Businessman Opens Wood-Fired Pizza Restaurant in Downtown SP
BY TED M. NATT JR.
The smell of wood-fired pizza wafting from P.ZZA on Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Southern Pines told diners last week that the restaurant was open after months of delays.
"Instead of thinking about cutting corners and focusing on profitability, we have made sure to take our time and do things right," said Stan Herman, who owns P.ZZA with his wife, Jeri. "We developed the concept, the look and the feel. Everything is centered around being authentic."
That authenticity includes the oven, which is made out of clay from a quarry in Italy that has been around since the 16th century. The oven arrived in pieces on five pallets and was assembled by a mason from New York.
Pizzas are cooked at a deck temperature of 650 degrees to 700 degrees and a dome temperature of more than 900 degrees. Residual heat during the night is used to prep vegetables and meat.
"We make everything from scratch using the finest ingredients," Herman said. "Wood-fired pizza is something you can find in San Francisco, New York and Italy, but not in our community. We feel like this restaurant is -filling a significant hole here."
Executive chef Mark Fuzi takes two days to make the pizza dough, which consists of Italian "00" flour, water, salt and yeast.
"It's artisan pizza, made the traditional Neapolitan way," Fuzi said. "My family is from Naples, so it's in my blood to put out beautiful food."
Fuzi, 43, former executive chef at Nina's Ristorante in North Raleigh, said he developed the menu to appeal to the age and previous geographic demographics of most Moore County residents.
"I wanted a variety," he said. "I used a combination of family recipes and my own experience."
A cheese pizza with classic tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese is the least expensive of the 16 varieties at $8.99, while the Di Mare is the most expensive at $15.99. It includes a house pesto sauce, North Carolina shrimp, fire-roasted peppers, mozzarella and pine nuts.
The menu also features five salads, eight "small plate" offerings, five desserts and a wine list consisting of Italian, French and domestic reds and whites.
Herman, 59, said he would have preferred to open five months ago in the space that used to house Rhett's restaurant.
"We've had to work our way through some red tape, but it takes time when you're doing something new," he said. "Everybody has been patient and remained focused on being the best. We understand we have one opportunity to make a first impression."
Herman, a client advocate for F2 Intelligence Group in Minneapolis, moved to Moore County in 2006.
"I came down here on a golf trip the previous year, and Jeri is into horses," he said. "We just fell in love with the whole community."
Herman has also had previous forays into the food business, having been with the Famous Dave's barbecue restaurant chain during its formative years.
"When you come from Minneapolis, food is always going to be a component of your life," he said. "But this isn't about me. This is about Mark Fuzi and the other -people we have hired. They are committed to putting out the very best food and -offering the very best customer service. That is the standard that we want to set."
P.ZZA, which has about 20 part- and full-time employees, also offers sidewalk seating and carryout.
"It's all about simple, authentic food that everybody can enjoy," Herman said. "We want to be successful, but we really want to be a regular place where people can afford to go. I think we'll have an impact."
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or tnatt@the pilot.com.
More like this story