Zpizza – Valencia

Zpizza - Valencia

Much controversy surrounds Zpizza within the vegan community. Before I go on, I want to make it clear that this is going to be a positive review. I recommend Zpizza to all my Vegan Claritans, but first I want to explain why there has been so much confusion and to make the truth official about this quickly growing pizza franchise

*** Since publishing this review, someone from Fransmart commented on this post (see comment #3 on the bottom of this post) saying that the name of the menu item was called the “Killer Veggie” pizza, and not the “Killer Vegan” pizza. I have not been able to find this menu item with Google searches (Archive.org has past versions of the zpizza website stored on their servers, and I found that the “Killer Veggie” first appeared on the menu archives in March of 2000, and the “Killer Vegan” in December of 2001 [highlight text to view]. The names seemed to interchange with eachother, and even be used at the same time; VEGAN on the menu page and VEGGIE on the nutritional page. The Berkley pizza first appears in the archives in December of 2004. I saw the first media report mentioning the “Killer Vegan” as a NEW pizza dated 2003 which is where I got the date in my original publishing.) except for a couple mentions on web forums. I provided sources for the pizza being called the “Killer Vegan”, and whether this was the real name or not, the fact that it was published as such on the internet by independent sources certainly added to the confusion. Why it was mistakenly called a VEGAN pizza by more than one source is beyond me. Neither the “Killer Vegan” nor the “Killer Veggie” currently exist on the menu and appear to have been replaced by the “Berkley Soy Cheese Veggie”. Why the name was changed if not labeled VEGAN was not mentioned. If someone from Fransmart or Zpizza could also respond to quarrygirl.com’s experience at a Zpizza in West Hollywood I’m sure it would be appreciated.

I’m not sure if this review and news about Zpizza’s soy cheese comes off as negative or not, and I appologise if it puts any kind of negative light on the Valencia store because I have nothing but positive things to say about that place. However, we vegans only want to know exactly what’s in the food we’re eating. I keep seeing, reading and hearing so many different answers to the question of Zpizza’s soy cheese. There are vegan customers that Zpizza will never get back because correct answers were not available, or products were misrepresented. I prefer to focus on vegan issues relating to just the Santa Clarita Valley, but someone needed to post the exact information and it just so happens that it was this vegan blog in Santa Clarita that decided to keep calling people until those definate answers were found.

Again, VEGANS can feel safe and enjoy Zpizza, especially the one in Valencia which told me on my first inquiry that the soy cheese was not vegan. Certainly I would rather eat at Zpizza than Pizza Hut, Papa John’s or most other places in Santa Clarita. Just remember to order the organic tomato sauce and no soy cheese. ***

From what I have been able to gather, the confusion began in late 2003 when Zpizza introduced a new menu item called “The Killer Vegan Pizza”. I have been unable to find a picture of a Zpizza menu board displaying this title, but it has been quoted in several different media reports and restaurant reviews. The pizza featured veggie burger crumbles, soy cheese and a pesto sauce (possibly containing Parmesan cheese, not sure on that). The soy cheese contains casein, a milk protein and very non-vegan. I was unable to find a press release but it appears the “Killer Vegan Pizza” was re-named “The Berkley Soy Cheese Veggie”. Customers of various Zpizza locations have gotten mixed information on whether or not the soy cheese was vegan. I don’t believe Zpizza was purposely trying to deceive people, I think they just honestly did not know that labeling something VEGAN was akin to saying it’s Kosher. Probably thinking vegan was a hip buzzword used among vegetarians who ate soy foods, not realizing that there are certain rules that must be followed when labeling something as vegan.

I asked my local Zpizza and they told me the soy cheese contained casein, but I knew that a definitive answer was in order. I first called Zpizza headquarters in Newport Beach, CA but the phone number on their website is actually for their franchise partner, Fransmart. The operator told me that she thinks the soy cheese contains casein but did not know for sure. I asked if she knew which brand of soy cheese Zpizza uses, and she told me it was purchased from a company called Schreiber Foods. She gave me a phone number for Schreiber Foods and a name of their contact over there. Turns out the phone number was for Sara Lee Food Services in Illinois, and they have never heard of Schreiber Foods nor this contact person.

