Variety, speed are delights at W. Toledo pizza and Mediterranean restaurant.
Diavola pizza from ZaZa's
In a shopping center off Secor Road with a parking lot dotted with mountains of snow, one sign beckons with its illustration of an oven with warm flames and the words "ZaZa Wood-Fired Pizza & Mediterranean Cuisine."
If the steady stream of people on a recent Friday at noon is any indication, ZaZa, which shares the commercial strip with a UPS Store, Savers, Al Smith's Place, and other establishments, has learned how to draw customers. There is nothing especially fancy about the decor: Windows that look out on the parking lot, tables and a few booths, and clean. But behind the counter is the main attraction, a wood-fired oven that was imported from Italy, according to the restaurant's Web site, and turns out an interesting menu of pizzas.
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Address: 3550 Executive Pkwy.
Menu: Italian and Mediterranean.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Wheelchair access: Yes.
Average Price: $$
Credit Cards: AE, Dis, MC, V.
Web site: Zazawoodfiredpizza.com
The ZaZa method of service is built for people on lunch or dinner breaks as well as more leisurely diners. You are greeted by friendly staff at a counter who take food and beverage orders, accept payment, and hand out numbers to place on tables. Before very long at all your food is in front of you — one of our dining companions ordered a pizza, and although we were not timing it, the pizza seemed to arrive in less than 10 minutes.
Those thin-crust pizzas apparently are ZaZa's claim to fame. The menu features 23 of them, priced at $7 to $12.50 and divided into Classic, Veggie, and Signature types. There also is a Create Your Own Pizza section with a base price of $7 and a choice of individually priced cheeses, homemade sauce or no sauce, vegetables, meats, and items that include imported tuna, eggs, shrimp, and anchovy. There is no charge for garlic, fresh basil, and oregano. The menu notes that all pizzas are about 12 inches, and recommends one per adult.
On our first visit at lunchtime, we ordered Diavola pizza ($9.50); the menu says it has ZaZa blend cheese, fresh tomato sauce, sliced beef pepperoni, roasted peppers, and spicy extra virgin olive oil. We agreed that it was tasty, with a delicious thin crust and good toppings, but it could have used a little more heat; our friend speculated that perhaps the kitchen is trying to accommodate less adventuresome tastes, so fans of spicy food might want to ask for more.
A few days later we got the Margherita pizza ($7, with fresh mozzarella, pizza sauce, and basil) as part of a takeout order, and it too was quite good, but more of the fresh basil would have made it even better. Our only disappointment was the Lentil Soup ($2.49 and $3.39) — it was bland.
Interesting pizzas include the Quattro Stagioni ($11), that boasts sautéed mushrooms, turkey ham, herb-marinated artichokes, kalamata olives, fresh pizza sauce, and the ZaZa cheese blend, and the Salsiccia ($11.50) with turkey sausage, onions, eggs, and shaved parmesan.
Chicken Shawarma at ZaZas
Pizzas might seem to be the stars, but headliners also include Lasagna, served with soup or a side salad for $9.99. The dish was not the tall stack of layers some people might expect, but it was delicious, a generous serving of pasta and cheese topped with a delicately spiced meat sauce. The Mediterranean portion of the menu included vegetarian Falafel priced at $5.49 for the sandwich and $8.99 for the platter (all platters are served with rice or fries and soup or side salad); Chicken Shawarma ($5.99 and $8.99), thin, marinated slices of broiled chicken, onions, garlic sauce, and pickles, which we ordered as takeout one evening with rice and a side salad and would heartily recommend it, but with slightly more sauce; Gyro ($5.99 and $8.99), and Vegetarian Grape Leaves with hummus, romaine, and tomatoes ($5.99 and $8.99). There also are a Vegetarian Plate ($9.99) and a Chicken Tawook Plate ($8.99).
There are three kinds of Calzoni, priced at $9, and five salads — Fattoush, Greek, Spring, Spinach, and Tabbouli, in small ($4.99) and large ($6.49) servings. Grilled chicken or gyro meat can be added for $2.99. One of our dining companions ordered the Greek Salad and enjoyed it, saying that it was crisp and fresh, with an especially nice dressing.
The back of the menu notes that the restaurant is "vegan-friendly, where food is prepared fresh daily ... without the use of MSG or preservatives," and a large vegetarian selection.
Desserts include Tiramisu ($3.99), Baklava ($1.99), and cheesecake ($2.99), which we are looking forward to sampling on another visit.
Contact Bill of Fare at email@example.com.
Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants. The Blade pays for critics' meals.