Ozzie Fernandez may have Mexican roots, but after finishing culinary school, he got his training from an Italian chef. So, when the Izzo’s Illegal Burrito CEO was ready to diversify his concepts in 2016, a pizza restaurant seemed like a “natural leap.”
What Fernandez didn’t expect, though, was the explosive growth of Lit Pizza. Within only a year and a half, Fernandez has opened a second location of the fast-casual, build-your-own wood-fired pizza concept in Prairieville, with more in development.
The secret ingredient? Fernandez tells all his managers the same thing: Create a full dining experience every day for every customer.
“Quality ingredients at generous portions at a great value in a fun and clean atmosphere with friendly service. That has been our motto,” Fernandez, 43, says. “It’s fun; it’s exciting. [Customers] get to see everything—how it’s made, when it goes in the oven. We’re not hiding anything. We make our own dough fresh two to three times a day. It’s the full experience.” lit.pizza and izzos.com
5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT HIM
1. Fernandez always envisioned creating a hospitality group in Baton Rouge. Now he’s formally created one with his partner Gary Kovacs: GO Eat Concepts, which includes Izzo’s, Lit and the upcoming Rocca Pizzeria.
2. He has several new Lit locations lined up for 2018. Plans include dual Lit and Izzo’s locations in City Square at Highland Road and Bluebonnet Boulevard and near Cabela’s in Gonzales, as well as a solo Lit location planned for Central.
3. He intentionally chose Burbank Drive, near LSU’s campus, for the first Lit Pizza because it’s just feet from the flagship Izzo’s, which he opened 15 years ago.
4. He’s not just an entrepreneur—Fernandez tests and develops many of his own recipes.
5. He’s already imported and installed an oven from Naples, Italy, for Rocca Pizzeria. His foray into full-service restaurants opens later this year in the former location of Goüter on Government Street. The Neapolitan pizza concept will bring house-made cheeses, creative flavor profiles, craft cocktails, small plates and eventually brunch.
Click here to read about the rest of the People To Watch in 2018.
This article was originally published in theJanuary 2018 issue of 225 Magazine.