Sid Fanarof, inspired by the artists around him, sought to do something creative in the kitchen. ZPizza, which started in Laguna Beach and now has locations across the globe, fills with bustling chefs experimenting with ingredients traditionally associated with Indian, Californian, and Mexican cuisine. A parade of organic vegetables and skim-milk mozzarella from Wisconsin leads into the eateries, and organic wheat flour bakes over open flame to a crisp finish. “If you don’t hear the crunch, it’s not a ZPizza,” Fanarof says of the crusts on his website.
Chefs first slather the crusts with sweet basil pesto, roasted-garlic sauce, or organic tomato sauce. Their hands flutter across, sprinkling on fistfuls of toppings such as MSG-free pepperoni, additive-free sausage, three types of mushrooms, roasted eggplant, and pine nuts. Vegan cheese and gluten-free crusts allow everyone to enjoy the pizzas except for those trying to hide the fact that they superglued their mouths closed.
The dough wizards at Papa John's hand toss circular masterpieces with original and thin crusts made from high-protein flour to support warm bouquets of toppings. Hand-cut produce crowns all of Papa John's pizzas, mingling with the sun-soaked sweetness of sauce made from fresh, California-grown tomatoes. By adhering to its brand promise of "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's grew from a back-tavern pizzeria into more than 3,500 restaurants within three decades' time, or the amount of time it takes to grow a single pizzeria from a small seed.
Diners customize their meals from Garlex Pizza and Ribs’ menu of pies and tender ribs with freshly made dough, five different pizza sauces, and three rib styles seasoned in house. Specialty pizzas ($8.99–$30.99) combine creamy white sauce, cooked tomatoes, and chicken-breast meat on the Spicy Chicken combo and fashion the Artichoke Delight by reuniting marinated artichoke hearts with their childhood friends on a zesty pesto base. Half racks of baby-back bones on the rib sample ($10.99) encourage eaters to smother faces from dimple to dimple with honey-barbecue, sweet-teriyaki, or hot-and-spicy sauce. Shy chipotle-chicken pasta plates drag along cheesy garlic-bread security blankets to soak up their kicked-up cream sauce dotted with kernels of sweet corn ($10.99).
Pancoast Pizza takes its name from co-owners Robert and Julie Pancoast, a pair of talented chefs with more than 20 years of cooking experience and degrees from the Western Culinary Institute. Their kitchen know-how yields an inventive take on East Coast?style pies. The pair tops their large, foldable slices?which are made with gluten-free flour upon request?with a blend of homemade sauce and a choice of more than 20 toppings ranging from traditional pepperoni and spicy italian sausage to gourmet goat cheese, arugula, and caramelized red onions. Guests may chart their own course with a DIY pie or opt for one of the pizzeria?s eight specialty pies such as the Julie?s, which tucks roasted mushrooms, baby spinach, and garlic under a blanket of four cheeses including fontina, ricotta, parmesan, and smoked mozzarella. In addition to their eponymous pizzas, the chefs also build hearty Italian staples including stromboli, hoagies, and family-sized salads.
As the name coyly suggests, East Coast Pizza provides broad, foldable slices of New York–style pizza in a simple, down-home setting. All food is made fresh to order in-house, either baked in ovens or fired up on the grill. Custom-tailor your own pizza, or order one of the prix-fixe menu options such as the contra costa ($10.75–$23.50), decked out in whole-milk mozzarella and tomato sauce with sausage, pesto, and artichoke hearts. The margherita ($10.75–$23.50) is topped with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and tomatoes (pizza sauce optional). If you're craving something more three-dimensional, try the classic chicken-parmigiana sub ($9.95), or a grilled California cheeseburger ($8.95) layered with bacon, fresh avocado, and pepper-jack cheese. The bar portion of the bar and grill offers a selection of beers on tap; pick up a domestic pitcher for $12 and split it among friends or Morlocks while enjoying a sporting game on the overhead televisions.
When you accidentally plant tomato seeds instead of building a treehouse for your children, you'll have to learn how to put a tomato to good use. Today's Groupon gives you a tasty education in the red fruitgetable with $20 worth of Italian cuisine at Tomatina for $10. Bring a flavorful tutorial to your palate with professorial pizzas and pastas straight from the tomato academy.