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A Management Philosophy As Fresh As The Menu: Innovative Leadership and Pizza

When you think of innovative, California-style pizza, one place comes to mind. California Pizza Kitchen, named “America’s Best Pizza Chain” by The Daily Meal, pioneered creative pizza creations in 1989 and is returning to its roots. The new menu items and redesigned restaurants are rolling out across the country. California Pizza Kitchen at International Mall, in Tampa, FL, is lucky to be one of the flagship restaurants.

“Florida is one of the most receptive markets, ” said Brandon Rigolini, at a recent Tampa Bay Bloggers event, sponsored by the California Pizza Kitchen at International Mall. Regional marketing manager and brand ambassador for CPK, Rigolini added, “Our goal was to test the concept for the new design and new menu in multiple markets across the country to gather rounded feedback. Many of the things we’re most famous for to this day are the ones that initially made people think we were crazy.” The new menu and store decor is designed to put diners in a “California mindset.” From gluten-free pizza to an inspired new selection of cocktails, food-lovers will find unique creations to please their pallet.

But it’s not just new menu items people will notice at the International Mall CPK. You’ll find your servers to be as excited about the change as you are to sample the new dishes. “If the staff has fun, people will enjoy their experience,” says general manager, Angela Monteleone. Her goal is to encourage her employees to have fun with the customers. Shawn, one of the servers at the event, talked about a game he plays with his tables that highlights the store’s new “wine wall. “It gets the table focused on the dining experience (and not their cell phones).”

The new eco-friendly wine wall is the restaurant focal-point.

The new eco-friendly wine wall is the restaurant focal-point.

In discussing the new menu, the staff and management show a refreshing excitement for the new developments. Monteleone has great respect for the innovation brought to CPK by CEO G.J. Hart, and for the CPK philosophy, “For the first time, after 20 years in the restaurant industry, I had a boss that said, ‘We are partners in this business. We fail together, and we succeed together.'” There is a mutual respect and kindness passing back and forth among the employees at the International Mall CPK. “I would never ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself,” says Monteleone, “We all roll up our sleeves to get it done.”

The new sights, sounds, and smells in the restaurant will encourage even the most reluctant of diners. California is known for its forward thinking, and the dishes at CPK reflect that mentality. The nuances of each dish change based on seasonal availability, which ensures cost-effectiveness as much as it does the best, freshest flavors. “If you look at the different categories of our menu and the unique flavor combinations that are brought to life using fresh seasonal ingredients, that’s what CPK is known for,” said Rigolini. The Brussels and Bacon Flatbread and the Sunnyside Up are a few of the imaginative pizza combinations and flatbread selections you will find.

Adventuring far beyond their original BBQ Chicken Pizza, CPK’s original innovation, the family-friendly restaurant is bringing in flavor combinations for everyone. “California Pizza Kitchen is a brand that was once synonymous with innovation and taking chances. Many of the things we’re most famous for to this day are the ones that initially made people think we were crazy” said Rigolini. More than just pizza, CPK offers salads, pasta, chicken and steak main dishes, and an ever-changing dessert selection. The Salted Carmel Pudding is a must try this Fall, and the Seasonal Harvest Sangria, made with St. Germaine, is sure to inspire your own creative thinking.

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Perfect for Florida’s warm winter, try CPK’s new Seasonal Harvest Sangria.

CPK continues to be a leader in authentic, California-style cuisine, and maintains a strong brand consumers trust. Customers earn rewards with CPK’s Pizza Dough program that gives customers a FREE small-plate just for registering. The loyalty program inspires customers “to be creative” in their dining and go along for the ride. CPK’s adventurous spirit and bold new menu items might seem risky for some restaurants, but Rigolini had this to say, “For us it’s not so much about the risk as it is about remaining authentic to who we are.”


  1. This is making my mouth water! I have not checked out CPK since the menu items have changed. Brussel sprouts and bacon?! I’m in! I’ll take my daughter, Gracie, next time we shop. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • You’re very welcome! I don’t get out to the International Mall area often, but I highly recommend making a special trip to check out CPK! Their California Roots cocktail is amazing too.

  2. Sounds like some great changes – and the Brussel & Bacon flatbread pic is making me hungry!

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