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.
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.