Just as author Flannery O'Connor knew a good man was hard to find, so too it might be the case with good pizza. At least according to restaurateur Jim Reed, who recently opened Zeppo's Pizza in northwest Bakersfield.
The pizzeria is located in the home of his former Cubbies at 9510 Hageman Road. (Chicago deep-dish lovers can still head to the Cubbies at 5701 Young St. #401.) For this new venture, Reed wanted to try something different.
"Good pizza is hard to find," Reed said. "Cubbies is very good pizza. This (at Zeppo's) is very good pizza. This brings something else to the table for them."
What Zeppo's offers — and Reed said isn't available anywhere else in Bakersfield — is a New York-style crust. Much thinner than the deep-dish style, this crust is crisp along the edges with a sweetness and good chew factor.
Reed said the recipe was derived from "The Pizza Bible" by Tony Gemignani, a restaurateur and 11-time world pizza champion.
"We just love the way it cooks, the way it tastes," Reed said. "It has a good yeasty flavor."
Pizza toppings have also been updated with a different style of pepperoni (in a natural casing) and the addition of meatballs, linguica sausage and cherry tomatoes, which are highlighted on the Edgy Vegi specialty pizza.
As for other specialty pizzas, Zeppo's has some unique offerings.
"I probably have 40 different pizzas in my queue," Reed said of his ideas. "These are the best ones that we have."
One is named for his daughter Molly featuring french fries, ranch and bacon as toppings. The Big Z is Zeppo's combo, with pepperoni, sausage, linguica, mushroom, bell pepper, onion and black olives. The Santa Angelina, named for business partner Joe Bianco's daughter, features garlic oil on the crust along with tomatoes, fresh basil and artichokes.
For the restaurant, Bianco also reached out to his mother, a former restaurant owner herself, for some recipes including the marinara and meat sauces, made with San Marzano tomatoes, used for pasta dishes.
If you're thinking that Reed could be stretched thinner than the pizza dough running two restaurants, you might be right. That's why he brought on partners for this venture. Along with Bianco, he enlisted Diego Gimenez and Armando Sanchez, who also serves as Zeppo's marketing director.
"Running two locations, I really need help," Reed said. "So hopefully my 80-hour work weeks will go away."
And the pizza style isn't all that's different at Zeppo's. The restaurant has gone all-in with the Italian theme, with checkered tablecloths and a red, white and green color scheme including the tomato logo.
"We're going more Italian style, even our desserts, with gelato and cannoli," Sanchez said. "And it's faster service (than with Cubbies). A Chicago deep dish takes 25 to 30 minutes to cook, the New York style takes 10 to 12 minutes. That's a big difference, especially for delivery."
Delivery is also a key component of the Zeppo's plan. Along with delivering within the "golden mile," the one-mile radius surrounding the restaurant, Zeppo's dining room stays open until midnight daily, making it competitive in the late-night dining market.
And, after a soft opening on Nov. 8, they're excited for Bakersfield to see what they have to offer.
"We're ready to be busy," Reed said. "We sure love making this pizza. I live by Cubbies but I see myself driving over here for pizza."
Zeppo's Pizza, 9510 Hageman Road #A, is open from 11 a.m. to midnight daily. For more information, call 587-6555 or visit facebook.com/zeppospizza.