“ Pizza Chain in the United States of America „
One of the reasons why we chose to stay at the Clarion Inn Lake Buena Vista in Orlando was due to the choice of restaurants nearby. Just a 2 minute walk away from the hotel was a Cici's Pizza, a chain that I hadn't previously heard of. On our first night in Orlando, we wanted something quick and cheap after travelling for so long.
After visiting the restaurant, I looked into where the chain came from and how many stores there are now. The chain was first founded in Plano, Texas in 1985 and there are now roughly 600 stores in America, with another 500 planned over the next few years. This is a much larger chain than I had expected it to be and to begin with, I thought it was a one off place.
Cici's is a pizza buffet restaurant although you can also order individual pizzas to eat in or take away. On entering the restaurant, we received such a warm welcome and a 'Welcome to Cici's'. As we had never been there before, the staff told us how it worked and what our options were for the buffet. We both had a buffet and a large refillable soft drink (where you can take the cup away with you) and this cost just over $20 so about £15-16. Considering the cheap price, we were a little worried about what the food would taste like.
As we walked through the restaurant to get a table, we were also a little worried because there were only a couple of other people eating. The restaurant was one of the cleanest I have seen, with a member of staff constantly walking around and clearing away any rubbish and finished with plates. I couldn't have been happier with the appearance of the restaurant inside. Some of the tables were a little wobbly though and we had to move from our first choice of table. The particular restaurant we visited also had a games room in the back.
So onto the food! At the beginning of the buffet you will find a salad bar which was not very extensive at all. There was plenty of salad bowls piled up next to this section so that you didn't have to mix pasta and pizza on a plate. Basically, your choices are lettuce, tomato and carrots with a couple of other small extras. The salad choices was very disappointing and the food didn't look very appetising. Next to this was pasta options which included cooked pasta with separate marinara sauce or alfredo sauce. The pasta mixed with alfredo sauce was absolutely delicious though and also tasted very fresh.
The big thing about this chain though is the pizza. Unlike Pizza Hut's buffet, there was such a large range of pizzas to choose from. There was all sorts ranging from cheese to chicken to veggie to mac and cheese. I didn't know where to start. There must have been at least a dozen options and there was also thin and thick bases which was a nice touch. Even while we were lining up to pick pizzas, we saw at least a couple of new pizzas being put out so everything was quite obviously pretty fresh and hadn't been sitting there for hours.
Cici's serve some of the best pizza I have ever had. Both my husband and I tried a couple of different slices to begin with and then just had to go back for more. The mac and cheese pizza was definitely my favourite and I couldn't get enough of it. There was something so different about having a cheese sauce as a base instead of tomato. Something else that amazed me about Cici's was that even with the purchase of a buffet, you are able to order an individual pizza if you fancy something specific. A staff member will cook this fresh for you and bring the whole pizza over to the table for you. Also, if you only want a couple of slices of something in particular, they will do this for you too.
Not only do you get pasta, salad and pizza with the buffet but there are also all you can eat deserts. There isn't that much of a choice here and you can only really have brownies, cinnamon rolls, Apple Dessert Pizza or Bavarian Dessert Pizza but this was more than enough choice for me. After eating so much pizza, I wasn't really in the mood for desert anyway. However, it was nice for the option to be there if you wanted something sweet to eat afterwards.
Both my husband and I absolutely loved Cici's, so much so that we went back another couple of times. If you look in the trolleys on I-Drive, or any other coupon booklet, you will probably be able to find a voucher for Cici's where you get BOGOF on buffets as long as you purchase two large drinks. When doing this, our meals cost roughly $15 so the vouchers are worth getting if you can find them. The staff at the local Cici's we visited also gave us vouchers after each visit which was really nice.
I would highly recommend a visit to Cici's if you can find one while holidaying in the States. Orlando in particular has plenty of locations.
"Cici's Pizza" is a fast food chain in Orlando, with several branches being located in the larger tourist hotspots. I visited one of the restaurants in May 2012 and this review outlines my experience.
