Tradition and innovation at Pizzazz

Pizzazz On the Circle. Photo by Richard Stewart.

When David Spiccia told his family he planned to branch out from the family restaurant business and open a second, much larger location, no one considered it a wise move. Twenty years later, Pizzazz On the Circle is one the most popular restaurants in the Heights.

“My family thought I was crazy going from a 50 seater to a restaurant that seats 200 plus,” said Spiccia. “My parents had the place in Mayfield and I wanted to expand, so I put together an investment package, went out and got some investors, and we got it done.”

Pizzazz, located in University Heights just across from John Carroll University, features “time-honored” Italian cuisine, derived from recipes created by Spiccia’s parents, John and Marie, more than 30 years ago when they opened the original Pizzazz in Mayfield Village. Spiccia and his wife of 27 years, Chris, operate their restaurant together, keeping the family tradition alive. Having spent 38 years in the restaurant business, Spiccia has come to understand what works and what doesn’t.

“Word of mouth has been our success. Our mission has always been to put out quality products at an affordable price,” said Spiccia. “The big thing in the restaurant industry is, if you make it through the first two years, you’re supposed to make it. I keep asking myself, is it done yet?

Success hasn’t always come easily for Spiccia. He opened a third Pizzazz location in Solon 10 years ago, but it became a money trap and eventually failed. The experience was a setback in an otherwise successful restaurant career. "I ended up having to sell my home and I maxed out credit cards. Then the lawyers came calling. I set myself back 10 years," recalled Spiccia.

He credits the University Heights location's consistency with helping sustain his family, including his wife and three children, through that rough period. “Thank God this place was always strong,” said Spiccia. “I put my nose to the grindstone, paid my bills and now I’m back where I was. The bills are gone.”

Positive changes are afoot at Pizzazz. The month of May will see a reworked menu featuring new items, such as tacos, expanded salad selections, at least one new pasta dish and an array of craft beers. Chris Spiccia attributes much of the restaurant's success to her husband’s ability to make adjustments when necessary, and said, "David always likes to change things, and add new dishes. He’s very imaginative and forward thinking."

An intensely loyal customer following has been another key to Pizzazz’s success and longevity. Joe Behm, seated at the bar enjoying lunch on a Monday afternoon, attested to that. "It’s my east side kitchen because I eat out seven days a week," Behm said. “Pizzazz’s house salad dressing, in my opinion, is the best I’ve ever had."

Richard Stewart

Richard Stewart is owner of Digizoom Media and a member of the FutureHeights Board of Directors.

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Volume 5, Issue 5, Posted 10:10 AM, 05.03.2012