For today's #TinaTuesday, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Kevin Suto, President & CFO of Zachary's Chicago Pizza. Now, if this #TinaTuesday doesn't make you hungry for Pizza, then I've lost my touch.
First off, let me give you a little background on when and how Zachary's was started. Zach Zachowski (hence the name "Zachary's, as I'm sure you already caught that ;-)) and Barbara Gabel opened Zachary's in 1983. They spent several years in Chicago and in that time developed a love for Chicago style "deep dish" pizza. In 1983, they found themselves in the San Francisco Bay Area with the dream of opening their own Chicago pizza restaurant with a California twist. The search for a location began. In their search, they came across a funky little lampshade shop in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland. As luck would have it, the lampshade shop owner was ready to retire, and soon a vision became reality. After much planning and a lot of jack-hammering, Zachary's on College opened its doors for business on July 25, 1983. With the motto "We don't want to be the biggest, we want to be the best," business took off immediately and soon the 900 square foot restaurant with only 30 seats was simply too small. Just over a year later, Zach and Barbara opened a second restaurant on Solano Avenue in nearby Berkeley to meet the growing demand. In 2003, after 20 successful years in the pizza business, Zach and Barbara decided it was time to retire. Instead of selling the company to a third party buyer, they decided to sell the company to their dedicated and experienced crew via an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). Not only did this decision reward long-term Zachary's employees, but it helped to preserve the founders' vision and maintain the Zachary's culture going forward. Together with Zach and Barbara, the employee owners opened Zachary's San Ramon in September of 2006. Zachary's reached a significant milestone when they became 100% employee owned in 2010. 2013 was also a year of milestones for Zachary's. They opened Zachary's Pleasant Hill in February, and celebrated their 30th anniversary in July. They have now won over 175 (and climbing) Best Pizzaawards.
Zachary's Fun Facts:
- Kevin started as a dishwasher at Zachary's in 1984 because he wanted to earn money for guitar strings, and he is still going strong 34 years later as President & CFO (and hopefully enough guitar strings by now).
- Their College Ave. location is their flagship restaurant and considered a local institution and tourist destination.
- 30 of their pizza makers have over 10 years of Zachary's pizza making experience. 17 of them have been making Zachary's pies for over 20 years!
- Not to be confused with "Sicilian" style, "Stuffed Crust" or other "deep dish" pizzas, Zachary's Stuffed Chicago Style pizza is something else altogether. A thin layer of their house made pizza dough is tucked into a deep dish pizza pan. They then fill the pie with the highest quality cheese and any combination of fresh toppings (one of the very first to use fresh toppings on all of their Pizza's). Another thin layer of dough is then added to cover the filling. The pizza is topped with their zesty, diced tomato sauce and is slowly cooked in their oven. The top layer of dough will melt into the cheese and seal in flavor as the flaky, buttery crust bakes until it is golden brown. They are considered one of the first places, outside of Chicago, to serve authentic Chicago stuffed pizza.
- Zachary's Thin Style pizza is a great choice for those who prefer a more traditional pizza. Their fresh, house made pizza dough is rolled to a moderate thickness and dusted with cornmeal. A specially seasoned, hearty diced tomato sauce is then applied along with the ingredients you choose.
- In the summertime, the Pleasant Hill Zachary's has Wednesday night summer concerts on their patio.
- They started an art contest in the mid-1980s and have continued the tradition every two years or so since then. They now have over 300 pieces of Zachary's pizza art from the past three decades! The winning artwork decorates the walls in all four of their restaurant locations in the San Francisco Bay Area: Oakland, Berkeley, San Ramon, and Pleasant Hill.
Oh, one more thing...during the month of January, if you mention #TinaTuesday when placing your order at the Pleasant Hill Zachary's, you will get a discount of 15% off of your order of one full pizza (excluding personal pizzas). Now that's some serious dough! Thank you Kevin, for taking the time to fill me in on all the great "stuff" (haha) about Zachary's. If you'd like to know more about Zachary's, visit their webpage http://zacharys.com or Facebook page #Zacharyspizzapleasanthill.
I truly have so much fun getting the back story on our local businesses. Now it's time for lunch!! :-)