In Z Pizza kitchen with Z grand chef

August 26, 2005|By: Elle Harrow and Terry Markowitz

"It's not a crust; it's a canvas."

In 1986, the day before the first Z Pizza was to open, the

charming and very chatty Sid Fanaroff said that he and his then

partner Suzie Megroz still hadn't figured out how to make dough in

quantity. She had told him that she knew how to make pizza, but it

was really pastry dough for a French onion tart -- which looks like a

little pizza. When the giant dough mixer and oven were finally in


place, Sid experimented with the recipe that came with the mixer. It

didn't work! Endless variations also failed and brought him to the

point of extreme frustration. He finally threw a wad of dough against

the wall and abandoned the rest in the mixer.

There it remained until the arrival of their knowledgeable and

upbeat food supplier who found the partners quite dejected. "What's

the problem? There's nothing wrong with this dough," he said,

removing the dough from the wall and proceeding to make a pizza and

bake it. It was delicious. In fact, it was the best they'd ever


What they hadn't realized, with their total lack of experience,

was that the dough needed to rise before baking.

Also, one of those fortuitous accidents occurred that often happen

in the food business. Purchasing their basic ingredients in quantity,

they bought dry yeast instead of wet, unaware that dry is twice as

potent. The happy result of their ignorance was a lighter dough that

became their signature.

One problem solved, countless more to follow. The food business

was in Sid Fanarof's blood. As a child, he was told that his

grandfather in Berlin was in the poultry and ice cream business. When

old enough to be intrigued by this conundrum, he asked, "Well, which

was it"?

"Chicken in the winter and ice cream in the summer," his

grandfather said. There was no demand for geese and ducks when the

weather was hot, but everybody wanted ice cream.

Sid's parent's escaped Hitler's Europe in 1939. His father was a

cook in the U.S. army and after the war opened a deli and catering

business in Boyle Heights. At 10, Sid was bussing tables and working

the cash register. At 20, he captained the catering staff at parties.

Attempting to find his own way, he and his brother opened an

innovative optometry business with a celebrity clientele. He also

dabbled in real estate.

An early mid-life crisis, precipitated in part by the death of two

young friends, led him to take an enormous risk and relocate to

Laguna Beach, a place that was special to him, even as a child. As an

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