South Coast Plaza’s Z Café―Repast, Recharge, Reconnoiter

Z Café in South Coast Plaza, the beyond-just-pizza concept from Z Pizza founder Sid Fanarof, opened in late fall last year as a kind of inclusive, everybody’s-welcome haven from the crowds madding just outside its doors, inside the mall (did we mention free wi-fi, too?). While the pizzas that made Z famous are represented, the menu ranges to soups, salads, and fresh sandwiches, all house-made and with a stated emphasis on natural and organic ingredients

It’s a place to pop in for a pizza, or something from the “Shareables” part of the menu like house-made hummus ($5.95) or a very good pear and gorgonzola salad with walnuts ($7.95). A roasted seasonal-vegetable sandwich ($8.95) is dressed with caramelized onion, mixed greens, artichoke hearts, and balsamic vinaigrette, on a nicely chewy ciabatta roll. Roasted tomato soup was way better than it really needed to be, and chicken tortilla soup had an authentically chile-hot finish (soups, $2.95 cup, $4.95 bowl). A hint of Fanarof’s East L.A. origins? Maybe, and there’s real chipotle zing in the excellent grilled asada sandwich, too ($10.95). A half sandwich (from a selection) and cup of soup deal is a stone bargain: $7.95.

At a recent blogger event at the restaurant, I tried the curry chicken-yam pizza ($9.95/$16.95). Showered with mozz, it was right up my alley, but then, I really like multi-culti riffs like that—reminds me what California-style pizza is all about. Diametrically opposed stylewise, the quite classical Margherita was also very good. All the pizzas here benefit from a handmade, really crispy crust.

In a space formerly occupied by a California Pizza Kitchen, Z Café makes use of its large, attached patio, which seems ideal for parties in addition to being an attractive option for a quick stop during a mall trawl. The fresh air, a nice view of the connecting Garden Bridge, plus comfy seating (not forgetting the aforementioned free wi-fi) encourage lingering.

Z Café, 3333 Bear St., Costa Mesa, 714-545-5500

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