Lessons From Ziggy’s Pizza: Say What You Mean.

In my earlier Ziggy’s Pizza post, I introduced you to the owner of the restaurant where I got my first job. Though Ziggy and his restaurant are gone, the lessons I learned from him stay with me.

Today we’ll discuss the second communication lesson I learned from “The Owner”.

We rejoin this tale of my youth a few weeks into my pizza making career. I was still sixteen years old. Ziggy stopped by the restaurant, lingered a bit, then pulled me aside when an order came in. “I’m going to show you how to make a pizza” he said, “get me a pizza crust.”

That’s Not Funny

Player catches frisbee

Tossing a Ziggy’s Crust (Image via Wikipedia)

The pizza crust at Ziggy’s was pre-made and par-cooked. It arrived in boxes and kept refrigerated. We’d grab the crusts, put stuff on them and slide them in the oven as the orders came in. There was no art to it.

Sometimes I’d toss the crusts in the air like I was spinning fresh dough. Management didn’t think it was as funny as I did.

When Ziggy came to me and said “get me a pizza crust” I got one out and placed it on the preparation table with reverence. I knew that $2.35 an hour he was paying me gave him the right to decide what was funny.

Pizza crust tossing was not funny. It was time for me to learn from the man.

That’s The Way, Uh Huh, Uh Huh…

My advanced pizza making seminar with The Master began. Ziggy showed me how to put pizza sauce on the crust, then he uttered the line I saw him use unsuccessfully with one teen-aged pizza chef after another:

“I like to make a pizza the way I like it. I put on the amount of cheese I like.”

Pizza on a pizza stone

Cheese = $ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To young me, that meant I should make pizzas that I would like. I like my pizza with lots of cheese. From then on, I piled cheese on pizza…the way I like it. Then one day Ziggy stopped by and saw me make a pizza with about one cow’s worth of mozzarella. He clutched his chest and croaked out “who taught you to make pizza that way?”

“You did, sir.”

A second demonstration made it clear that I should make pizza not the way I liked it, but the way the owner of the shop liked it. Mozzarella was money. Pizza was to be made with only the required amount of costly cheesiness.

Say What You Mean To Say

Subtlety did not work for Ziggy. I saw him use the “I like to make a pizza the way I like…” line with each new pizza maker. The result was always pizza going out the door laden with excessive cheesy goodness.

What I learned from Ziggy, though it wasn’t what he was teaching me is: When you need people to do something specific, be specific about what you want them to do. I supervise people and know being subtle is important. But I know from my time with Ziggy that being direct is important sometimes.

Sometimes I need other people to make pizza the way I like it.

This is part two of a three-part series, click here for the last serving of Ziggy’s Pizza.


31 Comments on “Lessons From Ziggy’s Pizza: Say What You Mean.”

  1. I would have piled on the cheese, too.

  2. madtante says:

    I love this! Too true.

    My gram owned a popular music club that was known for its secondary line of business: pizza. She said they ALWAYS piled on ingredients. They people who bought the property (and became a different kind of business) got phone calls requesting their pizza over 10 years after they’d sold. Ingredients are money — but customers are the ones giving it to you!

  3. Betty says:

    Did Ziggy play guitar?

  4. We went to DQ the other night for sundaes, and Hope asked me why the girl weighed them…a scale might have helped you guys achieve the “zen level of cheesiness” for Ziggy’s pizza…hindsight is 20/20!


  5. I made some pizza last week from scratch. Trust me…throwing pizza dough (premade or otherwise) is funny. Until it’s done unsuccessfully. And then it’s funnier.

  6. Hippie Cahier says:

    I was at a party this weekend where pizza was served. The hostess ordered cheese. The pizza guy (name unknown) told her she had to get an extra topping to get the special price. She said she did not want an extra topping. Apparently they went back and forth on this for some time until she said, “Hey, I’d like cheese as my extra topping.” He complied.

    I do not have a point. Were you looking for one?

  7. Katybeth says:

    Never occurred to Ziggy that everyone did not like pizza the way he did. Maybe the second lessons is- like what your boss likes…at least in the beginning or when his name is Ziggy
    Someday I will blog about the night my dearly departed and his best friend decided to drink an old collection of airline miniatures…and make pizza dough for scratch–including tossing the dough…lucky for him he married a women who is a darn good sport.

  8. Todd Pack says:

    Ziggy sounds like a piece of work. It’s also good to know that the pizza from the pizzaria is really no more fresh than the kind they have in the freezer at Kroger.

  9. educlaytion says:

    I know what you mean. I had zero assertiveness once upon a time. Then every mentor/boss seemed to be so direct. That rubs off. Now, every once in a while a student will say that I’m scary, and I laugh because I’m never thinking anything but clear and direct communication!

  10. pattypunker says:

    what is the point of tomato pie?

  11. Oma, maybe you should try being direct by saying “Quit singing to me! You sing badly”

  12. thejaggedman says:

    Smells like my old boss at Long John Silvers motto back in the day: Do what I mean not what I say. I mean really! I was a teenage boy so abstract thinking was not in the tools needed for fast food success.

    • omawarisan says:

      Ha ha…I think the teenage boy point is well taken. There are times when we need step by step guidance. I’m walking toward being 50. I think I’m going back to that time.

  13. Marge says:

    Didn’t you have to actually measure the ‘correct’ amount of cheese on a scale or something? How much cheese did you put on the “white pizzas”?

    • omawarisan says:

      I think at one point there was talk about a scale but I don’t remember it happening. There was a scale that was used to portion out the seasoning for the pizza sauce. Don’t ask me for the secret recipe, I’ve been sworn.

  14. […] Lessons From Ziggy’s Pizza: Say What You Mean. ( […]

  15. run4joy59 says:

    I think I used to be Ziggy…I owned a little pizza place in a small town for 13 years…had a lot of kids work for me during that time. I sure hope I was more specific about what I wanted the kids to do!

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