Located at 7437 International Drive (known as I-Drive) in Orlando, the restaurant we visited was within easy walking distance of the I-ride trolley stop nearby. The stop number that we used was number 14, on the Red Line North Bound line. This sounds quite complicated but it is not difficult to find Cici's restaurant as it is quite large and can be seen easily from the pedestrian pathway on I-drive. It may be worth noting that there is a second branch of the restaurant located further down I-drive which is located next to stop 20 on the Red Line South Bound line.
When we arrived at the restaurant it was about 5 pm and we were extremely hungry. We had decided to take advantage of the fact that we would be passing by Cici's restaurant after a busy day sightseeing, thinking that it would be a quick and easy dinner solution that was quite fuss-free. In addition to this, we had noticed a coupon for Cici's in a tourist booklet that we had come across in the local Tourist Information office. (Just as a side note, when visiting Orlando I would highly recommend picking up any little booklets and maps that you see in endless supply scattered around hotel lobbies and tourist areas. They are very useful and provide some excellent information alongside value-for-money coupons to use in a variety of eateries and tourist attractions.)
The coupon that we had entitled us to a sort of 'buy one get one free' offer whereby we would only pay the price of one adult buffet for the two of us to dine at the buffet, as long as we purchased two large-sized sodas provided in "To Go" cups. This sounded like a reasonable enough deal to me, but when I saw the price of one adult buffet was only going to cost $5.99, I thought the offer sounded too good to be true.
It is fair to say I was somewhat sceptical before we even arrived at Cici's, as I just couldn't fathom how something that cost so little could be any good. My husband reasoned that we had nothing to lose by giving it a try, and as we were almost passing by the door we may as well see what it was like.
When we arrived, we had to wait in a short line to be served. When we reached the front of the line we handed over our voucher and the girl asked how many of us were eating in. She then gave both of us a large polystyrene cup and took our cash. As we were being served, I was able to witness at least three parties receiving large, boxed pizzas to take-away, so it is worth bearing in mind that Cici's offer this service, although as far as I could tell they do not offer a delivery service.
After paying, we ventured into the main 'body' of the restaurant and picked a booth to sit at. It was extremely busy, with lots of families and other couples dining in. There was ample seating provided however, and we had a choice of booths to choose from. The booth was comfortable with slightly padded seating being provided and the whole table and surrounding area was spotlessly clean, regardless of the large volume of customers in the restaurant at the time.
Whilst I settled in our booth, my husband got our drinks by way of a large drinks machine located at the rear of the restaurant. There was a selection of about eight soft drinks to choose from, such as coke, sprite and orange fanta, with some diet options and water being available too. There was the option to choose ice to be added into your drink but I opted to have mine without, and my drink was still pleasantly chilled. We were free to top up our drinks as much as we wanted, and were of course able to fill our "To Go" cups and take them with us when we left the restaurant.
There were several hot 'counters' running down the side of the restaurant and we were free to go up and fill our plates as much or as little as we wanted. As I scanned the delicious-looking hot pizza on offer, I was impressed to note the variety of toppings, as there must have been at least twelve varieties to choose from. Not only were there several meat-free options available (although I'm not vegetarian, I don't like pepperoni much and won't eat poultry) but it looked as though some were thin and crispy (my preference), whilst others were slightly more 'deep pan' or certainly had a more doughy base. There were also two hot breads on offer, one being a kind of garlic and cheese offering and was absolutely delicious, and a second that had some sort of spinach baked within it. I chose a slice of plain cheese and tomato pizza and a piece of the garlic bread and headed over to the small chiller unit containing the salad bar.
This is where Cici's was slightly under-par in my opinion. There were two large 'bowls' of salad, one which contained some limp-looking iceberg lettuce mixed in with some small cherry tomatoes and pieces of carrot. It all looked as if it had been sitting out for hours and I decided not to bother. The second bowl was almost empty but looked as though it had contained some sort of 'Caesar' salad or certainly something with a pleasant dressing. As there was very little of this left, I was wary as to how long it had been sitting out and in the end I decided not to bother with this one either. I was extremely disappointed as I always thoroughly enjoy eating the delicious salads and beautiful dressings on offer in America, but on this occasion it was not to be. At no point during our time eating in the restaurant did I notice any member of staff change or replenish the bowls of salad which was a bit of a disappointment for me.
