In one corner is Zelo’s, a small but charming spot in Arcadia. It really seems like the family owners put thought and care into it, and the staff is great. There’s a small but well-edited beer selection, and changing specials. Weakness: Pizzas are premade and stacked in a big cooler.
In the other corner, we have Tony’s “Little Italy,” whose owner is from Sicily via Chicago. It moved a couple of years ago to newer digs, and while it’s still not a full-on restaurant, there are a good number of tables, a decent selection of beers, and TVs to watch the game. It’s pretty popular. Weakness: Sausage-stuffed pies appear short on the stuffing.
The ref: Dommy, who cites as credentials her long, pizza-filled sojourns in Chicago over six years.
Zelo’s has really mastered its crust, she says; it’s really the restaurant’s own and not Chicago’s. Cornmeal gives it a corn-y flavor, and the crust is incredibly crisp and buttery. The flavors aren’t typical of Chicago either, where the preferred toppings/stuffings are sausage, green pepper, and spinach. Instead you get roasted garlic, meltingly tender and adding just the right punch to the cheese and sauce; corn and caramelized onion, wonderfully sweet; and spicy sausage and onion, with plenty of meat. Potato and pancetta is divisive—Dommy says the pancetta is overwhelming, but WildSwede loves it, saying the porkiness blends with the tomatoes, plus there’s a bit of rosemary in there.
Tony’s pizza is a hefty thing, not just deep dish but stuffed. Looks did deceive however—the sausage and green pepper pie didn’t have much of either beneath the surface. RSMBob, though, finds the smooth tomato sauce exceptionally fresh-tasting.
It’s a KO for Zelo’s, declares Dommy, but RSMBob sums up the difference between the contestants: Zelo’s has the heart of a Chicago deep-dish pizza, with California flair on top. Tony’s is more typical of a traditional stuffed-crust pie, on a par with the offerings in Chicago.
Zelo Gourmet Pizzeria [San Gabriel Valley]
328 E. Foothill Boulevard, Arcadia