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ZPizza's Napoli thin-crust pizza is ideal for roasted-garlic lovers.

ZPizza's Napoli thin-crust pizza is ideal for roasted-garlic lovers.

Twenty minutes early to a nearby appointment, and in the mood for a culinary somethin’-somethin’, I spotted ZPizza at the corner of Tatum and Thunderbird in Phoenix. Actually, I had passed by it many times before but today seemed like a day to experiment. I am quite selective with my pizza, preferring the back-East, New York pizzas with classic sauce tinged with a just-right balance of garlic, oregano, salt, and spice.

But since ZPizza does not tout itself as a New York-style anything, I put my expectations aside and asked what today’s slices were. Aside from the cheese and pepperoni standards offered, it was the Napoli that compelled me. A crispy, thin crust holds a rich, robust, almost creamy (though not cream-based) roasted garlic sauce, melted mozzarella and tomato slices which have been seared with texture from a generous sprinkling of parmesan. This flavorful grouping is accented by thick strips of fresh basil, baked into an irresistible fragrance. Yes, I was surprised. And yes, I was impressed. This was garlic with a purpose; basil with strength; and tomatoes –fresh, which I usually do not care for on a pizza – which held their own with their salty parmesan coating.

I did not realize that ZPizza uses 100% certified organic tomato sauce and 100% certified organic wheat dough, which is crafted daily and fire-baked on hot bricks. (The definition of “100% certified organic” these days could warrant its own article, but I did touch upon the benefits of organic bread just the other day). Kudos for helping us rationalize that devouring cheesy pizza is now healthy, if not fully for the body then at least for sustaining a hip local business.

ZPizza dishes up its pizza with a heart, through its ZCares program. At the time of this writing, ZPizza’s website touts that its 2009 goal is to “give away $4,000 worth of pizza per store in support of community fundraisers.” ZPizza proclaims it opened its first store in Laguna Beach, California in 1986, and has locations nationwide. This is one pizza restaurant that takes its community as seriously as its food.

But let’s get back to some of the great pizza flavors offered – after all, who does not enjoy vicarious exposure to new and delicious pizza combinations?

Artichoke hearts make a surprisingly frequent appearance on more than one pizza, including the Provence (organic tomato sauce, homemade roasted garlic sauce, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, capers, tomatoes and fresh basil). The Casablanca also comes with that signature garlic sauce, mozzarella and artichoke hearts, but also includes rich ricotta, mushrooms, and parmesan.

The cleverly named ZBQ pizza has a BBQ sauce base with mozzarella, BBQ chicken, roasted peppers, red onions, tomatoes, cilantro and – for some starch with your starch – sweet corn. Most of the pizzas are priced around $10 for a small 10” pie, $17 for a medium 14”, and $21 for a large 18” extravaganza.

Another pizza category that ZPizza offers is the Rustica pizza ($8.95), which is a free-form, individual pizza, topped here in out-of-the-box combinations. Perhaps the most unusual is the Chicken Curry and Yam Rustica, which includes an exotic mix of mozzarella, curry chicken, yams, mango chutney, raisins and cilantro.

ZPizza also offers a variety of salads like Pear and Gorgonzola ($6.50/$8.50), two types of pasta ($7.50), and a wide range of sandwiches, including a Yuppie Veggie Sandwich ($5.95) and a Pollo Latino Sandwich, with marinated lime chicken breast, salsa and avocado ($6.25).

If you are gluten-sensitive, ask for the gluten-free crust (where available). And if you are reading my mind, you are now selecting the perfect Chianti to pair with the roasted garlic Napoli you will be picking up to go.

For locations and more information, visit

© Gilat Ben-Dor. All rights reserved.


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Centro offers a fun, colorful atmosphere that can be dressed up or down.

Centro offers a fun, colorful atmosphere that can be dressed up or down.

By now, friends and family know the drill: whenever I go back to Fairfield for a hometown visit, everyone knows there will be at least one (or two) lunch dates set up at Centro. “So, uh, you wanna go to Centro?” I ask, as if suggesting a brand-new idea. “Sure,” is the knowing response, as my friends stifle a smirk. Centro again. This has been going on for nearly ten years. Yet I simply love this place and cannot seem to tire of it.

Centro has such a joyful, cheery atmosphere yet is stylish enough to make me don a string of pearls to have lunch with old friends. They even feature crayons and white paper tablecloths for, uh, the kids. Centro frames the best crayon masterpieces all around the restaurant. (I secretly wish to have my own drawing up on their wall, though they haven’t changed their chosen works in a while, so I may be out of luck.)

While I usually go for lunch, Centro is a great spot for a romantic dinner date, too. My absolute favorite dish here is the Penne All Vodka with chicken ($10.95), which involves penne pasta cooked to a perfect al dente (they just know not to over-mush it), topped with a flavorful mix of crispy pancetta, savory onions and rich, rich tomato vodka cream sauce (you can choose shrimp instead of chicken, by the way). I love pairing this with a refreshing glass of Pinot Grigio – the laid-back white wine that acts like a pleasant backdrop, akin to a favorite pair of jeans—nice jeans—that smoothly pairs with a whole host of trendy blouses.

I swear my other restaurant reviews will not be quite so emotional or nostalgic. If you’re in Fairfield, Connecticut, you have got to try this place out. And tell them I said hi.

Here are the nuts and bolts:

Who/What/Where: Centro has two sites (Darien and Greenwich, CT), but I am only obsessed with their Fairfield location.

Centro Ristorante

1435 Post Road, Fairfield, CT 06410
Tel. (203) 255-1210

Food: Contemporary Northern Italian cuisine such as soups and antipasti, fresh pastas, as well as thin-crust pizzas, salads and sandwiches. Lunchtime features a design-your-own-omelette offering, while dinnertime adds Piatti del Giorno entrees.

Catering, Take-Out and Kids’ Menus available.

Wine: Believe it or not, since this is more of a sentimental restaurant review, I am not armed with their wine list at the moment (nor is it available on their site, though the menu is). However, they do pay attention to their wines and have a nice selection even by the glass. I enjoy their Pinot Grigio with their fresh pastas.

Ambience and style: Light, airy, colorful and happy, yet with a sophisticated chic that keeps the both the social set and business bunch lunching here. When night falls, the two adjacent rooms create an energy of possibilities for the evening ahead. Great date spot, with a relaxed enough vibe that it won’t make you look like you’re trying too hard. In the warmer weather, enjoy dining al fresco on the patio. Amid a colorful canopy of umbrellas and fruit-printed tablecloths, you can people watch and gaze at the gazebo on the Green.

Special perks: Munch on long, crispy grissini breadsticks and flavorful marinated olives while deciding on your order. Or draw a picture on the white paper tablecloths using the crayons on the tables.

© Gilat Ben-Dor.

Dine al fresco on Centro’s patio, overlooking the quaint Fairfield Center.

Dine al fresco on Centro’s patio, overlooking the quaint Fairfield Center.


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