Latest Draganowski Venture Is River Prairie Pizza Spot Za 51

Emilee Wentland, photos by Andrea Paulseth

A VERY NICE SLICE. Now open in Altoona’s River Prairie development, Za 51 is a specialty pizzeria by the owners of Draganetti’s Ristorante and Taverna Grill. TOP: A “Forager” pizza with chicken, mushrooms, and onions.
A VERY NICE SLICE. Now open in Altoona’s River Prairie development, Za 51 is a specialty pizzeria by the owners of Draganetti’s Ristorante and Taverna Grill. TOP: A “Forager” pizza with chicken, mushrooms, and onions.

Pizza can be more than just cheese, sausage, or pepperoni. Altoona’s newest pizza restaurant, Za 51, serves up 10-inch, thin-crust pizzas topped with artichokes, prosciutto, chicken, onions, or even meatballs. Za 51 features pizzas such as the “Meat Raffle”  (topped with bacon, pepperoni, and sausage), “Forager” (chicken, mushrooms, and onions) and “Za 51” (Italian sausage and peppadew drizzled with balsamic).

“Anyone can make [a pizza] to order, which we do. But it’s also good to have some choices that are not-so-traditional.” –Joanne Palzkill, co-owner of Za 51

But pizza isn’t all they make. 

Joanne Palzkill, co-owner of Za 51, said their appetizers are proving to be popular as well. The gigante meatball and Italian nosh plate are popular dishes, she said. The gigante (Italian for “giant”) meatball is an appetizer that consists of an oversized meatball covered in sauces, while the Italian nosh plate includes various cheeses, meats, and crackers to share. The restaurant also features prosecco wine on tap, which Palzkill said is another crowd favorite.  

Za 51, which opened in Altoona’s River Prairie in March, is the newest addition the Draganowski family’s group of “sister restaurants,” which includes Draganetti’s Ristorante in Altoona and Taverna Grill in Eau Claire.

“We really felt like we wanted to do something that was more focused on pizza, so that was kind of why we went towards having a third restaurant,” Palzkill said. 

Za 51’s name exemplifies the owners’ family history, according to the restaurant’s website. The family began making pizzas in northern Wisconsin in 1951 and, of course, “za” is short for pizza. 

Palzkill said the family has been talking casually about opening another restaurant for about five years, but it was not until recently that the idea turned into something more serious. While Draganetti’s is a large, full-service dinner restaurant and Taverna is a bar and grill, this time around they decided to focus on pizza with a “big city vibe,” Palzkill said. Ultimately, they chose Altoona’s new River Prairie development as their location.

“It was just a really thought-out and planned community and we liked the vibe,” Palzkill said. “We liked the fact that it would be a good place to open a business, very community-oriented and easily-accessible and a lot of foot traffic.”

This time around, the owners – siblings Claudia Draganowski, John Draganowski, and Palzkill – built the restaurant from scratch. The family designed the building themselves, and plan to have tenants in the adjacent construction. Imagining the layout for themselves rather than working with an existing building was an exciting new experience for the siblings.

Za 51 differs from their other restaurants because of its open-concept layout. Rather than having a wall separating the dining area from the kitchen, customers are able to watch their pizzas being made in what Palzkill calls “the heart of the house.” This is one of her favorite parts of the restaurant because their kitchen staff is made up of driven, spirited people, and the customers pick up on that energy. 

A lot of trial and error went into creating the menu. They thought about when they’ve traveled and what they enjoyed in other places to determine what was missing in the Chippewa Valley. 

“Anybody can make [a pizza] to order, which we do,” Palzkill said, “but it’s also good to have some choices that are not-so-traditional.”

Za 51 • 1476 Blazing Star Blvd., Altoona • 11am-10pm Monday-Saturday and 11am-9pm Sunday • (715) 833-1951 • info@za51.comza51.com

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