Farewell, pizza. Hello, bubbles.
In two weeks, the Avanti Food Corporation — which also owns Gia Pronto — will replace Taglio at 3716 Spruce St. with TBowl, a fast casual restaurant featuring bubble tea crafted by Penn students.
College sophomore Arthur Kuan and Engineering junior Benjamin Shyong founded Boba Bros Bubble Tea right out of Shyong’s Rodin dorm room.
Avanti founder and Penn alumnus Marco Lentini liked the tea so much that he completely revamped his Italian eatery into a restaurant that lent itself to the Penn students’ concept.
“Bubble tea and pizza don’t really go together,” Lentini explained.
“Taglio didn’t generate the sales I expected,” Lentini added. “If it did, I wouldn’t have changed it.”
He attributed the lack of customers to the eatery’s loyalty to just one product, pizza.
Taglio’s pizza “had a loyal following, but that’s all it had,” he said. “I want you to have multiple options.”
Kuan and Shyong approached many vendors with their product, which uses imported tapioca from Taiwan.
After “identifying that Taglio wasn’t doing well” and hearing that Lentini “really likes to help students,” Kuan said, the two approached the Avanti founder with their idea.
Lentini let the students sell their bubble tea at the store multiple times last November. Boba Bros’ successful test runs — they once sold 400 cups of bubble tea in four hours — led to the birth of TBowl.
“We had a lot of people who were sad we changed the concept [of Taglio],” Lentini said. However, Boba Bros “was the best bubble tea I’ve ever had in the United States,” he said.
TBowl parallels Gia Pronto in its emphasis on customization. Patrons can choose from rice bowls with a base of either a long grain white rice or organic brown rice. An additional white or whole wheat wrap option cuts carbohydrates.
Just like at Gia, customers can then add additional ingredients and a protein to their bowl, and finish it with a sauce.
While a few selections are Asian-inspired, “Lemon Goddess” and “Chipotle Cheddar” sauces will adorn the menu as well. “The last thing I’d ever do is Chinese food,” Lentini said.
Kuan and Shyong’s product has its own section on Lentini’s menu. While Gia has an Espresso and Coffee Bar, TBowl will feature a Tea Bar complete with Boba Bros Bubble Tea.
Wharton freshman Nancy Liu tasted the tea at Taglio and said she now considers herself a loyal fan. “I liked the fact that they had a good variety of flavors,” she said, adding that “the sweetness of the tea is just right.”
College freshman, Singaporean national and self-described “bubble tea connoisseur” Yeong Wee wrote in an e-mail, “Compared to the bubble tea that I get back at home, [Philadelphia] doesn’t offer anything else that comes close.”
Though 3716 Spruce St. has seen many retailers — TBowl is the fifth since 2003 — Kuan, Shyong and Lentini hope for a longer presence.
“The concepts that have gone into that space maybe haven’t had success,” Lentini said.
However, “I don’t believe in it being cursed,” he continued. “I’m not superstitious.”
“Everyone’s really excited about this,” Shyong said. “We believe that our product will make a lot of customers.”
For those that still crave Taglio’s pizza “by the cut,” the Gia Pronto at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine will now feature Taglio’s menu in its entirety.Comments powered by Disqus
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