Bravo, Zulu

A new location and updated menu allow BZs Italian Kitchen to flourish

Pizza and more at BZs.
Pizza and more at BZs.
Oftentimes when an established eatery up and relocates to a far-off location, the results can be disastrous. Moving from the busy arena of Broadway and Camino Seco to a near-hidden spot in a strip mall on Wrightstown Road just off North Pantano Road could have spelled doom for the beloved BZs Pizza. Turns out, the whole move was a solid upgrade for them.

Owner and chef Brian Sorrel, along with brother Michael and father Carl, were not only tired of being surrounded by fast food chains, but the constant construction and poor parking conditions warranted relocation long before the actual action was a go.

"We had plenty of people that wanted to invest and partner with us," says Michael, "But it wouldn't have mattered in the original location because there really wasn't any parking. Now we have nothing but! That and an amazing view and a new clientele that inspired Brian to expand the menu."

Michael and Brian grew up Air Force brats and had been around the world a few times before they completed their teen years. During their time in Europe, they were exposed to cuisine that would later be the mainstay of their business. After high school, Brian attended the culinary academy in Scottsdale before returning to Tucson, the city that was officially their home, as father Carl spent most of his career at Davis-Monthan.

"I floated around cooking for a lot of resorts after graduating," says Brian. "It was when I landed a job at Fiorito's that my love for Italian food began to really shine through. When it closed that's when we knew it was time to go into business for ourselves."

Aware that Brian was going to be calling the shots in the kitchen, Carl and Michael wanted to name the restaurant after him. The original idea was for it to be his initials, which for Brian Sorrel, would be BS.

"Yeah, we knew that wouldn't look or sound too good," laughs Michael. "So instead we went with our military background and opted for BZ, which in the royal Navy stands for 'bravo zulu,' flag code for 'good work' or 'job well done.' We think that represents what we do much better."

BZs may have started as a delicious pizza joint but it has evolved into a full Italian concept, one that is very approachable, both in atmosphere and price. Sure, the word-of-mouth buzz on their pizzas is fantastic, but new options like the roasted garlic and brie plate ($13) and house-made portobello ravioli ($14.50) have elevated the operation even higher.

"It took us three months to get this new location up to our specifications," Michael says. "We started back in October of last year and opened in January. So far the response has been nothing but positive."

Diners are embracing dishes such as the cioppino ($20.50), a literal pool of clams, shrimp, ahi and mussels swimming in a warm coconut curry broth giving it a pleasant hint in flavor, and the lobster ravioli ($19.50), which is both rich and sweetly delicate.

The Italian-inspired sandwiches will fill you up for lunch and set you in for a possible afternoon nap. The meatball, eggplant and chicken parmesan along with their signature beef dip all go for roughly $9 and can easily be split between two people if you're peckish but not full-on hollow belly.

"We still consider ourselves a pizza place because when you put 'pizza' in your name, that means something affordable that can feed your whole family," says Michael. "If we put Chez Bistro or something, it just gives off a certain tone that we feel does not represent what we do. Italian Kitchen is something between the two and describes what we are all about these days."

If you're a Cleveland Browns fan (as they are and I am), this is the place to watch a game. The Sorrels always have award-winning mango-habernero wings and a solid rotation of beers, both local and obscure, to go along with the sports.

Job well done, indeed.