This is the third in a series profiling local chefs and sharing their favorite summer recipes.
Za does not serve your grandmother's pizza.
This is pizza with flair, pizza with pizzaz, pizza with pickes?
"Yes," says owner Peter McCarthy with a laugh. "It's true. We serve some pizzas with pickles. But the way I see it is this: what is a sandwich except bread, some cheese, condiments and meats? We make our pizza that way, too."
Za, with it's brick exterior, dark blue awning and chalkboard wall interior, has been in East Arlington for TK years serving gourmet pizza and salad, but it is always the pickles that throw people, says McCarthy who admits: ""I am a pickle fanatic."
Two of their current pizza specials are: one with ground chorizo, chopped dill pickle, caramelized onion, Swiss cheese, mustard cream sauce, and parsley and another with black mission figs, Gorgonzola, caramelized onions, fresh garlic, parsley, and Italian white truffle oil.
For McCarthy, who owns three restaurants, including Za (the other two are in Cambridge), it is all about taking what seems ordinary and "surprising people."
Some of the ingredients that most surprise people, according to McCarthy: "We have different pizzas people are surprised by, like corn and bacon, our mac and cheese pizza, strawberry goat cheese and asparagus rhubarb," he said. "As the local ingredient change, the ingredients change and the salads change. Our smoked duck breast and peach pizza always gets people talking."
When McCarthy opened Za, he did it because he had lived in Arlington for a decade, down the street from the space and it just seemed right.
"We live in the neighborhood and heard the place was for sale," McCarthy said. "We just thought it would be great to have a neighborhood pizza join there"
McCarthy and his wife are in business together and without her, he says, the place would not run. At home, the family is pretty low-key about food, McCarthy says.
"We do a lot of grilling, hanging out in our yard."
He tries to emulate that same feeling with Za. "It is a great neighborhood place," he says. We want everyone to come in and feel welcome and like we appreciate their business and we ant to be very approachable as well."
McCarthy shares a recipe:
Honey Lavender Crème Brulee:
9 cups Heavy Cream
3 cups Milk
2 TB Vanilla Extract
2 cups Honey
3 oz. Rough Chopped Lavender
24 ea Egg Yolks
6 ea Whole Eggs
1 cup Sugar
In a stainless steel pot over medium – high heat bring the first five ingredients to a simmer, turn off the heat, cover. Steep for 30 minutes. Meanwhile In a large stainless steel bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients. Slowly add the warm cream mixture to the egg mixture.
Strain. Skim any foam off the top of the batter. Pour batter into brulee dishes, filling the dishes three-quarters of the way. Bake at 350 degrees in a water bath for 40 – 60 minutes or until set.
Za is located at 138 Massachusetts Ave. and is open Sunday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday/Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.