The Vibe

The hottest trend in restaurants these days is something called fast casual. By definition, these are restaurants that don’t offer table service but promise a higher quality of food over fast food chains. It’s a cross between fast food and casual dining and Winnipeg-born Za Pizza Bistro is leading the concept here in Manitoba. With five locations now open in Winnipeg, the Cheung family isn’t slowing down. They have plans to open more here in their hometown, while busting in to the Toronto market in the near future.

ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF IAN MCCAUSLAND

The restaurants invite patrons to order at the counter then take a seat in the open concept rooms, many of which feature high def screen showing live events and music videos. The mainstay of the menu is the 11-inch pizza—made to your liking, and cooked in under four minutes—for $9.95.

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Za Pizza Bistro opened its first location on St. Mary’s Road in 2015. Since then, it’s been joined by an express location (with a slightly smaller menu) at Cityplace, plus locations on Ellice Avenue, Main Street and their newest spot, at 1573 Regent Avenue.

What You Should Order

Listen, I’m all for salads, but really, this is a pizza restaurant, so please order pizza. Who orders steak at Red Lobster? It’s all about customization here at Za, and honestly, all those choices can be a little overwhelming on your first visit. Remember your first visit to Subway? Ya. So take your time and consider your choices. The first is crust: regular, whole wheat or gluten free. Then comes the sauces: there are eight in total including spicy red sauce (my fave), a white cream sauce and a basil pesto blend. Then there’s the cheese: seven plus one vegan option. Meat comes next followed by veggies.

Luckily, if you just can’t decide, there are 10 signature pizzas listed at the start of the service line—something for everyone. For example, the Mediterranean is loaded with mozza, feta, spinach, olives and even a little bit of roasted garlic.

I started off ordering the signature pizzas and then amended them to my own liking. You may want to do the same, in a sense, creating your own signature pizza.

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Even if you are loving your pizza, stop eating now. Leave room for dessert! The sweet pizzas are still in style (remember when Pizza Hut launched them so many years ago?). Take your pick from Oreo explosion, apple crisp, cherry crumble, rocky road, blueberry sensation or s’mores. Each comes topped with ice cream and are perfect for sharing. Or not.

Out of Pocket

Dinner for two with drinks (yes they are licenced) and dessert will set you back less than $40. And it’s very likely you’ll be taking home a box of pizza leftovers, unless you’re really, really hungry. All the pizzas are $9.95, regardless of the kind of quantity of toppings. Gluten free crusts are $3 extra. A cheese pizza is a steal at $7.95. Salads are also on the menu, $9.95 for the large and $4.95 for the smaller size. Dessert pizzas, with ice cream, are not to be missed ($6.95).

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What I Love

Pizza is personal. And having to make concessions on what to order really sucks. A visit to Za eliminates the ‘I hate green peppers’ game, and that’s probably what I love most. For $10, I get my own pizza, loaded with all the weird stuff that I love. I’m sure it also makes the ‘ham and pineapple’ lovers and the ‘pepperoni only’ folks happy too.
I’m also a fan of thin crust pizza, and Za has certainly nailed it. It reminds me of those days gone by when Niakwa Pizza in Gimli cured my midnight cravings, but we’re going back a few years (okay a few decades).