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.
Cooks at Pavlo's Pizza and Pasta rise early each day to craft fresh pizza dough and sauce for their signature pies. The crisp circlets sport never-frozen ingredients including artichoke hearts, garlic, linguica, feta cheese, and pesto sauce. At large booths, silverware clatters percussively, and delivery drivers rush past, transporting pizzas to customers staying in for the evening or pretending not to be stuck in wet cement. Half racks of baby-back ribs share the tables with oven-baked sandwiches stuffed with house-made meatballs and marinara sauce.
The menu at A-Town Pizza & Kabob House is diverse in a rather unconventional way—diners will find a mix of Italian, Afghan, and American food. Crowning the selection of 13 specialty pizzas is the A-Town special, a pie that’s buried under 20 toppings including salami, jalapeno, feta, and pineapple. Diners can choose up to four toppings to put in a calzone, and a succinct lineup of pasta dishes further solidifies the menu's allegiance to Italian tradition. Afghan spices, meanwhile, flavor lamb, beef, or chicken kabobs, and, like the edible ink used to sign the Constitution, sandwiches and hot wings burst with all-American flavors.
Linger at one of The New Ristorante Forli's tables long enough, and owners Gabriele Davanzante or Russ Belleci might sidle up to the table to tell a joke or spontaneously burst into an Old Italian song. Flourishes like these imbue The New Ristorante Forli with the aura of a traditional Italian trattoria. In addition to a pair of jovial Italian hosts, The New Ristorante Forli cements its status as a cultural bastion by plating classic dishes such as osso bucco and braised lamb shank. Tuscan chianti and California pinot grigio punctuate the restaurant’s extensive wine list. Additionally, dining companions can cast aside games of napkin peek-a-boo and dance to live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
Garlex Pizza furnishes its menu with casual eats such as sandwiches and ribs, and builds custom pizzas on fresh dough forged from winter wheat, buttermilk, and whey. Leaf lovers sidle up to the salad bar ($6.99), where 40 mix-and-matchable items proffer combinations as varied and unique as census reports turned in by snowflakes. Half a rack fills a basket with 5–7 ribs ($11.99), whose haul is cloaked in a saucy choice of honey barbecue, sweet teriyaki, or hot-and-spicy glazes. Open-face sandwiches include the white-sauce-painted Italian ($8.99), on which salami, pepperoni, and ham sprawl across a cheese-shrouded sourdough roll. Sweet corn spells out a sonnet in creamy chipotle sauce, which deluges sliced chicken breast and penne pasta ($10.99). Pie portraitists design their own pizzas by culling crust from a trio of options and heaping them with a choice of five sauces speckled with an expansive tally of toppings ($16.99 for medium with two toppings). Dough décor includes roasted garlic, zucchini, chorizo, and barbecue chicken. Specialty pizzas include the six-meat Prego and the gourmet pesto vegetarian ($18.99 for a medium), which hosts pesto-nestled sun-dried tomatoes and moonstruck artichoke hearts.
Peek through Laurus Bistro's open-exhibition kitchen to watch executive chef Matthew Silverman concoct his contemporary Mediterranean fare, greeting diners with a fresh and daily-changing lunch and dinner menu. Pair an eligible spicy pita chip with the white-bean hummus ($9) or sip the truffled cauliflower bisque ($4–$8) to prime your mouth motors before revving up for the wood-fired pepperoni caesar flatbread, a savory dish with crisp romaine lettuce, shaved asiago, and tomato sauce ($6–$12). Alternatively, you can carefully snorkel through the bouillabaisse's broth to find mussels, clams, and halibut ($14–$25) or gently guide a flavorful flock of lamb Bolognese and tagliatelle ($9–$17) to your mouth pasture.