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Pizza’zza goes mobile

Apr 2nd, 2016 | Category: Food

New 21-foot truck built by TriVan Truck Body, includes WoodStone oven 

by Mary Vermillion

Will Annett and Erica Lamson, owners of Bellingham’s Pizza’zza, believe in nutritious, locally sourced food. And pizza is their platform. This month, the couple is furthering their reach by launching a community-funded mobile truck.

The Lion and the Lamb pizza. COURTESY PHOTO

The Lion and the Lamb pizza. COURTESY PHOTO

“We’re educating people and introducing them to the value of good, nutritious, locally sourced food,” Annett said, noting he’s always been driven to serve regular folks rather than high-end diners. His experience includes working in mom-and-pop cafes, corporate kitchens, and white-linen restaurants. Lamson, a dietitian and lactation consultant, shares her husband’s interest in nutrition and food access, managing Pizza’zza’s marketing and communications.

Their mutual passion for growing and nutritious food has roots in the Midwest. Lamson grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City. Just a whiff of parsnips being sliced in the Pizza’zza kitchen takes Annett back to snacking on vegetables pulled fresh from the garden on his family’s 1,000-acre wheat and corn farm in Nebraska. As a boy, he witnessed the life and death of farm animals and noted the difference between his family’s approach and the factory farm down the road. This impacted his decision to become a chef and his personal philosophy of local food.

After years of working in restaurants and nearing burn-out, Annett bought Pizza’zza from Fred and Lynn Berman in 2006. He said his passion was re-ignited by “the ability to do my own thing, to meld my personal philosophies between work and home life so there was no difference between the two. I found that really liberating.” Annett and Lamson met in Bellingham in 2013 and were married a year later.

In a decade of ownership, Annett has maximized the small footprints of Pizza’zza’s current locations tucked within Yorky’s Markets on Alabama Street in north Bellingham and 12th Street in Fairhaven. This has allowed him to keep overhead low and prices affordable while expanding the locally inspired menu that now includes pizza, burgers, salads, sandwiches, grinders and breakfast items. The featured pizza of the month showcases seasonal ingredients often in unexpected pairings.

The menu at the mobile Pizza’zza will vary based on location but pizza will remain the star. “The mobile unit gives us new opportunities to cater or to go to festivals plus it’s a fun thing to do,” Annett said. He promises customers will have pizza in hand within 30 to 45 seconds after ordering. Their capacity will be 400 slices an hour.

This efficiency can be credited to TriVan Truck Body, a family-owned business in Ferndale, which built the 21-foot mobile unit following the couple’s specifications. “You can throw anything at them and they’ll try it,” Lamson said. “They made it all possible.”

That includes figuring out how to install a 3,600-pound Wood Stone oven in a food truck that will be in constant motion. “L&I had our plans for five months,” Annett said. “It was worth the wait.” Wood Stone ovens are “all I’ll use for my pizza,” he added.

Pizza’zza Mobile, built by TriVan TruckBody, is dressed with Chazzzam Signs & Graphics, with design and photos done by James Haddock. The truck hits the road for customers on April 4.

Pizza’zza Mobile, built by TriVan TruckBody, is dressed with Chazzzam Signs & Graphics, with design and photos done by James Haddock. The truck hits the road for customers on April 4. COURTESY PHOTO

A successful online fundraising campaign made the mobile catering unit possible. Donors received thank you gifts (including pizza slices), with five percent of the campaign’s total funds benefitting Sustainable Connection’s Food to Bank On program, a farmer incubation project.

Growth also allows the local business to hire more people and offer benefits to full-time employees. Ten years ago, Annett had two part-time and two full-time employees. Now, 16 people work in the Pizza’zza kitchen and more will be hired to staff the food truck.

The couple credits a quality product, strong community connections and a customer-focused rewards program for their success. They’ve invested in technology, recently adding the ability to take payments at the point of sale rather than customers paying for their food at Yorky’s registers. Taking payments directly has increased tips for Pizza’zza staff, equating to a 25 percent increase in wages. “Our growth is because when new people find us they have a great pizza experience,” Annett said. “We’re a Bellingham original; a true local business trying to help out. And we’re amazed and grateful for our customers’ loyalty.”

Sustainable Connections recently named Pizza’zza a Sustainable Champion for thinking local first. The restaurant also sponsors Common Threads Farm, which offers hands-on, seed-to-table educational experiences for kids.

The couple loves the nourishing aspect of their business. “It’s good, wholesome local food,” Lamson said. “And it’s not just the food itself. It’s also the delivery and community, the human piece of it. There is nothing more beautiful than feeding people. It’s fundamental.”

For more about Pizza’zza follow their Facebook page. To find out where the truck is serving pizza, see www.pizzazzamobile.com.

SOURCING LOCAL

Owners Will Annett and Erica Lamson take pride in sourcing local ingredients year-round.  COURTESY PHOTO

Owners Will Annett and Erica Lamson take pride in sourcing local ingredients year-round.
PHOTO BY MARY VERMILLION

Sourcing local ingredients year-round takes commitment and planning. Here’s a list of some of the farms and food businesses they currently work with: Sage and Sky, Chubby Bunny Farm, Skagit River Ranch, Osprey Hill Farm, Misty Meadows Farm, Breadfarm, Matheson Farms, Wild Pacific Seafood, Cloud Mountain Farm, Jack Mountain Meats, Fairhaven Flour Mill, Avenue Bread, Holmquist Hazelnuts, Ralph’s Greenhouse, Tahoma Farms, Broadleaf Farms, Hopewell Farm, Rabbit Fields Farm, and Sumas River Farm.

Published in the April issue of Grow Northwest

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