Saturday, July 31, 2010

CiCi's Pizza Buffet, Or Is There A Good Buffet In This Town?

My wife and I decided to do something we haven't had much of a chance to do lately, and that was spend the entire day together (with the exception of when I donated platelets).

For dinner, we decided to try out the new Cici's Pizza Buffet that recently opened up in West Allis. Ever since Shakey's closed down awhile back, we were looking for a decent substitute. Besides, we received a promotional coupon in last Sunday's paper, and we figured we could afford the $10 to go there.

Cici's advertises themselves as being a salad, past and pizza buffet. Technically, this is true.

After walking in and paying, the buffet line starts immediately with their "salad bar," which consisted of two large metal bowls with an already tossed salad in each. Also tossed in with the salad was the dressing. One bowl was Italian and the other was Ranch. If you didn't want dressing, or wanted another kind of dressing, or wanted more or less dressing, it was too bad, so sad.

Around the corner was the "pasta bar." It was even worse than the salad bar. There was only one choice for pasta. A spiral elbow macaroni in a bland marinara sauce. Also at this section was a watery chicken soup and garlic crazy bread, which was actually good.

The next section was the pizza. They do offer quite a variety. There were the traditional cheese and sausage and pepperoni pizzas, as well as the semi-traditional Hawaiian, Mexican and Veggie pizzas. They also offered some more off the regular path types including Alfredo, Chicken, and Alfredo and Spinach.

All of the pizzas were thin crust. I tried the traditional types, disappointed that they didn't offer any with "the works." These pizzas reminded me of three things immediately. One was the overpriced pizzas that you buy from your coworkers or neighbors who are doing fund-raising for their kids' Little League team or school band. The second was the frozen pizzas you bought in college because they cost a buck and a half each. The third was the pizzas they served one day each week in the high school cafeteria.

In other words, the pizzas were bland and greasy. Adding red pepper flakes helped jazz them up, but as I sit here seven hours later, I can still taste the grease.

They also offered a variety that my wife loved. It was a cheese-and-mac pizza. I didn't have the nerve to try it, but my wife absolutely loved it. Of course, she is a self-admitted carboholic as well, so that might have something to do with it.

They also offered three types of dessert: Brownies, apple pie pizza and cinnamon buns. My wife tried the brownies and said that they were good. The apple pie left a little to be desired, since it was as blase as their pizzas. We both agreed that the cinnamon buns were excellent, and almost worth the price of admission by themselves.

The one thing that really did impress me was the service. When we walked in, I immediately noticed that they seemed to have a lot of people working in a small restaurant. As I watched, it became apparent why. They would have two or three young people working the pizza buffet at all times. If there ever was the slightest pause, they would rearrange the pizza slices so that they were all together, spin the pizza pan so that the slices would be nearest the customer, and make sure the spatula was within easy reach. I did not notice an empty pan stay on the counter for more than few seconds before it was whisked away and replaced with a fresh pizza.

There were several people working in the back, making the pizzas, which they seemed to have down to an art. They would prepare the pizzas in advance and keep them in a rack. At regular intervals, they would run the pizzas through the oven and have them ready for the buffet without skipping a beat.

There were also a fair number of people busing the tables, and our used plates never stayed on the table for more than a few minutes. The manager ran a tight ship, but also was able to crack a joke with his employees, and was willing to help out when things got to hectic. His management skills showed by the efficiency and friendliness of the crew.

The restaurant itself was clean and brightly lit and decorated. There was a small arcade in the back of the dining area.

Overall, CiCi's meets a niche group. The regular price for an adult is $5.49, and sodas are $1.09. I think it would be an excellent place for a family with kids and/or a tight budget. I could also see it being very popular with Little League teams, boy or girl scout packs, or church youth groups. The relatively low price keeps it affordable, and kids tend to gravitate towards that kind of pizza.

If you only want to eat healthy food or a pizza connoisseur, this is not the place for you.

As for us, if I had my druthers, I would spend the money on a good take out from Papa Murphy's or go to a real pizzeria. However, I am full aware that my wife's carboholism will kick in sooner or later, and we will be going back there. Their food isn't bad, so it's not the end of the world. I'll just focus on the garlic bread and cinnamon buns, and take some Pepcid to deal with the grease.


  1. If you want a special kind of pizza, they are supposed to make it for you. But I agree, CiCi is for kids and not adults only. We have them here in vegas, land of the buffet and I am surprised they surviv, but they do because of their game room and cheap prices. I usually like pizza but not CiCi's. But I do give them credit for customer good service.

  2. and oh, yes, they are not in the same league as Shakeys.

  3. Dude, you need to try Tazinos. Local organic ingredients, great salad selection. Much better than you've described CiCi's to be.

  4. I was going to say just what Dan said; they'll put together a special pizza for you on request. With that in mind, I wouldn't be surprised if they'd whip up a salad for you without dressing if asked.

    As for the marinara sauce... yeah, it really is pretty bland.

    Admittedly, it's not fine food by any means, but it is a cheap way to chow down, and a good place to gather with a large group.

  5. +1 for Tazinos. They destroy CiCi's in quality, atmosphere, and taste for basically the same price (free drink). Not even a contest.

  6. Hello, Capper:

    I wish to invite you and your wife to visit one of our Tazinos® Pizza & Salad Bistro locations. We are an emerging brand committed to offering our valued customers the highest quality dining experience, featuring delicious oven-fresh pizzas, savory pastas and freshly made salads, an excellent price point (especially for all you can eat)and an inviting, family-friendly environment.

    Tazinos® offers over 15 delicious pizza varieties daily as well as an excellent ‘Pizza Of The Week’ selection featured each week. We also offer fresh focaccia breadsticks, hot pasta selections, cold pasta salads and assorted cold salads all made fresh daily in our a full salad bar for you to create your own masterpiece! Finally, your meal includes free, unlimited Coca-Cola® beverages and dessert, including rich chocolate brownies, warm Cinna-Pillows® and our incredible new Apple Piezino® dessert pizza.

    It’s also important to note that Tazinos® pizza, pasta and salad selections are made with better-for-you ingredients wherever possible. For example, we use only unbleached/unbromated flour, 100% natural real Wisconsin cheeses and sauce made from field-packed tomatoes (not from concentrate). Equally important is what we do NOT use in our recipes, such as no high fructose corn syrup, no MSG and no trans fats. As we say, "Better-for-you never tasted so good!"

    Priced at just $6.99 weekdays 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. (kids 10 & under $3.99) and $7.99 weekday evenings (after 4 p.m.) and all day on weekends (kids 10 & under $4.99)...including a free beverage and dessert...Tazinos® is an excellent value!

    There are three area Tazinos® locations: Oak Creek, Menomonee Falls and Kenosha...with more on the way. Please visit our web site at for our exact locations and hours.

    Capper, our team is excited for you and your wife to experience Tazinos® soon. Please know that I personally welcome your feedback at any time.


    Bryan Belmer
    Director, Brand Marketing
    Tazinos®, Inc.

  7. Thank you for taking the time to comment here, Bryan. I know Jay and he hasn't been wrong about food, that I am aware of.

    And to be honest, you do have my interest piqued.