids - there is a game room in the back, pleasant classic rock music playing, and two large screen television sets at the ceiling. Adults love them. Kids love them.

If you are on a diet and can resist the pizza and be happy with the small salad bar and pasta then you too will enjoy this buffet - but it is really hard to resist. If you do not eat cheese for any reason you are in the same dilemma, and perhaps should seek out someplace else. But if you do not care about carbs or your cholesterol this is heaven. (I ate many and too much of things that I should not eat - but love.)

I come to this area of Pennsylvania a number of times a year and I am very happy that Cici's has come to Lancaster -and is moving north east. (BUT I am not sure that I want one in NY because most chains are changed for the worse when they come to NY.) I could also never maintain my health with a Cici's too close by.

Cici's Lancaster is located at 2405 Covered Bridge Road in Lancaster.Pennsylvania which is on Route 30 in the shopping center with Target. Cici's has a website for all of its chain and that link is at the side of this page. There is a location finder on the website with links to maps. The Lancaster phone number is 717-392-2740.

Enjoy pizza? Enjoy a filling and good meal for little money? Enjoy Cici's Pizza Buffet!

4 comments:

Brett said...

From what I understand from my trips to various Cici's, the reason all pizza varieties are not on a list is because the kitchen staff would be overwhelmed with requests and customers using the restaurant more as a sit down experience rather than a buffet.

However, if you do make a pizza request - they will ask you how many slices you would like. When the pizza is ready, they bring those slices to your table and the rest of the pizza goes on the buffet. I would assume if a "special request" pizza was ordered, the same thing would happen.

As for the "Ole" song, yes, this was very commonplace when our Cici's first opened. The enthusiasm of the staff dwindled quickly, but, the quality of the food remained, which is really all that matters.

Michael R. said...

I hear that there is a Cici's Pizza is coming to East PA, around the NJ Border. It is going to opened at 2180 MacArthur Road, Whitehall, PA 18052. The phone number is (610) 439-CiCi (2424. I also found this website http://www.myspace.com/cicispizzalehighvalley. To my understanding, if you go to the Cici's Pizza website, you can see that Whitehall, PA is located under "Coming Soon." To my knowledge, Brett is right about special requests. The Whitehall location is 6 miles away from Dorney Park, which is where I go atleast once a week in summer. I will have to make a trip to Cici's Pizza everytime I go!

Andria M. said...

CICIS PIZZA IS OPENING TOMORROW! MONDAY, MAY 19, 2008. I AM SO EXCITED I WILL BE THERE TOMORROW MORNING! YAY GO CICIS! FOR ALL YOU WHO DO NOT KNOW. IT IS LOCATED AT WHITEHALL SQUARE SHOPPING CENTER, 2180 MACARTHUR ROAD (HWY 145), WHITEHALL, PA 18052.

David from Gary Indiana said...

I know this is an old blog, but I have to comment on this one. I first learned about Cici's when I was reading an article on AOL about the best franchises. Cici's was on that list, and in the top 10. I was surprised to learn that one in Portage Indiana, and is in an excellent location. Much of what you describe is true about Cici's. When I last looked at the Portage location, the price was $4.99 with the drink being $1.59.

I do ask about certain pizzas, as I can't always tell the difference between italian sausage & beef. Also, the Portage location will allow special pizzas to be made if you ask. They have 16 types of pizza, and like you said, if they have the ingredients, they'll special make it. On certain nights, they can't make the pizzas fast enough, as the dining room is packed, and the employees are also making pizzas for carry out. I don't know if your location's employees do this, but at the Portage location, the worker(s) are supposed to say "Bye! Cici you later".
I will usually pick Cici's over Pizza Hut anyday.