Z best by far

Z best by far

Pasadena becomes the latest location of nutritious and delicious Z Pizza

03/07/2013

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After checking out the low caloric content of obviously fresh, nutritious ingredients, and tasting both innovative and classic preparations, I’d say Z Pizza can be recommended by both doctors and pie lovers from Brooklyn to the Jersey Shore.

That Z is trying to put the best available ingredients to wise use is reflected in this printed blurb on the menu by co-founder Sid Fanarof: “All of Z Pizza’s delicious food starts with ingredients that are natural or certified organic — from fresh veggies grown by local farmers to award-winning mozzarella from grass-fed Wisconsin cows. Our pizzas are fire-baked for a crispier crust. If it doesn’t crunch, it’s not a Z Pizza.”

After taking a bite of the “Napoli,” Fanarof had made his point. With the pizza’s red and juicy slices of tomato, I pictured in my mind a farmer’s truck parked outside.

Tomatoes are set deliciously on minty fresh basil, melted mozzarella and roasted garlic sauce. On a separate slice of the “Italian” pizza, I tasted fresh rounds of tomatoes that blended perfectly with ham, artichoke hearts, mozz, basil, pesto and black olives.

Some friends tell me they go for the “Berkeley Vegan’s” assembly of vegan cheese, veggie burger crumbles, zucchini, tomatoes, red onions, bell peppers, marinara sauce and mushrooms, which inspire the wall motto: “For our mushrooms, we think outside of the can.”

For zestier zingers, others tell me that they go for either the “Mexican” pizza, with spicy lime chicken, or the “Thai,” with chicken spiced with hot chilies and peanut sauce.

In all, Z serves 12 special international creations and five classics. To turn out myriad pizzas that are at once savory and salubrious, it’s like there’s an organic chef/chemist at work, bringing just the right molecules together, including leaner meats, but not artificial flavors, fillings or substitutes.

The menu lists “calorie count” ranges for each pizza slice. Small 10-inch whole pizzas cost between $7.25 and $10.50; a large, 14 inches, costs from $13.50 to $17.50; and an extra large, 18 inches, ranges from $17.50 to $21.50..
Along with pizza, there’s an array of soups and salads and sandwiches. Any two pizza slices, or half salads or sandwiches, are available for $5.95; any three goes for $7.75.

That day’s special chili soup was as good as I’ve ever had — and I’ve judged many a chili-making contest. But after taking a bowl home, it lost some of its viscosity after sitting in the refrigerator overnight. Not to worry, though. It bounced back the next day after I added a splash of boiling water.

Not to be ignored, the regular pear and Gorgonzola salad — sweet pears, sliced vanishingly thin, mated perfectly with slightly pungent Gorgonzola, roasted candied walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette dressing — goes for $5.95.

After all the pizza, soup and salad, I came away from the table totally satisfied, but far from gorged.

Students at Pasadena City College, directly across Colorado Boulevard, won’t have to run laps around the track to stay in shape after eating at Z Pizza. Just in case that’s not enough food, however, the parlor can meet brawny appetites head-on with personalized “build-your-own” pies. Manager Patrick Hovsepian indicated that most guests display judicious good taste in building their own meals.

Hovsepian recalls one fellow whose amassment of extras brought discomfort to bystanders. Ordering an extra-large “ZBQ,” a popular pizza grounded with barbecued chicken, mozzarella, roasted peppers, red onions, tomatoes, cilantro and sweet corn, he added pepperoni and mushrooms, plus feta, ricotta and Parmesan cheeses. Normally, on super-sized pizzas extra toppings cost $2.25 each ($1.35, small; $2, large). “I didn’t know exactly what to charge him,” said Hovsepian, “so I gave him a break.”

Opening in 1986 in a Laguna Beach art colony where very particular people congregate, the franchise now has more than 100 outlets nationally, plus units in Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Viet Nam. It seems Z Pizza has turned the creation of healthy pizza into something of an art form.

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