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He used to act with Costner and Clooney, now he’s opened a restaurant in Cottontown

Citta Del Cotone

The Citta Del Cotone pizzeria has opened on Sumter Street in Cottontown. The opening continues the growth of the Main Street corridor in Columbia, South Carolina.
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The Citta Del Cotone pizzeria has opened on Sumter Street in Cottontown. The opening continues the growth of the Main Street corridor in Columbia, South Carolina.

Rick Marzan used to throw lines with the likes of Kevin Costner and George Clooney. Now he tosses pizza at his new Citta Del Cotone restaurant in Cottontown.

“I was a rising movie star,” the Columbia native said Monday as he sampled tomato sauce and prepped the kitchen at the casual Neapolitan pizzeria at 2150 Sumter St.

“But that’s the past,” he said. “I just use it for marketing now.”

Citta Del Contone counter
Citta Del Cotone pizzeria in Cottontown serves authentic Neopolitan pies Jeff Wilkinson jwilkinson@thestate.com

Marzan, a Columbia native, played baseball and football at the University of Kentucky, then tried his hand at big business.

“That lasted about two weeks,” he said.

He then studied acting in New York and moved to Hollywood, where, with his baseball skills, he landed the role of Jose in the 1988 hit “Bull Durham” with Kevin Costner.

Marzan went on to play a recurring role as Camacho in seven episodes of “ER” in 1994 and 1995. He’s also appeared in films with the likes of Robert De Niro and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Citta Del Cotone pizza
Citta Del Cotone pizzeria in Cottontown serves authentic Neopolitan pies Jeff Wilkinson jwilkinson@thestate.com

But after 20 years in Tinsel Town, he came back to Columbia to pursue another passion, cooking.

“I just wanted to make a pile of money (in Hollywood) and come home,” he said. “Columbia has everything I need. I’m happy.”

Marzan, formerly of Noah’s Antica pizzeria in the Irmo/St. Andrews area, partnered with Za’s Brick Oven Pizza founder Tommy Price to open Citta Del Cotone, which literally translates as “town of cotton.”

Pronounced cheetah del co-to-neh, the restaurant serves authentic Neapolitan pies, hand-crafted and baked for 90 seconds in a 900- degree, custom-made brick oven.

“It’s got to be black on the edge and tender in the middle,” Marzan said.

Citta Del Contone counter
Citta Del Cotone pizzeria in Cottontown serves authentic Neopolitan pies Jeff Wilkinson jwilkinson@thestate.com

They use imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes (which only grow around Mount Vesuvius), and import special “00” pizza flour from Italy.

“It’s a tender dough that requires a lighter touch,” said Price, who also headed Crescent Grill in Camden, the Mill Pond Steakhouse in Boykin and the Congaree Grill in Five Points.

The ingredients are simple, but there are 16 pies to choose from, eight pomodoro (tomato sauce) and eight bianco (white). There are three salads, three appetizers and three sandwiches.

The most popular pies are the Pizza Noah (tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, bacon and blueberries), and the Pizza Ragan (fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, caramelized onions, bacon, arugula and honey).

The beer selection? Two. The Italian brews Moretti and Peroni. There is also a selection of Italian wines and, in an odd twist, Mexican Cokes.

“They are made with real cane sugar, no chemicals,” Price said.

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The restaurant, which opened Friday, is a tiny affair at just 1,000 square feet. There are only a handful of tables and the bulk of the seating is at a wide, L-shaped counter than borders the open kitchen.

The shakedown cruise over the weekend was packed.

“We were packed; it was a disaster,” Marzan said, laughing. “We’re both really sore. We used muscles we haven’t used in awhile.”

Price, the de facto chief operating officer, even ended up washing dishes.

“Clean dishes are important,” he said. “And I got to see what was coming back that people didn’t like.”

For Marzan, the fun is making authentic Neapolitan pies with authentic Italian ingredients in an emerging dynamic neighborhood.

“We wanted to give Columbia something different,” he said.

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