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“Rance was born in Orange County and when he was visiting his sister while she was in college up in the Bay, he discovered Zachary’s and became a wild, Chicago-style pizza mad scientist at that point,” Long Beach resident—who fell in love with the city during the build-out in Belmont Shore—and co-owner Aaron Tofani said. “We’ve known each other since the 3rd Grade and when it came time to jump into adulting, I went to business school and he went to the School of Hardknocks learning how to make pizza.”

“Mad scientist” is underselling founder Rance Ruiz’s endeavor: His family outright told him to knock it off with the pizza nonsense while friends looked on impressed as Ruiz began stakeouts on pizza joints.

No, literally stakeouts: Ordering from various places he would travel to, he would note who delivered and where to; he would ask people at the restaurant why this particular pizzeria was their choice; he would call and say, “Hey, I’m not so good with garlic—do you put garlic in your sauce?” after taste-testing a particular pie…

The result? A matrix of deep-dishes from around the country over the course of nearly a decade, attached with details upon details that would eventually build up to an ask of his friend Tofani after he failed to succeed in Yorba Linda because of a lack of business accumen: With business experience on Tofani’s side and what Rance believed was the right recipe for his Chicago-style pizza on the other, Rance’s Chicago Pizza was born in Costa Mesa and then Long Beach.

Photos and written by Brian Addison.

For Brian Addison's full feature on Rance's Chicago Pizza, click here. 

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