Dinner Out @ ZZ's Pizza

What actually got me to ZZ's Pizza was a Restaurant.com coupon (hat tip: wine me, dine me - thanks for getting me to pay attention to these deals!) - nothing too big, just a $10 gift certificate that cost me $4.  Since we already wanted to go, that's money in the bank!  As we were heading toward Walnut Hills, I was thinking how this would have to be awful good pizza to warrant bringing the restaurant back into existence - and with the same recipes as the first go round.  Now I know, this is fantastic pizza!

The Food:  We ordered a couple pizzas so that we could sample the goods, and also ordered a caesar salad to get a sense of whether or not ZZ's could be a solid replacement for our typical Dewey's order.  First, we got the Shitake Mushroom Pizza - it has goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, shiitakes, and onions on a sourdough crust with olive oil and basil.  Next, we wanted to sample the whole wheat and honey crust, so we had our regular - pepperoni and green olives.

The salad came out first, and had a light, flavorful dressing that was just a bit tangy.  With grated parmesan on top, and standard crispy croutons, this salad was a pleasant surprise at a pizza place.  But, the stars of the show soon arrived.

Both pizzas were good looking for the get go, and they were as easy on the mouth/tummy as they were on the eyes.  We had red sauce on our pepperoni and olive pizza, and it was very flavorful.  I love Adriatico's spicy sauce, but this had just a hint of spiciness and was more up Sarah's alley.  The crust on both pizzas was done just right too, with a nice crunch but also a good chewiness.  But what was probably most impressive was the balance.  On both pies you could really clearly taste each ingredient, and at the same time the bases (crust, sauce, and cheese) were notably good.  It's all too common that a pizza has too much of one thing, but these were great all around.

They also have a number of interesting ingredient options - including lobster and gouda.  So, I'm not dead set on my regular order quite yet.

The Ingredients:  While there was nothing on the menu about local or organic items, we did learn a few tidbits of information that you may be interested in.  They have whole wheat crust, which is made up the street at Giminetti Baking Company.  It tasted so good, I figured it was 25% whole wheat or so, but they told us it is 75-80% whole wheat - in terms of eating a healthier pizza, that's a significant step in the right direction!  We also noted that the ingredients really tasted quite fresh at ZZ's, which isn't always the case, particularly at pizza joints that tend to stockpile ingredients for the long haul, often to a flavor seekers demise.

The Story, Setting, & Service:  As I mentioned at the top, ZZ's has the unique distinction of opening and the closing again several years later.  Polly Campbell explained this a bit, but the best explanation I've read comes directly from the source - the back of the menu (and also on the About Us part of ZZ's web page).  I'll refrain from repeating the story myself, but will say that one of the original owner's was there when we were, so it's clear they're keeping an eye on things!

The service was solid - one server for a nearly empty weekday night, but he was very nice and had a good sense of humor.  At one point one of the owners came out of the back (the kitchen can be seen through a glass window, but my back was to it).  We got to talking a bit after I overheard him talking about the Taste of Cincinnati.  There was some buzz about how the Taste is not so accessible because of how expensive it is for small businesses.  We tend not to even go because of how often the food is poor and mass produced by mostly chain places, but it was great to hear that ZZ's really enjoyed doing Taste, and thought it was worth it as a small guy.  I am really hopeful that it will become affordable to others in future years so that the event will only continue to grow.

Finally, ZZ's has a small triangular interior and a number of great prints of Cincinnati locations on the walls. They're on Gilbert Avenue in Walnut Hills, just down the hill from where it hits McMillan.  The neighborhood has struggled, so there's not a ton of foot traffic at the store front.  Hopefully, people will learn its worth the trip and local folks will embrace it as well.

I was thinking this pizza would have to be "bring back the dead" good.  And as it turns out, zombies may come back to life after eating this pie.  Adriatico's is solidly in first place in our pizza rotation, but especially for specialty ingredients, ZZ's is either tied or in a close second.  You should definitely go give this place a try.

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