25 Years of Pizza
Z Pizza, a Laguna Beach original, celebrates its 25th anniversary. –By Jason Sanford | Photo by Jody Tiongco
You know you’ve done something right when a tiny 600-square-foot pizza joint turns into a franchise so prominent that it’s just as easy to order a pie in Reno as it is in Riyadh. This is the magnificent development of the revolutionary Z Pizza, a trendsetting vision well ahead of its time that was born and raised right here in Laguna Beach.
Sid Fanarof, founder of Z Pizza, recently chatted with Laguna Beach Magazine about the location, the spirit and the ingredients that started Laguna’s biggest culinary export.
LBM: Tell us about how Z Pizza got its start here in 1986.
SF: My partner and I originally had the idea of doing either Mexican food or French, but we found this location, and the only thing that could really fit here was pizza. And neither of us knew anything about making pizza, so we literally took a recipe out of a book and went from there. It caught on here by offering quality pizza at ordinary prices.
LBM: There are many options for people who want pizza nowadays, so what is it that sets Z Pizza apart?
SF: Our pizza is made better, not faster, which makes sense since less than a third of our business is delivery. We use organic ingredients, and offer gluten-free options for all our pizzas—we like to do well while we do good if you know what I mean. Our pizzas have better ingredients and are better for you—you don’t need to use a napkin to mop up the grease; it’s pizza you can feel good about eating.
LBM: How did Z Pizza go from one tiny store in South Laguna to more than 100 franchises in places as far as Vietnam and the Middle East?
SF: It started with quality; we were the first to make gourmet pizzas at affordable prices, and it just spread by word of mouth. Most of our franchisees actually come from just eating in our stores. Also, we try to do good things like use recycled cups and boxes, and we also take pizzas to the local homeless shelter once a month.
LBM: You take a lot of pride in your pizza being a healthy alternative to most, so what makes Z Pizza a better option?
SF: Well, we bring gourmet to the table at fast food prices. We’re proud of being innovative and ahead of trends, with our organic ingredients and crust. We’re always looking to improve the quality and bring more organic, health-conscious ingredients to the menu. For instance, we use pepperonis without nitrates or preservatives, and we also use fresh pineapple instead of from a can, as an example.
LBM: So what do you see on the horizon?
SF: We just opened Z Café in South Coast Plaza, which is a really nice venue, but we’re just going to keep improving the quality of our food. And if you’ve never had Z Pizza, taste it and you’ll understand. LBM