SAN FRANCISCO -- The sweet smell of caramel entices visitors to step inside San Francisco's Z. Cioccolato, a candy and fudge wonderland run by the Willy Wonka of North Beach, aka Mike Zwiefelhofer.
As soon as you enter the shop, you're greeted by giant barrels of saltwater taffy and candy likenesses of celebrities, such as Harry Styles and Mario Lopez. Look up and you'll find multicolored hot air balloons hanging from the ceiling amidst shelves of nostalgic candies that you won't find at the grocery store. It's all part of a whimsical experience.
"I want people to walk in, and I want them to feel like they're a kid again," expressed Zwiefelhofer.
Mission accomplished. With over 300 types of candy, adults can channel their inner child by indulging in popular throwback treats. And of course, take home fresh, handcrafted fudge that's sure to be their new favorite.
"What we're most known for here is our gourmet fudge," said Zwiefelhofer. "We make 100 different flavors, and most importantly, we make it right here in our shop."
But this isn't your mom's fudge. Z. Cioccolato specializes in multilayered fudge made in cake pans. Mike and his team focus on building thick bars packed with any sweet ingredient you can think of. Their claim to fame: a 7-layer fudge, called Peanut Butter Pie.
"Our 7-layer Peanut Butter Pie takes us about five hours to make from start to finish, so it's very time consuming," explained Zwiefelhofer. "That's why we believe we're the only ones in the whole country that make a 7-layered fudge."
With layers upon layers of peanut butter fudge, Oreo crisp, caramel, marshmallow, and more, the bar can be compared to a cross between peanut butter pie and s'mores. The unique flavor sells out quickly, in addition to the shop's other layered creations, like Chocolate Caramel Brownie, Caramel Cookie Dough, and North Beach Raspberry Cheesecake -- to name a few.
"Fresh fudge is made every single day and people buy it quick," explained Z. Cioccolato co-manager Thomas Forbes. "So, it's pretty sweet. Literally sweet."
Luckily, Zwiefelhofer started a Fudge of the Month Club, which guarantees four different flavors of Z. Cioccolato's fudge delivered to your door each month. Plus, one of the four flavors will always be a brand new creation, and you'll be the first to try it as a member.
In addition to constantly innovating new fudge flavors with his team each month, Zwiefelhofer offers virtual chocolate-making classes where you can learn to make the shop's signature candies.
"Would I say Mike is a real-life Willy Wonka? Totally," stated Forbes. "He's running a candy factory, a candy world."
"What drives me as an owner of a candy shop is just making people happy," said Zwiefelhofer. "We're shipping our fudge all around the country, it's more than I could have ever imagined."
To schedule a virtual chocolate-making class, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join the Fudge of the Month Club here.