I used Google to find the number for Schreiber Foods, who are located in Wisconsin. They were really nice but apparently could not tell me about their soy cheese because they make several different products and weren’t sure which one Zpizza uses. I asked the Schreiber rep’ if she had a sales record for Zpizza to see which they were purchasing but no record was found. I was told Zpizza probably purchases through a distributor, so I would need to call a Zpizza and get the product code from their box of soy cheese to find out exactly which one they use. So, I called our local Zpizza in Valencia, CA who were very helpful and gave me the product number as well as the name of their supplier; Sysco Foods inc.

I called Schreiber Foods back and gave them the product code, but was told that this code was for real cheese, specifically a pizza cheese blend. I thought this was strange since the person from my local Zpizza clearly read to me that the package said “Imitation Mozzarella”. Realizing this was not going to give me the answers I needed, I asked for the number for Sysco Foods who are located in Texas. I called Sysco and asked which soy cheese they sell to Zpizza. The operator kept searching and called other Sysco employees to try and find the answer. Finally I was given the number of Sysco’s Los Angeles office and their Account Executive of Program Sales. This person knows exactly what Zpizza buys and uses in their restaurants. She was extremely helpful, confirmed that the soy cheese Zpizza uses does indeed come from Schreiber Foods and contains casein. She also e-mailed me the ingredients which I will post here:

Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Casein, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Aluminum, Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Sorbic Acid (Preservative), Artificial Color, Vitamin A, Palmitate, Magnesium Oxide, Zinc Oxide, Vitamin B12, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Ferric Orthophosphate, Folic Acid, Pyridioxne, HCL (Vitamin B6), Niacinamide, Thiamin, Mononotrate.

Now that it’s official, I want to add that Zpizza has a lot to offer vegans looking for a good pizza. While there was definitely some confusion and misinformation among most every level of Zpizza in regards to the ingredients of their soy cheese, keep in mind that this is a franchise and each store is essentially a small business. Some bad experiences at one store does not mean you will get the same treatment at another. Based on what I have heard, the owner of our Valencia Zpizza is a nice guy and I have no issues supporting them with my business.

Now, on to the food!

One thing I like about Zpizza is that they have lots of toppings normally not found at other pizza restaurants in Santa Clarita. Artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, Morning Star pizza crumbles, cremini mushrooms, avocado and kalamata olives to name a few. You can build you own pizza; SMALL (Z10): $6.95 plus $1.25 per ingredient, Medium (Z14): $12.95 plus $1.75 per ingredient, Large (Z18): $15.95 plus $2.00 per ingredient. Calzones are also offered for $6.95

I ordered a medium Berkley veggie with organic tomato sauce instead of the pesto and NO soy cheese. I also got a calzone with organic tomato sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, cremini mushrooms and eggplant.

If you look closely, you’ll see steam coming off my freshly baked no-cheese pizza.

Zpizza - Vegan Berkley

Zpizza - Vegan calzone

The crust is very good, I think I will try the whole wheat next time as I forgot about it while I was checking the place out. The organic tomato sauce is also good and the ingredients are fresh with enough variety to make an excellent cheese-less vegan pizza that won’t get tired so quickly. The prices are more on the expensive side, but it’s worth it for superior ingredients.

Zpizza is located in Valencia at the Promenade Town Center:
27015 McBean Pkwy
Valencia, CA 91355

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13 Responses

  1. hmmm. great post. but i will stick to eating my pizza at HOME with fake cheese or at places that i know have vegan cheese alternatives. that’s what pizza is all about to me!!!!!!!!! 🙂 but more power to ya if you like cheeseless pizza, i’m sure this place is wonderful for that. i always had a great experience eating there.

  2. […]  SCVegan reviews controversial ZPizza chain in Valencia: The Vegan blogger, in touch with all things vegan in the SCV, says much controversy “surrounds ZPizza within the vegan community.” He traces the reasons for that controversy then gives a positive review of the pizza he received there. Any pizza is good pizza […]

  3. Hey there… A few corrections… In early 2002, zpizza offered a new menu item called the “Killer Veggie” pizza, not a “Killer Vegan” pizza; our soy cheese product definitely contains casein (we’ve been looking at alternatives for years but none meet our standards of taste and certainly don’t melt in the oven properly and z’s founder, Sid Fanarof, is quite particular about his ingredients. We hope to one day have a superior and tasty 100% vegan soy cheese product offering). Lastly, zpizza’s Corporate HQ shares an office with Fransmart, its development partner. Chris Bright, z’s President, and Amir Sabetian, z’s VP of Operations, are here and are always happy to chat. Please feel free to call Chris at extension 303 or Amir at extension 302 with any questions you may have about z. Thank you for mentioning us on your Blog.

