May 15, 2021

TAKE-N-BAKE: Giovanni’s offers new option for customers to enjoy local pizza

Newton pizzeria wants to set itself apart from the competition

Giovanni’s real secret ingredient is its willingness to innovate. It’s a routine Jerney Shores and Doug Whitmore had been challenging themselves to master at the Newton pizzeria long before the pandemic forced restaurant owners from all over the globe to re-think their business tactics.

If anything, the pandemic provided Giovanni’s staff the “freedom” to try something they had always wanted to do: make and sell take-n-bake pizzas.

“I think it gave us the opportunity and the freedom to be able to really have someone to focus on it, just take the reigns with it,” Shores said. “Beforehand it was hit or miss if you found the time or didn’t find the time.”

Whitmore added, “Before the pandemic ever hit we were already exploring with some things. The pandemic did put us in fast gear, but we’d planned on going down this path the next five years, anyway. We’d been studying the markets and the younger generations and what we had to do to match up with them.”

For the past two months, Giovanni’s — whose dine-in services are still closed to the public — has been providing a take-n-bake option for its customers, in addition to pick-up orders and delivery. The idea for take-n-bake and even frozen options have been “in the works” for some time, Whitmore said.

Giovanni’s take-n-bake pizzas are prepared fresh — much like a Papa Murphy’s style of service — and feature a different style of crust. Shores said the restaurant only recently began allowing customers to order customized pizzas, which are included with an oven-friendly tray for easy baking.

By the time its take-n-bakes debuted in Newton, Giovanni’s only offered limited styles: cheese, pepperoni, American sausage, ham and pineapple, chicken bacon ranch, bacon cheeseburger, taco and “Gio” special. Shores said the most popular choices early on were pepperoni, bacon cheeseburger taco and special.

Trying to develop a take-n-bake option that an average consumer could easily cook at home without compromising Giovanni’s signature tastes was a real challenge; especially when staff have been put such a strong emphasis on fresh ingredients grown and raised at Whitmore’s Riverbottom Farms.

“You could go back five years when we started playing with them,” he said. “Our first goal was to duplicate the pizza that we sell inside, which everybody loves. But the dynamics in frozen or take-n-bake are totally different than cooking it fresh. So we could never get it quite right.”

With the help of employee Breanna Bragg, who is in charge of product development, Giovanni’s staff was able to produce a take-n-bake option they were happy to go public with. The move also continues the local pizzeria’s trend of wanting to stand out from similar restaurants.

Why take-n-bakes? Shores said part of the reason was the convenience, but also to give people the opportunity “to think a little more conscientiously about what they’re eating.” Giovanni’s also wanted an offering for a younger generation when its dine-in customers were more often an older generation.

Giovanni’s looked at its prices, too. Knowing a dine-in experience may be too expensive for some younger families, Whitmore said the new line of take-n-bakes could open the door to new customers. The restaurant has been trying to shift into these right dynamics for a few years, he added.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, what Giovanni’s had been trying to ease itself into within two to three years suddenly needed to be done now.

“We might as well get out of dining now because that’s where we’re headed in the future anyway,” Whitmore said.

In addition to Giovanni’s new food options, farm fresh ingredients and occasional food truck, staff is planning on expanding its “Market Place.” Shores said it would act as a central hub to bring in more vendors and producers to the restaurant’s networking operations and grocery-style retail space.

“Even within the next month we’re working on finalizing plans to open up the retail area so maybe we can open the backdoor and having people coming in through there setting up produce,” Shores said. “Next month we’re working on the plans to do a concept of an indoor farmers market.”

One night a week the public would be invited to Giovanni’s specifically to see different demonstrations or sampling of different products. Other vendors would be invited to partake. Whitmore said Giovanni’s is eager to adopt those farmers market concepts — quality, freshness, local — into its marketplace.

“People recognize us because we care and want to do something better and different for the future,” Whitmore said. “To me, that’s our passion. We’re trying to leave a positive effect on the future — be it the environment, be it our products — and to do something we’re proud of.”

Shores added, “We’re working on growing and having something new almost constantly. I think that growing is a big aspect with it. Loved dine-in. The atmosphere is great. I wish I got to see it during the Maytag years, but there was no growth with it.

“This gives us an endless opportunity to see what there is to offer and figure out what we have to offer.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Reporter with a strong penchant for community journalism.