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New Panz Eatery Trumps 'Generic' Pizza Spots, Owner Says

By Ariel Cheung | April 29, 2016 5:31am
 Panz will open at 614 W. Diversey Parkway on Friday.
Panz will open at 614 W. Diversey Parkway on Friday.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

LAKEVIEW — Peter Mazza doesn't need years of culinary training or a big-name chef for his restaurant — he's got his 95-year-old grandmother's recipes.

Mazza is opening Panz, 614 W. Diversey Parkway, on Friday. The eatery has basically one thing on the menu: panzerotti, an Italian turnover similar to a calzone but smaller, braided along the edge and sometimes fried.

Panz's panzerotti will be baked in a stone oven right behind the counter, and they bake fast. The pies are ready in about four minutes, and since they're folded into pockets, the insides stay warm far longer than personal pizzas would, Mazza said.

But don't confuse his restaurant with fast-casual chains like Blaze or Chipotle, Mazza said.

"They're more generic, and [the food] only stays hot for a couple minutes," Mazza said. "We're a lot more authentic — pretty much everything is made in-house, and it stays blazing hot because it's folded over."

The stuffed turnovers start with the $7 Di Base, filled with sauce and cheese. Customers can add on meats, cheese and vegetables for $1 each.

A panzerotto from Panz. [Provided/Matthew Verive]

Four specialty panzerotti are $7-$8. Mazza used his grandmother's recipe to make the meatballs in the Jeanetti, while his mom's sloppy joe is baked into the Sloppy Giuseppe — Manwich lovers need not apply, because everything is made fresh in-house, Mazza said.

The M'N'C panzerotti is stuffed with macaroni-and-cheese and barbecue sauce, and the Giambotta has sausage, peppers and potatoes.

Mazza said he intends to open at least three more Panz locations in the coming months in Logan Square, Wicker Park and the Loop — densely populated neighborhoods with plenty of foot traffic like Lakeview.

Peter Mazza used his family's recipes for his panzerotti at Panz. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

After a career in finance, Mazza said he always wanted to go the restaurant route. To him, restaurants are splitting into two distinct groups: high-end fine dining like Alinea and fast-casual spots.

"But your Chili's, your Friday's of the world? They're gone," Mazza said.

Mazza took over the former Pizza Persona early in January and worked furiously to do the entire renovation "with my own two hands," he said. The eatery seats about 40 people and will be open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.

Owner Peter Mazza renovated the former Pizza Persona, 614 W. Diversey Parkway, for his panzerotti restaurant. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

As neighbors stopped by to find out what was opening in the space just east of Diversey, Broadway and Clark, they welcomed a restaurant that wasn't a national chain. Mazza thinks Panz will stand out from the nearby competition like Snap Kitchen, Starbucks, Jimmy John's and Wow Bao.

"People in communities like this don't want big chains coming in," Mazza said. "I really have been welcomed by the community, and it's really motivating."

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