Bars & Nightlife Business Development Food, Restaurants & Dining Music & Events Spotlight Brandi Porter April 15, 2016


(Photo: Brandi Porter)

Only 6,156 miles away from Italy, Downtown Phoenix is no stranger to great pizza.
The competition — with more contenders than humans have fingers — can be tough, but fortunately each restaurant offers an experience as distinct as its pies.
Zpizza Tap Room is no exception.
Located on the ground floor of the 111 W. Monroe building, the locally owned eatery is part of an international chain that serves hand-tossed, brick-oven pizzas. But the downtown location is unique in that it features a self-serve tap room — with an impressive lineup of 16 rotating craft beers and four wines — and a fantastic patio.

The new self-serve tap system features 16 rotating craft beers and four wines. Using a bracelet linked to your credit card, you scan which beer you want and the system tracks your pours by the ounce. (Photo: Brandi Porter)

The folks behind the business are Stephan Olson and his wife Michelle, who bought the downtown and midtown franchises in April 2015. Almost immediately, the couple began making changes: renovating the interior and patio as well as revamping the menu with appetizers and desserts.
“It’s not just pizza by the slice anymore,” Stephan said. “We knew we had to do something dramatically different in order for it to have an opportunity to get back to being a common gathering place.”
Installing a self-serve tap system — which tracks pours by the ounce with a scannable bracelet linked to your credit card — was just one of several renovations, but it may be the most popular. There’s something liberating about pouring your own beer and having control over the amount, letting you sample several beers in one outing.
Zpizza's signature bacon, spinach and mushroom pizza. (Photo: zpizza Facebook)

Zpizza’s signature bacon, spinach and mushroom pizza. (Photo: zpizza Facebook)

The new and improved menu features an array of signature pizzas plus salads, wings, artichoke dip, fries and more. Bonus: They’re gluten-free and vegan friendly, offering crust and cheese alternatives.

The restaurant also offers delivery, take-and-bake pizzas and catering for parties, company occasions, or those evenings when venturing outdoors seems too much to bear.
Olson said the changes have been well received thus far.
But that should come as no surprise, as he made them based on feedback from area residents and business owners.
“In talking to our customers, they seemed to be hungry for a neighborhood hangout, a place they could call their own,” he said. “They were looking for what one of them called a backyard.”
Between the people watching and the light rail whizzing by — the patio is a front row seat to the life of the city, with every sight and sound magnified. It’s that liveliness that makes it such a great neighborhood hangout.
And Olson isn’t taking it for granted. Every Friday and Saturday night, he programs the patio with live music — think soulful jazz and acoustic guitar — and recently launched a “First Friday Block Party” with music, drink specials as well as food and beer pairings.
Needless to say, the patio is packed every weekend.

“I probably could’ve added another 20 feet and still filled it,” Olson said. “We have to bring tables from inside the restaurant outside.”