"It's not a crust; it's a canvas."
In 1986, the day before the first Z Pizza was to open, the
charming and very chatty Sid Fanaroff said that he and his then
partner Suzie Megroz still hadn't figured out how to make dough in
quantity. She had told him that she knew how to make pizza, but it
was really pastry dough for a French onion tart -- which looks like a
little pizza. When the giant dough mixer and oven were finally in
place, Sid experimented with the recipe that came with the mixer. It
didn't work! Endless variations also failed and brought him to the
point of extreme frustration. He finally threw a wad of dough against
the wall and abandoned the rest in the mixer.
There it remained until the arrival of their knowledgeable and
upbeat food supplier who found the partners quite dejected. "What's
the problem? There's nothing wrong with this dough," he said,
removing the dough from the wall and proceeding to make a pizza and
bake it. It was delicious. In fact, it was the best they'd ever
What they hadn't realized, with their total lack of experience,
was that the dough needed to rise before baking.
Also, one of those fortuitous accidents occurred that often happen
in the food business. Purchasing their basic ingredients in quantity,
they bought dry yeast instead of wet, unaware that dry is twice as
potent. The happy result of their ignorance was a lighter dough that
became their signature.
One problem solved, countless more to follow. The food business
was in Sid Fanarof's blood. As a child, he was told that his
grandfather in Berlin was in the poultry and ice cream business. When
old enough to be intrigued by this conundrum, he asked, "Well, which
"Chicken in the winter and ice cream in the summer," his
grandfather said. There was no demand for geese and ducks when the
weather was hot, but everybody wanted ice cream.
Sid's parent's escaped Hitler's Europe in 1939. His father was a
cook in the U.S. army and after the war opened a deli and catering
business in Boyle Heights. At 10, Sid was bussing tables and working
the cash register. At 20, he captained the catering staff at parties.
Attempting to find his own way, he and his brother opened an
innovative optometry business with a celebrity clientele. He also
dabbled in real estate.
An early mid-life crisis, precipitated in part by the death of two
young friends, led him to take an enormous risk and relocate to
Laguna Beach, a place that was special to him, even as a child. As an
adult, it represented a more bohemian life style which was laid back
and creative. He took a job at Nolan Real Estate and eventually
bought Spigot Liquor which he transformed into a "beach store,"
bringing in higher quality food, beer and wine.
He sold it for a healthy profit and began looking for a new
challenge that would be an outlet for his bursting creative energy. A
serendipitous confluence of opportunities then occurred. One of his
ideas was to open a healthy Mexican restaurant using fresh
ingredients. Running into his former wine saleswoman, Suzie, he
mentioned this idea. She said she had owned a restaurant in Provence
and was interested in a partnership, but was imagining a French cafe.
Neither of them were thinking pizza.
A friend took him to see a restaurant that was for sale. The
owner, Nick, was the pizza version of the "Soup Nazi" but he made
fabulous pizza and had a tremendous base of loyal customers. Sid had
a pizza epiphany. He was so impressed by people's passionate devotion
to the product they loved, that he decided his future was in pizza.
An extremely persuasive talker, Sid finally got Suzie to say, "OK,
I can do that."
Sid's real estate savvy then led him to an available storefront in
the Albertson's shopping center. His artistic design vision led to
the creation of a new modern look for a pizza place while Suzie's
French background gave it a certain cache. In addition, she happened
to know two out-of-work French chefs who were delighted to get a job
working in the kitchen.
Then came the Pepperoni Wars, during which they struggled to blend
their concepts. The result was a health conscious, handmade gourmet
pizza. Sid got his Mexican pizza with spicy lime chicken, salsa,
avocado and sour cream and Suzie got her Mediterranean with pesto,
sundried tomatoes, roasted peppers, eggplant, olives and feta cheese.
Suzie's French accent was inadvertently responsible for the name
of the business. She was always saying, "zee pizza ziss, and zee
pizza zat." After endless processing sessions, in which she pushed
for Pissisimo, Sid said, "Why don't we just call it Z Pizza. I can't
Thus, a local landmark was born. Many creative pizzas later, Suzie
and Sid parted ways. Five years after that, as Z was growing slowly,
a customer, Chris Bright, who was in the franchise business,
approached Sid with the idea of expanding Z Pizza nationally. Five
years later, working as a team, Chris has been responsible for
franchising it across the country. Now there are 50 stores in
operation and 150 in development. A new design concept with it's
flagship store will have it's grand opening next year in Laguna.
Sid says: "'It's not a crust, it's a canvas.' That's our motto and
it reflects Laguna's creative atmosphere. Z Pizza couldn't have been
born anywhere else. My job now, as the company grows larger, is to
keep the integrity of the product as it was conceived."
When asked what he plans for the future, he is full of ideas: a
totally different restaurant concept; a Watsu Healing Center in the
Canyon; and more community and charity work. Sid loves the creative
side of business but not the running of it and has a similar
philosophy when it comes to cooking. He loves to shop, but not really
to cook. With that in mind, here is one of his favorite recipes.
PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM RAVIOLI WITH ARTICHOKE LEMON PESTO
This is really easy, especially if you get someone else to wash
the dishes. Serves 4
2 packages Trader Joe's Giant Portobello Mushroom Ravioli
1 container Trader Joes Artichoke Lemon Pesto
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
3 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1. Go to Trader Joe's and buy ingredients
2. Cook ravioli according to package directions. Drain
3. Toss with remaining ingredients.
VARIATIONS from Terry and Elle
Add the grated zest of one lemon.
Thin pesto with 3 tablespoon of hot pasta cooking water.
Add 1/2 cup warmed edamame beans or asparagus tips.
Garnish with shredded basil.