When I heard that Cohn Restaurant Group had gotten into the pizza game, I was intrigued. The company's food may not be the most cutting-edge, but the Cohns know how to please a customer, and boy do they know how to run a restaurant. And considering the explosion of craft pizza in San Diego, it made sense for them to put their own spin on pie.
ZigZag Pizza Pie occupies the same corner in Oceanside (333 N. Myers St.) as the Cohns' more upscale and established haunt, 333 Pacific. The menu is simple: pizzas and chopped salads. After ordering, you head over to the wall of refrigerators for a drink. You can buy a bottle of wine or craft beer or choose from a varied selection of non-alcoholic beverages, from plain old bottled water to plum-flavored fizzy water straight from Japan. If you want dessert, there's a fridge filled with pints of Ben & Jerry's.
So that's it: a simple menu with lots of familiar choices, a self-service element and enough variation to please anyone.
Except, the pizza crust is terrible.
I've never been a crust snob. I take pleasure in gooey cheese and greasy toppings. But after experiencing the bizarre yuck of ZigZag's crust, I'm now a convert to the church of crust.
Never one to eschew non-traditional pizza toppings (I adored the clam-chowder pizza at The Privateer, also in O'side), I checked out "The White Album," a white pizza with blackened shrimp, garlic, slivered almonds, spinach and caramelized onions. Now imagine all those tasty toppings delivered on a piece of the box from your most recent Amazon purchase. If great toppings are not in harmony with a great crust, all you're eating is an entrée with a cardboard distraction, as opposed to that beautiful thing we call pizza .
The more basic pizza, "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet," fared a little better, because the toppings of sausage and green olives were a bit more traditional, but, still, the crust was lousy.
The menu says the crust is "from scratch," but the perfectly round, dinner-plate-size sheets of dough look (and taste) like something you'd grab from the frozen-food aisle at Stater Bros.
The chopped salads provided a lot more in the way of deliciousness, although it's hard to rave too much about a salad composed of ingredients sitting in plastic salad-bar trays. I enjoyed the "Kale Caesar Rocks," a twist on the traditional Caesar salad with tender, dark baby kale that my arteries and waistline appreciated after a December filled with butter and booze.
This was the most disappointing experience I've ever had at a Cohn restaurant. I'm not a knee-jerk complainer about the somewhat corporate feel of their restaurants. The food is generally quite good, and the service and overall experience of their eateries is always warm and professional.
And ZigZag is going to thrive, no matter what some cranky writer-lady with a cold says about their crust. They've claimed a prime location steps from the Oceanside waterfront, and, as usual, their detail-oriented setup is primed to please almost everyone. Except me.