The Wizard of Za tests pizza-fan patience with wild wait times
The two-month delay to sample the wizard’s wares also afforded our dining critic a chance to reacquaint himself with Fusian, which shares a Clintonville space with the much-hyped pizzeria
What’s the longest you’ve ever waited for a pizza? I likely have that time beat, because I waited 60 days — that’s not a typo — to receive the pizzas I ordered from the Wizard of Za.
I’m not alone.
It isn't uncommon for The Wizard of Za to have multi-week wait times for customers, who are required to make their purchase via a reservation-only online ordering system, with pizzas generally selling out long in advance. So be prepared to jump through hoops if you currently want a pie from this breakout business that has quickly evolved from a social-media sensation and home-cooked-pizza purveyor into an actual (if unusual) Clintonville pizzeria with a fancy Neapolitan-style oven.
The wizard who creates these wildly in-demand Sicilian-style pizzas in addition to pulling the levers of this marketing-savvy company is Spencer Saylor. Saylor is a 27-year-old Youngstown native who is described on the Wizard of Za website as having grown up in the kitchen, “stirring up sauces on the stove as early as 3 years old.”
I’d add that Saylor is an affable fellow who informed me a few weeks ago that his pizzeria plans to offer handmade pastas and ice creams by sometime in July. For now, though, Wizard’s core menu is extremely limited — four pre-designed, essentially just sauce-and-cheese pizzas, save for one embellished with pepperoni. Also of note: Customers cannot order more than two pies at a time, and prices for Saylor’s eight-slice pizzas range from $20 to $25. If none of that dissuades you, I’d also add that the two Wizard pizzas I recently sampled were good-looking and good-tasting.
Like every Wizard pizza, both featured yeasty, focaccia-style crusts about a half-inch thick. The well-browned crusts were pillowy and bready in the middle but crunchy on their edges and somewhat crisp in the other areas where the dough came in contact with the rectangular pan in which it was baked. The crusts also had appealingly nutty, sweet, spicy and salty notes from sesame seeds (on the bottom) and garnishes of chile-spiked Mike’s Hot Honey, plus romano or parmesan sprinkles.
The crust was additionally adorned with a lively crushed-tomato sauce, attractively browned mozzarella and locally sourced Ezzo’s “cup-and-char” pepperoni offset by a cooling basil chiffonade in the pepperoni pie ($25). As anticipated, the zesty, edge-blackened pepperoni arrived glistening with heat-rendered fat, but this was otherwise a relatively grease-restrained pizza.
A creamier and tangier pasta-style sauce was dolloped atop each slice of the equally delicious vodka pie ($23). Although meatless and somewhat richer and spicier, this pizza offered similar charms as the pepperoni pie.
The business emphasizes its Wizard of Oz connotations by tossing in a box of Lemonhead candy with every order (you might recall that “troubles melt like lemon drops” in “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”) and offering Angie’s Rainbow Cookies ($7.50) — locally baked, irresistible, cake-like confections that taste like chocolate-enhanced marzipan.
Most customers get their food to go, but the pizzeria offers limited indoor and outdoor seating from its wizard-hat-denoted section of Fusian Sushi in Clintonville. This afforded me a “two-for-one” opportunity to become reacquainted with Fusian, a trendy Ohio-based chain of Japanese-influenced, Chipotle-style eateries.
I tried some signature items: a sizable, nice-tasting spicy tuna roll with a nose-tickling wasabi presence ($9.78); the pleasant chicken + rice bowl with warm meat, crunchy bits, plus plenty of veggies ($9.98); and the likewise veggie-heavy tofu Thai crunch salad ($9.78), a recommended soy triple-threat (firm beancurd, edamame, soy sauce) that benefited from a savory, sweet and spicy Thai peanut dressing.
Given the healthful-minded, generally inexpensive and flavorful fare quickly prepared at this Fusian branch, it’s understandably popular. Is the mod and user-friendly operation an odd partner for its cultish Wizard roommate? Let’s just say it’s fitting that Fusian lists its rainbow roll (“crab,” tuna, salmon, cucumber, avocado, sweet soy and sesame seeds; $10.98) as an “inside-out” roll.
Wizard of Za + Fusian Clintonville
4214 N. High St., Clintonville
Fusian hours: 10:40 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Wizard of Za pizzas available by online reservation only