When we think about establishments that locals frequent, Dizz's As Is along Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach epitomizes the genre. If you blink, you likely drove past it. A family-owned restaurant, Dominic and Marc Pitz's father, Marcel, bought the space 36 years ago. Nowadays, the brothers co-own Dizz's. This week's interview is what family business is all about.
How does Dizz's thrive in a competitive restaurant setting like south Orange County?
We have great service, unusually cool art deco decor, and great food with amazing value and consistency. We also have long-term employees: a chef of 33 years, sous chef of 31 years and servers with us for 25 years, all with their own clientele.
Your earliest food memory:
Anything my mom made for dinner growing up. Usually a baked chicken; that was so yummy.
One food you can't live without:
Fruit. It is so refreshing, and fills you up with a lot of vitamins and minerals. I like all of them, but every day I have a banana.
We read your hours change with the seasons. What are the current operating hours, as well as your designated seating times?
Now we are open Tuesday through Sunday. We open at 5 p.m. and seat until we slow down, usually 9 p.m. weekdays and 9:30 p.m. weekends. We don't rush people out, so sometimes we don't physically leave until midnight.
Favorite places to eat (besides your own).
Lumberyard and Cafe Zoolu.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Keep things basic. Don't overuse ingredients and taste along the way.
Most undervalued ingredient.
White pepper. You don't need a lot. It's got a little heat, but not too much. It disappears in your soup or sauce, but it has that bite that people can't quite figure out.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Fresh produce, fruits and fish. We work with Ingardia Brothers.
What were some of your responsibilities when you worked there in middle school?
Cleaning the old junk out of the little nooks and crannies, dishwashing, and repairing all the broken down appliances and parts of the building. The one thing I can't do is refrigeration. I want to go back to school so I can figure it out.
Favorite meal growing up.
Pate Chinois. It's ground meat, flavored and placed at the bottom of a casserole dish. Then you have a layer of (creamed) corn, and another one of mashed potatoes. Sprinkling cheese is optional. You have your meat, starch and vegetable all in one. You just throw it in the oven, and then it's done.
Let's discuss the pate and vermouth served.
Dad grew up in Belgium and trained there. Everywhere you go, you have a starter and a palate cleanser. So 36 years ago, Dad chose his pate recipe. We found vermouth paired very well with it.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
Raw clams on the half shell. Yes, we did it. The customer is always right. We served it with a little horseradish aioli. He said it was good.
Strangest thing you've ever eaten:
Cow tongue. My aunt made it for us when I was eight or nine. It's good when my dad cooks it, but she didn't cook it long enough.
Where was your most recent meal?
Dizz's chicken cordon bleu.
Who is your pastry chef, and what is their specialty?
My brother-in-law, Kim McConnell. My grandfather's Belgian berry whipped cream pie recipe, and anything with chocolate.
Your best recent food find.
Pork tamales from Moreno's in Orange. My wife loves the crispy tacos. They are so good and reasonably priced. We usually sit in the patio. It's a good family spot.
You're making breakfast; what are you having?
Poached eggs on an English muffin, fresh fruit, Greek yogurt with chia seeds and cran-raspberry juice.