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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Worldly Cuisine

Randy Hobson’s restaurants strive to expand Evansville’s palate

During a 25-year career with Berry Global, Randy Hobson got to explore the world and found he loved experiencing different cultures and the foods they offered.

Hobson decided at age 47 to leave the plastics industry for the volatile world of restaurants. Some would call that crazy, he admits today. But Hobson’s mission, then and now, was to offer Evansville area residents cuisine they had never tried.

He remembers his first Neapolitan-style pizza. It was in 1990 in Phoenix, Arizona, at a place called Pizzeria Bianco. It’s a different variety from the cracker-crust style commonly offered around Evansville, and it’s prepared daily at Hobson’s Pangea Kitchen with imported tomatoes and flour, and a wood-burning oven from Naples, Italy.

Photo of grilled shrimp buns by Zach Straw

Hobson patterns the menu and procedures at Pangea Kitchen on Evansville’s East Side and 2nd Language and Pangea Pizzeria in the city’s NoCo District the same way as his favorite restaurants all over the world.

“I traveled to these places, and I saw the stuff done that was very ethnic, very passionate about ingredients,” the Vincennes, Indiana, native says. “And that has been our model … We’re going to do it authentically.”

A former quarterback for the University of Evansville (UE cut football after 1997), Hobson opened Pangea Kitchen on Green River Road in 2016, offering Italian delicacies such as pistachio pizza, which remains a top seller, and Thai-influenced selections.

Photo of 2nd Language and Pangea Pizzeria by Laura Mathis

Then came 2nd Language, where Hobson brought authentic Asian ramen dishes to the renovated former National Biscuit Company building on Northwest Second Street. It opened in 2020, a year after a pastry operation debuted at the same site. In 2022, the patisserie was replaced by Pangea Pizzeria, which offers the Neapolitan offerings from Pangea Kitchen in a by-the-slice format.

Hobson is mum on any future moves, but his goal of bringing a more worldly food culture to Evansville remains unchanged.

“People tell me all the time, ‘I don’t like Brussels sprouts, but man, I really like yours,’” he says. “What also makes me happy is when people come in and they visit our restaurant and they say, ‘I was in Naples, Italy, and I ate pizza like this pizza,’ or ‘I was in Detroit, and your pie is as good.’”

“That was my passion, to create a better food culture in this city,” he says. “And that’s why I do what I do.”

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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