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Zpizza: The Pure One

Cover Story Features

October 15, 2011

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Treat yourself to the purest breed of pizzas at Zpizza, known for its superior quality and health-conscious cuisine.

  • (back, from left) Zpizza's Vison Purdy, Tyler Hayes, Katie Kennedy-Payne, (front, from left) Chris Llarenas and Cesar Llarenas with Zpizza favorites.
  • Customer service is priority at Zpizza.
  • Moroccan Rustica Pizza ($12.95)
  • Casablanca Pizza ($12.95 small, $23.95 large, $26.95 extra-large)
  • Italian Pizza ($12.95 small, $23.95 large, $26.95 extra-large)
  • Pear & Gorgonzola Salad ($8.50 small, $10.95 large)
  • Provence Pizza ($12.95 small, $23.95 large, $26.95 extra-large)
  • Chicken Penne Pesto Pasta ($8.95)
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This 2011 Critic’s Choice Ilima Award winner opened the doors to its Ward Centre restaurant in 2008. Since then it’s added a second location in Kailua (151 Hekili Street) and has been serving customers the finest in Southern Californian-Italian cuisine.

Dining Out recently caught up with Hawaii owner Cesar Llarenas, who with great passion for what he does, shared with us the captivating story behind Zpizza and its Southern California roots. According to Llarenas, all of Zpizzas alluring entrees begin with ingredients that are natural or certified organic.

DO: Zpizza originated in Laguna Beach, Calif., and was founded in 1986 by Sid Fanarof. Today there’s about 100 Zpizza eateries worldwide, including locations in Hawaii, California, Arizona, Washington, D.C., Virginia and New York, to name a few, along with international locations in Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Vietnam. How did you become part of the Zpizza ohana?

Llarenas: I was working at McDonald’s prior to this and always wanted to open my own restaurant — something new and relevant. I think it was my destiny to be a part of Zpizza because out of the blue in 2007 someone called me and asked me if I’d like to open a Zpizza franchise. So, I logged on to the website and soon found that Zpizza offers a very unique product that’s health conscious, and that’s something that I wanted to be a part of — something good that’s better for the whole community. I flew to California and visited some of the restaurants, and when I tasted the product I was completely sold. I fell in love with it.

DO: What was your ultimate goal when opening this pizza establishment?

Llarenas: Well, when you first open a new restaurant you need to really work at it and make sure that people know what your restaurant stands for, which for us is providing the highest quality of healthy ingredients at a reasonable price. Our target audience has always been the pizza lover who chooses to be health conscious.

DO: With heart disease and obesity on the rise, what steps does Zpizza take to promote a healthy diet and lifestyle?

Llarenas: If you look at our product, we’re really serious about every ingredient that goes into it. For example, we offer the gluten-free crust, which gives people with certain dietary restrictions the opportunity to really enjoy pizza that tastes good. And we always do our best to use the freshest local ingredients, including the Waipoli lettuce that comes from Maui in our salads. We really work hard to educate our customers so that they can eat healthy.

DO: Is there anything new that’s enticing the palates of Zpizza fans?

Llarenas: Yes! We recently launched an all-natural pure pepperoni pizza earlier this month, and the pepperoni contains no preservatives and is MSG-free and fat-free — it’s purely delicious pepperoni that’s made exclusively for Zpizza. This month we’re also giving back to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and will be donating $10 to the hospital for every case of pepperoni purchased by Zpizza locations. And in honor of National Pizza Month and its 25th anniversary, the restaurant is asking customers to help design its next pizza creation through the “Pure Pepperoni Design Your Dream Pizza” recipe contest throughout October. To enter, all you have to do is visit zpizza.com or our Facebook page for more information.

DO: Being that Zpizza teams up with many organizations such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, how important is it to give back to the community?

Llarenas: I think it’s really important for business survival because it’s the community that keep us in business, and because of that it’s necessary that we give back — helping the community and different organizations to achieve their goals. This year our nationwide goal is to raise $50,000 for St. Jude.

DO: That’s wonderful! When it comes to the delicious creations gracing the menu here, salads, pizzas, pastas and more intrigue the appetite of many diners who want a guilt-free meal. What are some of Zpizza’s most sought after items?

Llarenas: For starters, our most famous salad is the Pear & Gorgonzola salad ($8.50 small, $10.95 large) with sweet d’Anjou pear and a mild Gorgonzola with local Waipoli mixed greens and balsamic vinaigrette. Then we have our Moroccan Rustica Pizza ($12.95) with a crispier, crunchier crust, topped with basil pesto, mozzarella, roasted eggplant, feta cheese, caramelized onions and pine nuts. And when it comes to our Zpizza creations, the top picks include the Provence Pizza ($12.95 small, $23.95 large, $26.95 extra-large), one of Zpizza’s most popular vegetarian options with traditional Provence flavors, including capers, Roma tomatoes, low-fat mozzarella cheese and fresh basil; Italian Pizza ($12.95 small, $23.95 large, $26.95 extra-large) with basil pesto, mozzarella, ham artichoke hearts, fresh rounds of tomatoes and black olives; and the Casablanca Pizza ($12.95 small, $23.95 large, $26.95 extra-large) featuring roasted garlic sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and Parmesan. Finally, our Chicken Penne Pesto Pasta ($8.95) is highly requested as the penne pasta is mixed with button mushrooms, grilled chicken, basil pesto, fresh basil and pine nuts.

DO: Many diners are familiar with Zpizza’s vibrant menu options. However, what would the public be surprised to know about this particular establishment?

Llarenas: Well, I think they’d be surprised to know that our success at Zpizza in Hawaii is a result of our dedicated employees who work hard day in and day out. We currently have about 35 employees total. We wouldn’t be where we are today without them.

DO: Just out of curiosity, how many pounds of pizza dough does Zpizza go through daily?

Llarenas: On average, between the two stores I would say we go through 150-200 pounds of pizza dough a day — made fresh every morning in-house.

DO: Is there any difference between the Ward and Kailua locations?

Llarenas: They’re pretty similar, but Kailua’s location is a lot bigger in size and we do a lot more deliveries in Kailua, whereas in town, we have a lot more dine-in customers.

DO: Does Zpizza offer catering services as well?

Llarenas: Yes, if people are interested in taking advantage of our catering services they can inquire within at any one of our locations and we’ll be more than happy to help you.

DO: Cesar, what is the most rewarding aspect of being the owner of Zpizza?

Llarenas: Having gone through the process of opening up my own restaurant has been extremely rewarding, as well as being able to cater to the people of Hawaii — I love working and interacting with people — and this job really is my passion. I’m definitely in the right business. I can honestly say that I’ve sampled everything on the menu and I am always excited to showcase new menu items.

zpizza

  • Where
    • Ward Centre
    • 1200 Ala Moana Boulevard
    • Honolulu, HI 96814
    •  
    • Kailua
    • 151 Hekili Street
    • Kailua, HI 96734
  • Call
    • (808) 596-0066 (Ward)
    • (808) 230-8400 (Kailua)
  • Hours
    • Ward
    • 10 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
    • Sunday – Thursday
    • 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
    • Friday – Saturday
    •  
    • Kailua
    • 10 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
    • Sunday – Thursday
    • 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
    • Friday – Saturday
  • Website