Calzones are a no-brainer
If you are thinking about adding calzones to your menu, now is the time to do it. Calzones bring diversity to your lineup without getting off base from your menu theme. It’s the perfect spinoff from pizza — and it is more portable and easy to eat. Think about it … it’s a brilliant cross between a sandwich and a pizza!
You already have the ingredients right there in your kitchen. The change of pace can lead to more visits by your customers. Our staff hear it all the time: “I had pizza yesterday and I don’t want pasta today, what about something different, what would you recommend?” Enter the calzone with its convenience and versatility. It’s definitely a lunchtime star.
A traditional calzone is an Italian bread shaped as a folded pizza. Usually, they are crescent shaped. It is believed to have originated in Naples.
You can walk into 10 different restaurants that serve calzones and get 10 different interpretations. The most common form is a baked variety using pizza dough, sauce and toppings. A little less common are fried calzones that are cooked in a deep fryer. Or even smaller versions of calzones are pan fried in olive oil. Most calzones have a pizza sauce base, while others use a butter or margarine base. Still, others use an Alfredo sauce base. In my region, near Chicagoland, Italian beef calzones are popular. As the name implies, these are finished with a complete dip in au jus!
The most common cheese for calzones is mozzarella, though many also use ricotta, provolone and/or Romano. Some places top the calzone with butter and Romano or Parmesan cheese. The sky is the limit with what you can do.
Pizza is king in my area. In fact, it constitutes roughly 70 percent of my business. Calzones account for about 7 percent of my orders. Their popularity in my shop has doubled in the last two years.
Our typical food cost on a calzone is 24 percent. We charge $6.50 for one on our menu, so you can see why I would love for calzone sales to keep increasing. Interestingly, we are finding that our lunch customers would rather have their own calzone and build it the way they want at $6.50 as opposed to sharing a pizza. You do the math. A table of four could split a large pizza for lunch. Our large pizzas average $12. Or that same table could order four calzones at $6.50 each. You just doubled your sales if they get calzones.
At my pizzeria, we offer several different kinds of calzones. We offer the traditional Pizza Calzone, an Italian Beef Calzone, Ham and Cheese Calzone and Combo Calzone (Italian beef and ham). Of course we also allow our customers to improvise. If someone wants a BBQ chicken or buffalo chicken we will do it. The Pizza Calzone at Anna’s is made with a pizza sauce base. For all other calzones we use a butter base. Sales wise, the Pizza Calzone sells far better than any other calzone on our menu. Right now we average about 30 per week. We hope that number will rise when we begin marketing them more aggressively.
To make our calzones, we start off with about a 12-ounce dough ball. We use a dough roller to flatten our dough. The dough is cut down to about a 10 1⁄2-inch circle. Then we use two ounces of pizza sauce and apply it to only one side of the flat. Ingredients are then added to the sauced side, followed by three ounces of mozzarella cheese. The dough is then folded over and we carefully pinch the edges together. We give it a little fancier look by using our knuckles to press the dough together. You can also get a great look by using a fork. Then we cut a small slit into the top of the calzone to be sure the toppings inside are cooked thoroughly. The finished calzone is placed in the oven right on the stone at 500 F for about 10 minutes or until slightly brown. We cut them into four equal portions before serving.
I would recommend that all pizzeria owners add calzones with a word of advice: you must market them. Calzones are extremely versatile, easy to make and can be very profitable. Customers do need to be educated on what a calzone is and how wonderful they are. Trust me: you’ll be happy you added them!
Brian Weavel owns Anna’s Pizza & Pasta in Winnebago, Illinois. He won Pizza Today’s contest to serve as guest editor for the September 2014 issue.