|Eat Like a Local
Dizz’s is located at 2794 S. Coast Hwy.,
949.494.5250 :: dizzsasis.com
When people think about the word “cool,” the first thing that comes to mind is typically young hipsters putting on airs of pretention. But, there’s also another type of “cool.” There are those unexpected places where you instantly know you’ll make a return visit – and tell your friends about – because you feel so comfortable. The latter category is where Dizz’s As Is belongs.
The restaurant is a Laguna Beach locals’ favorite. It’s not walking distance from Main Beach, but the owners like it that way. “We get the people that really want to be here,” says co-owner Marc Pitz. When Pitz’s father, Marcel, first opened the restaurant in 1977, he knew that this was the perfect place for him and his family. After finding the space advertised in the Pennysaver, Marcel decided that this was his new “home.” After emigrating from Belgium in 1964 and cooking in several local hot spots like the Victor Hugo Inn (now Las Brisas), Pitz wanted a space and a menu all his own.
The art deco décor at first feels dated. But, then when you think about it, this look is constantly replicated at hip underground speakeasy-style bars in New York and LA. The kitsch works here because the owners selected everything themselves. After scouring garage sales and thrift stores, the Pitzs uncovered pieces of historic memorabilia that fill every crevice of the restaurant. “The only thing that’s changed,” says Pitz, “are the drapes, and the carpet gets replaced every few years.” Everything else is exactly as Marcel left it when he turned the reins over to his sons Marc and Dominic.
Another thing that’s cool (read: remarkable) is how long Dizz’s staff has worked at this hole-in-the-wall eatery. In an industry where it’s difficult to keep servers, dishwashers and cooks longer than a few months, Dizz’s owners pride themselves on having employees that work here for decades. The current chef, Antonio Ojeda, Jr., has been at Dizz’s for 32 years. And the even more remarkable thing is that his father worked here, too. Antonio Ojeda, Sr. toiled as a dishwasher for more than 30 years. However, when Ojeda, Sr. retired, the Pitz family had a special parting gift for him: an employee pension fund worth approximately $120,000. Although times have changed and the family can’t invest as they used to, all their employees still seem loyal, and more importantly, happy.
The patrons are also loyal. When Marc announced earlier this year that he was battling pancreatic cancer, the community rallied around the Pitzs. Benefit dinners were hosted, money was raised, but the most impressive thing was that the locals actually started volunteering. Organized by Marc’s longtime friend, Laurie Levine, patrons came in nightly and worked as servers, bar backs and hosts. They worked long shifts for free. “Laguna Beach is made up of some really great people,” says Pitz. The family is still very grateful.
The menu features 12-15 entrées. From the classic surf n’ turf served with prawns to the veal osso bucco plated with a demi-spoon so you can scoop out the succulent marrow, the menu hasn’t changed much over the years. And that’s another thing that the locals love. Many of the dishes are Marcel’s original recipes, like the duck a l’orange and the scrumptious onion soup fondue. Marc has also added a few of his own touches to the menu over the years. Everything is made in-house – from the house paté to the chicken marsala. The only thing Dizz’s doesn’t make from scratch is the sourdough bread. “We get that from a great little bakery called Picket Lane in Huntington Beach,” says Marc. Another surprising touch is the complimentary aperitif. Glasses of Gallo dry vermouth with lemon zest are served before you order. Not very many restaurants still do this – and that’s very cool indeed.
When asked when the next generation is going to take over, Pitz laughs and says, “I think that it’ll have to skip a generation, because I plan on staying around. We’ve seen so many places come and go over the years.” So Dominic, Marc and their brother-in-law, Kim McConnell, who works as a prep cook, have a long road ahead. “We’re lucky that our parents own the building so we plan to be here for a long time.” And everyone in Laguna is happy to hear that.