Baked into the pizza at Pizza’zza are ethics of sourcing local and building community. With two locations, one in Fairhaven at 1501 12th St., and one inside Yorky’s Market at 2418 Alabama St., Pizza’zza found its niche supporting local farmers and producers.
Owned by Will Annett and Erica Lamson, Pizza’zza sources about 80 percent of its produce, meats, cheese and flour from local vendors. A feat that Annett says took years of dedication.
Having worked in restaurants since he was 16, Annett noticed things in food preparation that he said were not in line with his values. I would go to make food for people and it would be coming out of a bag with all these additives and preservatives, Annett said.
Annett bought Pizza’zza 15 years ago when it was a small shop inside Yorky’s Market in Fairhaven. In January of 2017 Yorky’s Market vacated the location and Pizza’zza expanded to fill the entire space. It took six months to convert the entire space to a sit-down restaurant, he said.
“When I first started about 10 percent of the food dollar was local and then as time went on and new producers came around it made a big difference in what we could source locally,” Annett said. “That’s what attracted me to having my own place was that I was passionate about local food.”
Annett started with sourcing local meats and crafted his toppings menu based around local vendors. Meats are a high dollar item and people are passionate about having pasture-raised meats, Annett said.
Currently, they source meats from Sage and Sky Farms, Osprey Hill Farms, Jack Mountain Meats and North Cascades Meat Producers Cooperative.
“It can be a challenge purchasing local food because it costs more but our prices aren’t that much higher and sometimes lower than other independent pizzerias in town,” Annett said. “I would venture to say that our total food purchasing cost is a bit higher but we are willing to absorb that cost to be in line with our ethics,” Lamson added.
In 2015 Pizza’zza began locally sourcing a staple ingredient for any pizza. Cheese.
Instead of purchasing cheese from Wisconsin, Annett and Lamson transitioned to sourcing their mozzarella from Ferndale Farmstead, a nearly 100-year-old farm that specializes in the Italian family of cheeses.
“A lot of people like to talk about the local food movement and like to talk about sourcing local on their menus but in my experience, Pizza’zza has really put their money where their soul is and that’s in our local community.” founder and cheese artisan at Ferndale Farmstead, Daniel Wavrin said.
Against the backdrop of Mount Baker, the cheese at Ferndale Farmstead is produced using milk from 680 cattle that are fed with grass grown on about 600 acres of surrounding land. The motto at the farm is ‘Seed-to-cheese’
The farm works with numerous other local restaurants such as Övn Wood Fired Pizza, Northwater Restaurant and Semiahmoo Resort.
“The vibrant variety of food production that exists in Whatcom County is really a gem,” Wavrin said. “I think that eating local is one of the most meaningful and real ways of contributing back to your community just by living your everyday life.”
Within the past year, Pizza’zza has begun to source their flour from a local mill. Instead of sourcing from a large commercial mill in Texas, for example, they have chosen to source from Cairnspring Mills in Burlington.
The mill was started in 2016 by a group of stakeholders including Skagit Valley farmers, economic development leaders, bakers and CEO and founder Kevin Morse.
Using stone-milling technology to refine grains grown in Skagit County and throughout the state, Cairnspring Mills produces about 150,000 pounds of flour each month. Cairnspring Mills supplies Pizza’zza with at least a 2,500-pound pallet of Glacier Peak Flour each month.
Morse recognizes the importance of sourcing local for a few main reasons. Large scale commodity grain systems are polluted with chemicals such as glyphosate and insecticides, he said.
“Science is showing that the reason a lot of people feel ill from eating flour in the last 25 years is not necessarily a response to gluten, but the chemicals in our commodity grains,” Morse said. “Having clean grains that can nourish us instead of making us sick is important for all our communities.”
Sourcing local keeps smaller farms viable and creates jobs in the community. Sourcing local also creates resilience to climate change and natural disasters, Morse added.
“We are appreciative of Will and his team for really going the extra effort,” Morse said. “The only way this mill has been successful is from the support it has gotten from the community.”
The eat local ideals of Pizza’zza are further boosted by a new frozen pizza product being sold at the Community Food Co-op, Yorky’s Market on Alabama and 26 grocery stores around the Puget Sound.
“Were in a position of using not only our personal food dollar to support local businesses but are able to amplify everyone else’s throughout the region,” Lamson said.