Whats cooking at USC Village? For starters, the big and bold flavor of Rances Pizza
Entrepreneurial alum bakes a successful recipe for a community oriented business set to open this fall
Aaron Tofani 11 is clear about one thing when it comes to Rances Chicago Pizza: Its not personal.
Were not one of those places where you stand in line and order a custom, personal pizza, Tofani said. One of our large pizzas will feed up to eight people. You only need one slice.
The pizza parlors space could be a popular gathering place when it opens this fall at USC Village.
Its one of several eateries at the $700 million residential-retail complex that will bring new flavors and dining experiences to the neighborhood.
I want to see big groups of students, talking over pizza, Tofani said. We also want the indoor and outdoor spaces to blend together, to get that Southern California feeling.
Rances will face Jefferson Boulevard, along with other shops and restaurants. We searched long and hard for the right pizza tenant for USC Village, said Laurie Michelle Stone, USC associate senior vice president for real estate and asset Management. We wanted something unique and eclectic that delivered big and bold flavors. Rances Chicago Pizza hit the mark on all fronts.
No freezers here
Rances is named for Tofanis childhood friend and business partner, Rance Ruiz. It took the pair years to put together recipes and a business plan that made them successful in a highly competitive segment of the restaurant business.
I used the research methods I learned at USC Price, said Tofani, who completed the Master of Real Estate Development program at the USC Price School of Public Policy in 2011. I used demographic research to figure out what areas were best suited for our product, and I looked at commercial real estate databases to study successful locations.
USC Village will be Rances third location. The first opened in Costa Mesa in 2012. A second location opened in Long Beachs Belmont Shore district in January.
Tofani had his eye on USC Village years ago when the development was in the planning stages.
I didnt want to see another fast-casual place. Theyre not meant for big groups.
I knew I wanted to have a store around USC, Tofani said. I didnt want to see another fast-casual place. Theyre not meant for big groups. Were really a community oriented business that likes to bring people together.
We dont have a freezer. The salad dressings are made fresh. For us, its all in the details, like premium cheese from Wisconsin. We use tomatoes that are hard to find in our sauce. The seasonings we use are a blend from around the world and we had to track those down.
Rances makes everything from scratch every day and their pizzas take as long as 45 minutes to bake. Slices and take-and-bake pies also will be offered.
Through thick and thin
Customers will have three variations of Chicago style pizza to choose from at Rances. Pan style, baked in a seasoned deep-dish pan, has a thicker crust with caramelized cheese around the edges. Rances stuffed pizza is richly filled, then covered with a paper-thin, pastry-like crust to seal in flavors. A thinner version, Tavern style, has a crispy texture.
We like to say crust is a must and sauce is the boss, Tofani said. There are very few places that do what we do.
Tofani expects to start building out Rances space at USC Village space in April.
I cant wait to see it become a reality, he said. Youll walk in, smell the pizza baking and see people enjoying food together, maybe a group of students working on a project. Theyll be working on their dreams, like I am now.