By Kelly Visser, Iowa Food & Family Project
You may think the whimsical artwork lining the walls of Gusto Pizza Co. is simply decoration for the light-hearted pizzeria. But the colorful portraits - a soprano singing into a spotlight, a football player with a #24 jersey or a goat in the arms of Vincent van Gogh - are more than a pop of color; they are an artistic interpretation of the pizza names lining Gusto's menu.
In March, we do a "Road to the Best Gusto" competition to align with the March Madness tournament. We have a bracket of 64 pizzas submitted by our customers. We ask our audiences to vote throughout the tournament and feature the winning pizza on our menu for six months. It's a fun way to engage our loyal "Gustomers."
On an average Friday night, who do you see in your restaurant?
You may see a young 20-year-old couple, a family with young kids or empty nesters in the restaurant. It's a great family environment, but you can also get a glass of Iowa-brewed beer or wine for a date night.
I'm amazed by the number of kids that come up to me and say, "I love Gusto!" If you can provide a place that kids love and parents don't feel like they're sacrificing for "kid food," it creates a good family environment.
What types of pizzas do you see customers gravitating toward?
It's like clockwork. The first few times customer come in, they are drawn to our classic combinations, or as we call them, "entry level" pizzas. After about three visits, they start to ask about the more unique combinations. I think it just takes a little time to earn a customer's trust in trying the more abstract offerings.
Photos by Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association