If you saw me last week walking around with a tv camera in tow, don’t be alarmed; I’m not campaigning for public office again. Or if you spotted me on the Wash U campus, never fear, I’ve not taken up academia either. Perhaps you recognized me wearing an apron and pounding dough in a pizza kitchen on Skinker, well, you’re getting warm.
Channel 5 Interview with Heidi Glaus
Last Friday morning I interviewed with Channel 5’s Heidi Glaus of Show Me St. Louis. Our venue: the kitchen of Chris Sommer’s newest pizza parlor located next to BoBo Noodle House and Kayak’s near Washington University. The segment will air on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 10 a.m. on Channel 5.
The Delishousness Is in the Details
What fun to go “back stage” for a preview of the kitchen, where the action will soon take place when ‘Zza Pizza opens next month. (‘Zza—the final 3 letters in pizza—rhymes with lah). Chris Sommers is like a new father (a role he already plays exceptional well with his two youngsters). He proudly introduced me to his new Turbo Chef oven. Man, he’s lovin’ that oven—as well he should. It cooks a pizza in two minutes flat! Cooking times like that definitely move pizza into the fast food category.
In another salute to technology, Chris pointed to a small plastic cube on the check out counter, where patrons can scan a cell phone app to pay for their orders. “We are totally paperless,” he added. “Even our check lists and training manuals are computerized.”
The motto on ‘Zza’s rectangle-shaped carryout boxes reads “Never Settle.” It’s a reminder to pay attention to the details. As one of the founders of award-winning Pi Pizzeria (locations in St. Louis, Cincinnati, DC area), Chris has learned that good business practices make for better kitchen outcomes and happier customers.
But ‘Zza is not merely a re-hash of Sommer’s Pi Pizzeria. The fast-casual concept combines a new taste, shape, and marketing approach. The oblong, thin-crust pizza with the glamorized toppings was inspired by those Chris found in trendy pizza kitchens in San Francisco.
While the number of pizza and salad options is modest, there’s enough variety to suit most tastes. The menu board lists 9 different pizzas and 6 salads, each for $9. The Half and Half option gets you some of both for $13.
In addition to the typical sausage, pepperoni, and cheese topped pizzas, there’s also a barbecued chicken, a veggie, and a Thai sensation with peanut sauce. The six salads on the menu include Cobb, Greek, Mexican, barbecued chicken, chopped salad and the poke bowl (pronounced “po-kay”) with ahi tuna.
In the Kitchen
The first thing I noticed in the small kitchen was how efficiently it was organized. I was envious. If only I could get my condo kitchen working that smoothly. My kitchen is as chaotic as Donald Trump’s “well-oiled machine.”
Opening Day in March
Chris and his crew are putting the finishing touches on the casual, but chic, 1,600-foot space in preparation for a March opening. The day I was there, the paint was still fresh on a pair of eye-catching, original art works by sign painter Phil Jarvis. Sleek white tables and chairs filled the eating area, a space that’s pleasantly bathed in light from the long side window.
Being located a stone’s throw from the Wash U campus and a nearby Metrolink stop assures a steady flow of foot traffic in the area. Whenever you drop by, you can bet Chris and his crew will be there with warm smiles and pizzas to match.
‘Zza Pizza, 282 N. Skinker. Opening in March 2017.