Two years ago, Rick Marzan was living in Los Angeles, working as an actor and producer.
But after a quarter of a century there, the man who starred as Jose in the baseball movie classic Bull Durham was unfulfilled.
I just wasnt happy, said Marzan, sitting outside of his new Neapolitan pizza restaurant in Irmo. Something was missing.
Marzan, who graduated from Spring Valley High School in 1978 and whose parents still live in Northeast Richland, opened Noahs Antica Pizzeria less than a month ago at 7719 St. Andrews Road in Irmos Shoppers Walk shopping center.
Dont think Dominos and Little Caesars, though. This pizza is different.
I brought a new concept here, Marzan said. Youre playing in a whole different ballgame.
Marzan bakes Italian-style pizza, with tomatoes grown in the volcanic soil at the base of Italys Mount Vesuvius and fine Caputo flour. He said he learned the trade from longtime friend Pepe Miele, president of Verace Pizza Napoletana Americas and proprietor of Antica Pizzeria in Los Angeles.
Neapolitan pizza is made from a simple list of ingredients tomato sauce, herbs, fresh mozzarella, veggies and meat. It is baked in a 900-degree, wood-fired brick oven, cooking in about 90 seconds. The Pompeii oven design which looks a bit like an igloo is 4,000 years old, said Marzan, who sells his 12-inch pizzas for $10 to $16 each.
For now, Marzan is selling dinner from the tiny take-out restaurant in Irmo with his business partner, Chuck Newman. He opens at 4 p.m. daily.
By next spring, he hopes to grow the concept to downtown Columbia, opening a restaurant on Main Street or in the Vista, and begin expanding the menu to include pasta and other dishes.
Marzan who was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Europe, before his parents retired in the Midlands named his restaurant after his 2-year-old son, Noah Alexander, who lives in Sweden with his mother.
Marzans long journey home took him to the University of Kentucky to play football after high school. He had hoped to be the first Puerto Rican to play in the NFL, according to his biography. But an injury sent him back to baseball, and he was drafted by the Montreal Expos. That dream ended, too, when he sustained a career-ending injury in spring training.
Shortly thereafter, he was bitten by the acting bug. After his role in Bull Durham, he landed parts in other movies, including Heat and Eraser, and television shows, such as E.R. and China Beach.
But last winter, Marzan started to re-evaluate his life.
He said he could count only three good friends even after more than two decades in Los Angeles. So he packed up and started the cross-country drive.
His adventure took him through countless small towns along the way, where he stopped and visited. It brought me back to reality, Marzan said. These were real people. This was real America.
Marzan, who said he was known for his dinner parties in L.A., fully developed his plan for the new restaurant as he drove across the country.
I knew what I wanted to do, he said. This right here is my passion.