Sunday, December 18, 2011

Restaurant Redemption: Gino's Pizza & Spaghetti (Princeton)

For the past (almost) year, I have posted a ton of restaurant reviews. Some good, some bad, many indifferent. When my blog began to pick up some momentum, some restaurants that I've graded low, or maybe not so low in this case, have contacted me in various ways. Some are angry, and some want to know how they can improve my experience.

Restaurant Redemption is a small series I've created that will allow me to give those restaurants who are keeping up with their social media (notably, my blog) and have made an attempt to rectify a poor or mediocre dining experience. For the restaurants that have contacted me, I'm giving it another dining go. For the most part, I will try a different dish and make note of the previous observations about the experience as a whole.

On my recent blog about Gino's in Princeton (technically, Athens), the marketing director commented:
"Hi, Candace. My name is Carey and I work in the Marketing Department at Gino's Pizza & Spaghetti House. We're glad you enjoyed your pizza and cheese breadsticks during your recent visit. And we appreciate your candor regarding our spaghetti. Will you please email me ( so we can discuss further? Thank you"
So I emailed Carey saying I'd be happy to discuss my experience, and she responded with questions concerning the menu board I saw. I had noted that I saw a photo of a plate of spaghetti with two meatballs on it on the menu, and what I was served was a pile of spaghetti with meat sauce. Carey said that this was an issue they recognized and were going to rectify the problem.
"I have spoken with our upper management and we are devising a plan to fix this problem - in each of our 38 locations. It may take a little time, but we want to remedy this so that every guest is clear about what they are ordering ... Thank you for your insight. Feedback like yours helps us to improve the dining experience for every Gino's guest."
Apparently there is a bit of sign confusion. There are two different spaghetti dishes, but the restaurant only offered one - and the photo was of the one they didn't offer. But, I was very happy she took the time to figure out a problem and quickly implement a solution. A few emails and a couple of days later, I received three coupons in the mail from Gino's. One for a sandwich, a large one-topping pizza and a pasta dish.

I ventured back to today to use up my coupons. As soon as we walked in, I instantly noticed that the menu boards were different. No longer was the spaghetti with two plump meatballs featured in the overhead menu - or anywhere else. In fact, the menu seems to have been redone - much cleaner and more concise.

I handed my coupons to the woman behind the counter. She looked befuddled. I started listing off what I wanted: a pepperoni pizza, a baked lasagna and a philly cheesesteak sandwich. Why? Because I wanted to try something different. I stood back while she didn't say anything for an awkward minute. Finally, she said, "Where'd you get these?"

I wasn't really sure how to respond to that. That's kind of imposing? I pointed to the back of one card where Carey so kindly wrote that I was able to use all three coupons on one visit and signed her name. The woman behind the counter seemed to perk up. "Oh. Okay. It'll be about 25 to 30 minutes," she said.

We left for awhile & Chris picked up the order. He arrived with three treats - a large box, a smaller box and a bag. The first thing I did was open the pizza. While most of it looked delicious, it was pretty burnt around one edge. And the pepperonis got pretty crisp, too. After eating around the bad spots, though, it was the same delicious pizza I had once before. It's thin-crusted, with loads of stringy cheese. I'd be happy to do without the pepperoni.

Then, I opened the box containing an aluminum container full of baked lasagna. Not as pretty as it would have been, I assume, had I not ordered it to-go. It's a decent portion, and not too shabby tasting, either. The meat sauce tasted strikingly like a batch of chili. In fact, it was nearly identical. The cheese could have been more prominent, but fairly average overall. A bag of garlic bread was included in the box, which was delicious when warm with buttery deliciousness and garlic.

Finally, it was time to try their philly steak sub. It was split in two good-sized halves, which was perfect for Chris and I. It has shaved steak, cheese, onions, green peppers and mushrooms. This was tasty, though I do wish it had more cheese, I wasn't disappointed.

Overall, my meal was pretty good. It was tasty, free and convenient. Does it get much better than that? I really like Gino's, and their pizza is really starting to move up my pizza rankings.

I do not aim to act as though my second time around that all is perfect. That's not what a review is about. However, it is a good opportunity to see what problems have been fixed and try out a different mean to see where it ranks. I think it's obvious that this restaurant is aiming to please. The menu changed quickly, and that's not always easy to do.

I think there is something to be said for a dining establishment that is so concerned with each and every customer that not only do they keep up-to-date on their social media standing, but they also reach out to customers in a very proactive way. It's one thing to follow-up to address concerns; it's a whole other thing to go out of their way to send coupons to ensure I dine there again.

With good food, excellent customer service and it being a local dining chain, there's really no reason to not go here.
Gino's Pizza on Urbanspoon