TULSA, Okla. — Tara Hattan is turning 26 next month and has a lot to celebrate. She is the co-owner of “Zasa’s Pizza and Wings,” the 2021 3rd place World Pizza Champion winner, and she is now gracing the cover of the national magazine publication, “Pizza Today.”
Even with all her success and accomplishments, Hattan says in many ways she feels like she is just getting started in the pizzaiola field. Which literally means, “in the manner of a pizza-maker,” in Italian.
“I think I just kind of accidentally stumbled upon it. I weirdly was always into being in the kitchen, helping my mom. Obviously, we always grew up like cooking, always non-stop in the house,” said Hattan. “My mom, grandma, and I would always just like rush around the kitchen. I always try to do everything as fast as possible for some reason, and I thought it was just because I just wanted to clean up and get out of the kitchen, but it wasn’t.”
In high school, Hattan had a brief stint at a local pizza joint. She continued to work in the service industry for the next couple of years and began her studies to be a pharmacy tech during her first year in college. But, Hattan started to be drawn back to, “throwing pizza dough again.”
Hattan says she would make pizza dough, throw and spin the dough out on her balcony, so she wouldn’t get flour all over her apartment.
Hattan decided she wanted to work for what she said was the best pizza place in the Tulsa Metro area.
“I applied for “Andolini’s” shortly after that because, I know they’re the best in Tulsa. Everyone talks about them. They’re opening all these new locations. I want to be a part of it and I went and applied at every single location, like all on the same day. And I really didn’t care which one. I just wanted to work there,” recalled Hattan.
At one of those interviews, “Andolini’s” staff asked her when she would be able to start and she replied, “Soon as possible and they’re like, ‘Well, you want to come back tonight?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, definitely.’ And I just went in full force.”
Hattan says she started at the base level. She just wanted to make pizza.
It wasn’t long until the co-owners of “Andolini’s” Pizza, brothers Mike and Jim Bausch recognized the talent, potential, and passion for pizza in Hattan. She soon was promoted to Kitchen Manager of the Owasso restaurant location and they have become her mentors.
Hattan says that the Bausch brothers are “great at putting me outside of my comfort zone and making me do things I really wouldn’t do. And then I go and do them, and I’m like I love this! I’m so glad you made me do this.”
The Bausch brothers and Hattan are co-owners of “Zasa’s Pizza & Wings,” a pizza parlor with two locations in T-Town. One near 101st and Memorial and the other in Mother Road on East 11th Street and South Lewis Avenue.
“I wouldn’t want to be partners with anyone else in a restaurant,” said Hattan.
According to Hattan the concept for the pizza establishment was inspired by, “the late 80′s early 90′s. Mike, Jim, and I all decided on the name. It was a play off The Godfather and named after Joey Zasa! And we thought it was a fun play on Pizza seeing how we call it, ‘Za.’”
Hattan says expect Brooklyn, New York-style pizza.
“Our slices are a foot long, so they’re 12-inch slices. They’re massive; they’re bigger than your face. [And] the biggest wings you could possibly find,” said Hattan. ‘Pickle Pizza’ is our best-selling pizza and I think it’s because we’re probably the only people who sell it in Tulsa that I know of. Is it good? It’s super, good. It’s weird, good. It’s just a weird, fun take on pizza. I did fit into the Andolini’s world as I can make high-end pizza, but I like making weird stuff. That’s what keeps me interested.”
Hattan started competing in international pizza championships around 2018.
As one of the youngest competitors, she has received six gold, one silver, and five bronze in the Pizza Acrobats, Triathlon, and Fastest Dough categories.
Hattan also states that the competitions are judged on, “dexterity, the synchronization to the music drops, the tricks, and all that good stuff.”
In an industry that has been dominated by men, when it comes to strategy Hattan says that she aims to steer away from all the flash and glitter of the performance when she competes.
“I feel like people are going to look at me regardless and they’re going to kind of put that doubt into me. They have, they definitely have. I’ve experienced that more when I competed in London. It was pretty aggressive but they all dress up in like crazy costumes and have like a storyline kind of to what they’re doing,” explained Hattan. “When I throw dough. I’m in sweatpants and I’m in a T-shirt. I want to look as non-stand out as possible because I’d rather my moods and everything I’m doing is the reason that I place, not because I dressed up as a crazy whatever in the process of it.”
“First year, I was the only female competitor,” says Hattan.
In her second year, she said she noticed another woman competing, who approached her and said, “’I’ve watched your videos for years and she’s like I’ve been practicing all your moves.’ And she competed with me again last year and I think she ended up coming to the Master’s Division. That was super exciting.”
Hattan says was thrilled when asked to be a part of an article for the national magazine publication, “Pizza Today.” But, she had not been told she would be featured on the cover.
However, they did inform her boss Mike Bausch. And he couldn’t resist the opportunity to share the news in a way she wasn’t expecting.
“He called me into the office for “undisclosed reasons.” So I was panicking and I was like, can they fire me and I was so scared, I don’t know why. I thought I did something wrong. He was like, ‘So you’re giving out our data. You’re giving out our personal property. Just show her.’ He pulled [it] up on the big screen in the office and it was the cover of pizza today and I just started crying,” said Hattan.
Luckily, he caught the moment on camera.
It took a while for the news to sink in for Hattan.
“Oh my gosh, it’s real. It’s like I’m really on like the cover of this magazine. ‘Pizza Today’ gets sent out to like literally every single pizzeria in the United States! I got a bunch of our magazines and I had to stash a few just for like my friends and family,” expressed Hattan.
What does the future hold for the pizzaiola in her mid-20s?
“I’m going to get old eventually and not be able to throw down. I’m hoping to actually do more baking and stuff in the international pizza competition,” Hattan said.
The next pizza competition is in March of 2023 in Las Vegas.
“I guess that’s going to come up real fast,” said Hattan.
As far as continuing her success in the pizza industry, Hattan says things are just heating up, “I just want to open more stores and make better pizza. I don’t think I’m ever going to stop trying to make our pizza better!”
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