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Lunch guys: Is Hut’s stab at pasta al dente?

POSTED: May 25, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Pasta delivered? Now that's an idea so crazy, it just might work. At least that's what we Lunch Guys thought when we heard about Pizza Hut's newest offering: Tuscani Pasta, available in Creamy Chicken Alfredo and Meaty Marinara.

So we dialed up the Hut, ordered a pan and dove in, forks and stomachs in full gear. The big question: Is pasta the new pizza?

Chris: I know pasta at Pizza Hut isn't an all-new thing. Way back in the day, my grandpa always ordered spaghetti there so his dentures wouldn't come out in the crust. This was back when people used to eat inside a Pizza Hut.

The huge 10-by-12-inch pan that showed up at our door full of creamy chicken alfredo took me back to those predelivery days. This was like a hearty, happy family meal rather than a lifeless pepperoni pizza. It warmed my heart.

But did it satisfy my stomach? Absolutely.

I doubted Pizza Hut's claim that this pasta would serve four, thinking they probably meant the four girls in accounting. They actually meant four Lunch Guys.

This is a big, big meal, and for $11.99, one of the best deals out there. And the chicken strips that topped this super creamy rotini were packed with flavor and topped with crispy mozzarella, broiled to perfection. Add in the free breadsticks and I had no complaints. Well, maybe one: too much pepper. Change that from three shakes to one and this pasta is pretty perfect.

Tom: Perfect? It was straight out of a middle school cafeteria. I know, Chris, you are impressed by quantity. Sure, there's an entire lasagna dish full of pasta here and enough bread sticks to feed an Italian army. But after two bites I knew I was still going to be hungry because I didn't want any more.

The Chicken Alfredo at least had some redemption because it was, in fact, creamy. But my arteries didn't want to suffer the consequences. The Meaty Marinara, which felt a bit healthier, had almost no taste at all.

These dishes couldn't have been more middle-of-the-road. If Wal-Mart made Italian food, it would taste like this.

I have to admit both dishes looked good, bubbling hot with their golden-brown melted cheese, but these are two meals that are as the saying goes, "good from far, but far from good."

Chris: Your taste buds must have been singed by the first bite. This is good stuff. Not just Dominos and Papa John's, but Olive Garden better watch its back on this one. If Pizza Hut can transform itself from the usual pizza delivery to a full-service Italian trattoria on the go, I see much more pasta in my lunch future.

Tom: I'm all for more things being delivered but Pizza Hut doesn't need this.

What ever happened to specialization? Pizza Hut now does pasta, Subway does pizza. Burger King does fish ... at this rate all restaurants should just go back to calling themselves "Eat."

Tom James and Chris Tauber are freelance writers. Their column on fast food appears on the second Wednesday of the month.



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