This certainly was not the case where the pizza was concerned however, and we witnessed several newly-baked pizzas being cut into servings and placed on the heated counters. Empty plates were removed and some pizzas were 'doubled up' with each other on the plates to allow for new pizzas coming onto the counters.
Incidentally, I believe that you can request a specific pizza to be made up and put on the buffet alongside the other ones, although this isn't something that I witnessed happening whilst we were there. I think you can also order your own pizza rather than eating at the buffet, but again I didn't see anyone doing this so can't comment on it too much. I believe there is a separate children's menu available in Cici's too.
There were two pasta options available on the day I visited. The pasta was quite fresh and lovely and warm. The 'curly' pasta shapes could be scooped easily onto your plate using the large spoon provided and you were then able to choose which sauce you wanted to accompany it. There was a surprisingly rich tomato-type sauce which I had a little of. I thought it tasted quite nice but it wasn't particularly spectacular. There was a second choice which was a creamy sauce tasting faintly of cheese, although I only tasted a small piece of my husbands cheese pasta rather than choosing this for myself. The pastas were both ok and quite nice, but the pizza was far superior to the other food on offer, as far as we were concerned anyway, and we happily helped ourselves to several slices of the assorted pizzas on offer.
The buffet price at Cici's includes dessert, although we did not realise this until we were about half way through our pizza buffet. Admittedly, there is not much choice but still, for the bargain price of our buffet (and of course with one of us eating for free..!) we weren't complaining, and in actual fact it was a nice surprise as we hadn't known about the dessert options beforehand! The three options on offer on the day we visited were a sort of sweet 'pizza' which was served in slices and had a sort of cinnamon 'crumbed' topping. There was also a sort of chocolate brownie-type cake that was cut into small squares and dusted with icing sugar. I didn't have this but I tasted a small piece of my husband's (who couldn't finish his dessert as he had eaten so much pizza!) It was quite nice and tasted home-made. My choice was a small piece of what was like a sort of cinnamon-filled Danish pastry, with a small drizzling of white, sugary icing on top and being served warm, was extremely appetising. The small desserts that we had were just enough as we were both rather stuffed from eating so much pizza.
Whilst we were dining in Cici's, I did notice several members of staff coming round the booth tables to clear away any empty plates and cups. The tables were wiped down thoroughly after they were vacated, ready for the next customers to use them. I thought the restaurant was very well maintained, and even with the large volume of customers being inside the busy restaurant, I noticed very little in the way of food debris or mess lying around on the floor or on other tables.
It is true to say the restaurant felt a little 'soul-less' much in the way a Pizza Hut restaurant in the UK feels at times. With Formica tables and polystyrene cups, it is fair to say there are more 'upmarket' dining options available to tourists visiting the Orlando area. For us however, it offered a cheap and cheerful meal solution that was conveniently located and we couldn't fault the food, with the majority of our meal being beautifully cooked and tasting quite delicious. If only the salad bar had been up to the same high standard!
The branch of Cici's that I visited is open daily from 11am until 10pm, making it an ideal choice for either lunch or dinner. There is free parking in the lot located at the restaurant. According to the chain's website, the store I visited has "Handicap Accessibility" and certainly there were no stairs within the actual restaurant, which was completely flat. Neither my husband or myself used the restrooms within Cici's, so I cannot comment on how good (or bad) these facilities were.
Our meal cost a total of $11.68 which includes tax. As @ the time of writing (June 2012), this amount converts to less than £8 GBP. Considering both my husband and myself left Cici's restaurant feeling completely stuffed and satisfied from our meal, this is an absolute bargain price as far as we are concerned.
Overall, I would really recommend a visit to Cici's quite highly, and in actual fact my husband and myself would have made a second trip to Cici's if we had been in the area for longer, as we were both suitably impressed. For what you pay, the food is of excellent quality and tastes quite delicious. You may have dined in more extravagant and civilised surroundings, but for a quick and easy meal solution you can't beat Cici's!
