Mintel Menu Insights' November trend report predicted that restaurants would focus on regional cuisine in 2010. Just prior to that, the foodservice research institution published a paper called "Pizza on the Menu" highlighting industry trends. One of the featured items was Uno Chicago Grill's New England-inspired lobster roll from Q2 2009, which Mintel praised as an exercise in menu differentiation. Uno executive chef Chris Gatto confirmed that the item was a bestseller.
Now the deep dish pizza giant is building on those menu predictions and forecasts, taking advantage of another particular American flavor profile, whose main ingredients also happen to offer great pizza toppings. Just in time for New Orleans' JazzFest, Uno Chicago Grill is celebrating its New Orleans Jazz Festival of Flavors with brand new Cajun and Creole flavors beginning April 13 and running through May.
Each Uno restaurant will celebrate the culture of New Orleans with music, food and atmosphere. The menu will feature a variety of new flavors derived from Cajun, Creole, Spanish and French cuisines.
Chris Gatto, Uno executive chef, said the cuisine and theme were a hit during last year's JazzFest season. "The food of New Orleans has lots of flavors and different influences," he said. "People are just looking for flavorful food."
Gatto said if this year's promotion is as successful as last year's, it may become a yearly event.
New menu items include Chicken Sausage Gumbo, a thick soup filled with chunks of chicken, smoked andouille sausage, okra, bell pepper, celery, onion and rice.
"Gumbo is one of the first things people think of when they think of Creole cuisine," said Gatto. "It has long been referred to as the greatest contribution of Louisiana kitchens to American cuisine."
The dish has its origins in the meeting of cultures that occurred in Louisiana during the 18th century.
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Other featured menu items include Voodoo Bones with Bourbon BBQ Sauce, a staple in the South. The dish features slow-roasted, tender New Orleans-seasoned ribs served with Uno's own sweet and smoky Maker's Mark bourbon BBQ sauce.
Since Uno is known for its deep dish pizza, there also is a Jambalaya Deep Dish, a Cajun/Creole version of Spanish Paella.
"Our deep dish is a 'mix up' of chicken, shrimp and andouille sausage, a marvelous Creole red sauce, caramelized onions and plum tomatoes layered with cheese," Gatto said.
For seafood lovers, there's Creole Shrimp on Fresh Pappardelle, a saute of shrimp, peppers, onions and plum tomatoes tossed with a spicy tomato sauce and fresh pappardelle.
For those who enjoy some spice, Uno's Blackened Chicken Fettuccine combines blackened spiced chicken with spinach, plum tomatoes, mushrooms, jalapeno alfredo sauce and fettuccine.
To complement these flavorful dishes, Uno is offering some new cocktails, like the Creole Margarita that blends Cuervo Gold Tequila and GranGala Triple Orange Liqueur. Also featured is the Big Easy Bloody Mary, featuring Skyy Vodka and a proprietary blend of spices "kicked" with a rim of Cajun spices and garnished with spicy Buffalo Cheddar and an olive.