  4. Wow… thanks for going to all the trouble to figure out this mystery! I think there is a tendency within the vegan community to demonize restaurants that don’t have exclusively vegan ingredients, even if they offer plenty of vegan friendly and otherwise vegetarian options. It seems like very little credit is given to places that try and do their best to accommodate everyone. Your pizza and calzone are great examples of being able to get a delicious vegan meal at this place even though the cheese isn’t vegan.

    There’s a vegetarian restaurant in my area that I love to eat at. They do not claim to be a vegan place, just vegetarian. They serve soy-chicken and soy-cheese, but these contain casein. Certain well known bloggers have taken it upon themselves to give this restaurant a really bad rap because their soy products are not vegan (despite the fact that so many other options on the menu are indeed 100% vegan). In my opinion this is totally unfair because the place does not claim to be vegan… and the negative info being put out there prevents even non-vegans from going there. People who would otherwise be looking for a tasty vegetarian meal (who might not care if there is casein or whey in the food) end up passing this restaurant by simply because a couple of vegans out there with a website and a bone to pick weren’t catered to exclusively.

    I think it’s great that Kathy from zpizza took the time to stop by and add a reply! Hey Kathy, if you’re still reading this… you guys should check out Teese Cheese. Not only is it delicious and 100% vegan, but it also melts!

  5. i agree with foodeater. i’ve only got issues with places that lie or cause confusion about the vegan-ness of their ingredients. but like she said, there’s plenty of normal restaurants out there that accommodate us vegans, and i am pleased to support those!

    thanks for the constant zpizza updates, and for emailing me when you saw that post of mine on zpizza. you rock, scvegan. and thanks for all that info on the vegan thai places. you are super knowledgeable. 😀

  6. Foodeater, good call on the Teese suggestion. I also really appreciate the response from Kathy Thombs, even though it’s hard for me to believe so many people in so many areas can misread the same menu item. I am not bothered that their soy cheese has casein, as long as I know about the casein or that the information is easily available in case I need to find out. If something on the menu isn’t vegan, then I will eat something that is. No big deal, just let the customers know. I feel the biggest thing about dining out as a vegan is being comfortable with where you’re eating, and that starts with knowing exactly what’s in the food.

    quarrygirl, thanks for the compliments. I know in your case you did receive incorrect information regarding their soy cheese just recently. Hopefully we have drawn enough attention that from now on, when people ask they will be given a correct and definitive answer. If not, then hopefully they find this review on Google.

  7. I needed to add another, and hopefully final update to this blog report. Looks the Berkley pizza was called both the “Killer Veggie” and “Killer Vegan” at some point in the past, according to web-archives of the zpizza website. I still don’t know exactly what went on in each individual store, but this definately explains the confusion over the menu and distrust by many vegan customers.

    If what Kathy Thombs of Fransmart says about “We hope to one day have a superior and tasty 100% vegan soy cheese product offering” is true, then that would truly be awesome. Whether their past vegan customers would believe them or not; that I’m not sure.

  8. Im bummed.. extremely bummed.. I must admit the berkley was the hi-lite of my vegan pizza days :[

  9. Is Daiya used in all stores? I recently ate at the new Columbus, Ohio store and am wondering what exactly I ate…

    I’m already a bit ticked off that a “soy cheese” pizza would include pesto with parmesan in it (confirmed by the store manager), but this is really just making me question eating at zPizza again.

  10. Oh, I love that place, they have the best pizzas ever! The way the cheese tastes, and there isnt a lot of sauce but it still makes me crave it every second of the day. I don’t think I have ever tasted better pizza in my whole life. I too recommend it for any pizza lovers out there!

  11. I recently moved to Santa Clarita, and was wondering if you could help me out. I looked all over the blog and couldn’t find any sort of contact info, so I’m just posting here 😮 Would you be able to contact me via http://www.facebook.com/veganandmoretoyourdoor or via the email I provided? I need to hire an assistant for my weekly meal delivery service 1-2 days per week and was wondering if you knew of anyone who may be interested? I’d really like to hire someone that is interested in vegan food and so would enjoy the job:) Thanks so much if you can help!

  12. I don’t know if it’s just me or if everyone
    else encountering problems with your blog. It appears as if some of
    the written text in your content are running off the screen.
    Can somebody else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them too?
    This may be a problem with my internet browser because I’ve had this happen before. Cheers

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