We are a family who really enjoy treating ourselves to a pizza but having had a few pizzas in Orlando we had been disappointed with the quality. In one of the many voucher booklets that you can pick up all over the place we spotted an advertisement for CiCi's Pizza and thought it would be worth a try.
We ended up at the one on Palm parkway just outside the Walt Disney World resort. When we pulled into the car park I felt inclined to drive away as it was in a dreary row of shops that looked a little rough but since we were all staring hungry we decided to give it a go. The exterior looked shabby and it took a few seconds to locate the entry door as one door was not in use.
On entering the restaurant we were immediately hit by the delicious smell of freshly baked pizza. The young lady at the reception greeted us cheerfully and asked if we had ever visited before. We said that we hadn't and also handed over the voucher that we had cut out of the local voucher booklet. She gave us our large carry-out drink cups with lids and then explained that we should find ourselves a table and then we could help ourselves to any of the buffet items as many times as we liked. CiCi's also offer a special order service if you want a particular pizza but I think most people opt for the buffet.
The seating area was a reasonable size and we noticed how busy it was. There seemed to be lots of families and I always think it is a good sign if you walk in somewhere and it is busy and people look happy!
The restaurant area is certainly not the most attractive in the world. There are lots of Formica and metal chairs and although it looks quite well worn it was spotlessly clean and stayed that way throughout our meal as an amazing older lady whizzed around whipping away plates and cleaning tables at an amazing speed.
The children went and filled up our drinks at the self-service machine which they really enjoyed doing. We had all chosen diet-coke and I was pleased to see it was diluted properly, I have been to some places where they make it so weak in these machines you can see straight through it!
We then headed to the pizza buffet. There was probably a selection of about seven or eight different pizzas on the hotplates, all sliced up so you could help yourself. One of the guys who was cooking also greeted us warmly and explained that the garlic breads were at one end, main course pizzas in the middle and the ones on the far left were pudding pizzas. There was a lovely selection varying from the standard cheese, pepperoni or ham and pineapple to spinach, barbecue, vegetable and macaroni cheese pizza. I must admit to trying the macaroni cheese pizza as it was proving very popular with the American diners but I thought it was awful, in fact it was the only thing we tried that none of us liked.
There were a couple of bread items which were not like normal garlic bread but they were very tasty and there was also a flip-pizza with the filling inside which was rather unusual as it was thin rather than the usual folded pizzas that we get in the UK. The only problem at the pizza buffet is that the pizzas have no labels so you have to guess or you can ask the staff as they are very helpful. I realised this is probably because they keep replacing the pizzas as soon as they are finished and they put out whatever has just been cooked, there seems no particular order.
A large bowl of pasta was also available with a tangy tomato sauce which I found to be very tasty.
CiCi's does say that you can eat as much salad as you want too but you really can't get excited about the salad bar. There was a couple of large bowls of mixed lettuce, some tomatoes and some carrot sticks, not really the most interesting selection but I still helped myself several times as it was still a nice accompaniment to the pizzas.
As the cook had already explained CiCi's also offers desserts and some of these come in the form of pizzas too. I did see several people putting savoury and sweet pizzas on their plates together, I don't know if they just didn't realise or if they liked eating that way. One of the dessert pizzas had apple slices with cinnamon and I think it was one of the nicest desserts that I tasted during our whole holiday. There was also something rather like a Chelsea bun which was very sweet but quite nice.
CiCi's is not going to win any awards for its luxurious surroundings or interesting decor. However all of the pizzas are cooked on the premises and they taste delicious because of it. They were freshly cooked and as a plate is emptied a new pizza is put out. The vegetables and the meat seemed very fresh and all had lots of flavour. The pizzas did not seem greasy or heavy and I certainly ate far more than I usually do and I loved being able to try all of the varieties. We visited when the weather was exceptionally hot and the restaurant was nicely air-conditioned without being freezing cold. The buffet was $6.99 and the refillable drinks were $1.50 and we had vouchers so that two of the buffets were free so we fed the four of us for about $20 (less than £15) and left with large drinks ready to take back into the parks in the evening too. We liked it so much that we visited again during our stay and found the service to be just as friendly and helpful as on our first visit and the pizzas just as lovely so we will definitely be returning next year.