By Charlie Pogacar

The legend of Billy Zureikat, a home chef from Chicago, is poised to grow. 

Starting on Thursday, May 2, Zureikat’s famous “traveling” pizza, the Tripping Billy, will make its way onto the menu of Pequod’s Pizza, one of the country’s most acclaimed pizzerias. It is, Pequod’s reports, the first guest-created menu item in its history. Not only that, it will also be the first white pie ever served at Pequod’s. The pizza will be featured as a special item on Thursdays during May. 

“It’s a big deal,” Zureikat marveled to PMQ. “Pequod’s has been around for…how long?…and they’ve never done a pizza collab or a white pie before, and guess who is the first person to make it happen? The ol’ home chef from Chicago.” 

To understand where Zureikat is coming from, you have to first understand his culinary journey. It’s become canon in the Chicago culinary scene: Zureikat was an ESPN producer who loved to play basketball during his free time. At some point, he noticed his legs beginning to betray him. Sometimes he would inexplicably stumble on the court during a pick-up game, but, not one for excuses, he tried to keep it to himself. As the condition worsened, Zureikat consulted doctors. It took them 8 years to diagnose Zureikat with limb girdle muscular dystrophy, a rare disease that progressively weakens a person’s muscles around the shoulders and pelvic area. 

Related: The Tripping Billy: Billy Zureikat’s Runaway Hit

By this time, Zureikat’s basketball playing days were behind him. Searching for another passion—one that could replace the competitive buzz he previously got playing hoops—Billy Z, as he’s come to be known, found it via baking. He began experimenting in the kitchen with different bakes and recipes, some of which revolved around pizza. When he was first getting into pizza, he approached Derrick Tung, owner of Paulie Gee’s Logan Square, to get some tips. Zureikat was thrilled with how helpful Tung was to him then, and the two stayed in touch. 

It was in 2021 that Zureikat first created his one-of-a-kind pizza as a special menu item for Paulie Gee’s Logan Square: the Tripping Billy, named as an ode to Zureikat’s condition. Zureikat has since made different iterations of the pie, but it typically features a cream sauce base, shishito peppers, corn and onions—it’s a play on a traditional Mexican dish called rajas con crema. 

Ever since the pizza launched as a special at Paulie Gee’s, Zureikat has taken it on a “tour” of Chicago, making small adjustments to the build to retrofit the pie as an LTO at different pizzerias around town. Thus far, the Tripping Billy has been featured at 16 different pizzerias across Chicago—a figure that does not even account for the sandwiches, beers and other menu items he’s created as a respected home chef with a growing brand. 

One thing all of these collaborations have in common—and this is true of the collab Zureikat is now doing with Pequod’s—is that they raise money for muscular dystrophy research. So far, Zureikat’s efforts have raised over $50,000. 

It seems fitting that Billy Z’s rising status will collide with Pequod’s at a time when the pizzeria’s stock has never been higher. In addition to being featured in the foodie-favorite Hulu show The Bear, Pequod’s was named the country’s No. 1 pizza spot by Yelp in early 2024. In other words, these are two major forces colliding. 

“I think it’s a testament to taking chances,” Zureikat said of the collaboration. “I have no fear when it comes to this stuff. It seems like everything I set my mind to, I’m able to make happen.” 

But Zureikat will be the first to tell you that he also wants to be more than just the guy who makes a traveling pizza for charity. His culinary game has grown over the years, and he would like to eventually be doing that full-time. The issue is that he can’t exactly open and operate his own restaurant, as it would be too cumbersome on his legs. On Instagram, Zureikat has grown his following to nearly 10,000—an indication that people are taking note, and that maybe Zureikat really can make a go of turning his home-chef passion into something bigger.

Make no mistake: Zureikat isn’t a trend follower, he’s a trendsetter. And the Tripping Billy’s arrival at Pequod’s is proof of that. 

“I like to showcase that I can do other things,” Zureikat said. “I don’t follow trends. I’m doing this my way, and I’m taking the long road for growth. Even on social media. I’m not going to make the pizza sandwich. I’m not going to make the latest trend just to get likes and views. I do what I want to do, and if that means it takes me more time to grow, that’s fine with me. I want everything to be done the right way. Organic growth is the only way I know.”

Food & Ingredients