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Edible South Florida Summer 2013 : Page25

By David Rosendorf Photos by Robert Parente Pizza South Florida There are few prepared dishes as elemental as pizza. Dough, tomato sauce, cheese and the application of heat. That’s really the heart of it. Yet there are also few dishes with as many variations, and which foster such partisanship, as pizza. A few years ago, the pizza-centric blog “Slice” identified at least 30 different regional pizza styles that could be found in the United States, ranging from classic Neapolitan to Chicago deep-dish to the humble “Grandma” pie – and for each, there is vigorous debate as to who does it “best.” South Florida doesn’t have its own indigenous pizza culture. But as a society of transplants, some of our greatest features are those we’ve borrowed from elsewhere. Sure enough, South Florida has become at least a second home to an increasingly diverse – and increasingly good – range of pizza options. At risk of offending loyalists to many other worthy candidates, here is a personal take on some of the best. Lucali edible SouthFlorida.com ∙ summer 2013 ∙ +.

Pizza South Florida

By David Rosendorf • Photos by Robert Parente

There are few prepared dishes as elemental as pizza. Dough, tomato sauce, cheese and the application of heat. That's really the heart of it.

Yet there are also few dishes with as many variations, and which foster such partisanship, as pizza. A few years ago, the pizza-centric blog "Slice" identified at least 30 different regional pizza styles that could be found in the United States, ranging from classic Neapolitan to Chicago deep-dish to the humble "Grandma" pie – and for each, there is vigorous debate as to who does it "best."

South Florida doesn't have its own indigenous pizza culture. But as a society of transplants, some of our greatest features are those we've borrowed from elsewhere. Sure enough, South Florida has become at least a second home to an increasingly diverse – and increasingly good – range of pizza options. At risk of offending loyalists to many other worthy candidates, here is a personal take on some of the best.

Scuola Vecchia

NEAPOLITAN STYLE A few years ago, New Yorkers – usually a pretty demanding bunch when it comes to pizza – got worked into a lather over a new place called Keste. Keste was opened by Roberto Caporuscio, president of the U.S. chapter of the Associazione Pizzaiuoli Napoletani (APN), an Italian organization dedicated to preserving and fostering the traditions of Neapolitan pizza-making. Keste not only made great pizza – it was also a training ground for others who wanted to learn the Neapolitan arts.

The pizzaiolos at Scuola Vecchia in Delray Beach were among Keste's disciples. "Scuola Vecchia" means "old school," and the name is fitting. It is a true Neapolitan-style pizzeria, actually certified as such by the APN. To get such certification, they use special Caputo "00" flour imported from Italy for the dough, San Marzano tomatoes for the sauce and fresh homemade mozzarella made from imported curds, and it's all baked in a gorgeous wood-burning oven imported from Italy. The end result emerges from that indigo-tiled oven, which reaches temperatures near 1000°, in about a minute.

The classic "Regina Margherita" pizza supposedly was first created for the late 19th century Italian queen, incorporating the colors of the new Italian flag – red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella cheese) and green (basil). Scuola Vecchia's version is equally worthy of royalty: a chewy crust with spots of smoky char; a light-handed smear of sauce perfectly balanced between tart and sweet, dotted with blistered cherry tomatoes; soft, milky mozzarella; and fresh basil just barely crisped from the oven's heat. Or for another tasty history lesson, try the "Mast'nicola," the ur-pizza dating back to the 16th century, topped only with pecorino romano cheese and a sheen of salty, porky lard.

Scuola Vecchia
522 E. Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach
561-865-5923
scuolavecchiapizzeria.com

Lucali

BROOKLYN-STYLE Mark Iacono, the Brooklynite chef and owner of Lucali, has been called the "accidental pizzaiolo." Nearly 10 years ago he took over the space of a beloved Carroll Gardens candy shop that was closing, with no purpose other than to save it from becoming another generic chain. A granite and marble worker by trade, he spent a couple years building the place out by himself – and learning to make pizza. When Lucali finally opened, it immediately became one of New York's iconic pizzerias, with constant lines and frequent celebrity visitors.

A few months ago, Iacono opened a South Beach outpost of Lucali, in the burgeoning Sunset Harbour neighborhood that now has as many good restaurants as it does body shops and tow lots. In his uniquely hands-on way, Iacono designed the space to recreate the look and feel of the Carroll Gardens original, and temporarily closed the flagship while he worked on adapting his "Brooklynstyle" pizzas (as the servers call them) to the Miami climate.

Lucali, like Iacono himself, seems to have one foot in the old (Italian-American wise-guy) Brooklyn and one foot in the new (artisan hipster) Brooklyn. There is a beautiful minimalism to the whole operation. A white marble counter wrapped around the oven serves as the kitchen, with all the ingredients needed for pizza assembly arranged on it like a still life. The dough is rolled out with a wine bottle, ladled with sauce, fresh mozzarella, a grating of parmigiano reggiano and – if requested – shavings of fresh vegetables or pepperoni, before taking a quick trip into the combination gas- and wood-fired oven.

When it comes out, the pizza is garnished with a shrubbery's worth of fresh basil, still bright and green. The sauce, which originated with a recipe from Iacono's grandmother, is simple and pure in its tomato flavor; it's so good many people get an extra bowl of it. The crust, pocked with air bubbles, offers more crunch than chew. It's a pizza that succeeds through balance rather than flamboyance, a perfect marriage of great ingredients.

Lucali's menu is an exercise in brevity. There is one size of pizza, available with a choice of about a half dozen toppings; a calzone; a couple salads listed on the specials board; and a couple desserts (including an excellent dessert pizza topped with Nutella and sweetened ricotta cheese). It may also induce sticker shock – the base model pizza starts at $24, with toppings $3 each (or $8 for the longstemmed Italian artichokes). But this is a big pizza, probably about 20 inches across, unlike the typical 12-inch, single-serving Neapolitan style pies. It's made for sharing with someone who will appreciate it.

Lucali
1930 Bay Road Miami Beach
305-695-4441

Nick's New Haven Style Pizzeria

NEW HAVEN STYLE They do things a little differently in New Haven, Connecticut. They call pizza "a'pizza," for one thing (and then pronounce it "a-beets"). And they put clams on it, for another. Supposedly, it all started with Frank Pepe, a pizzaiolo who first opened shop in New Haven in 1925. His thin-crusted, well-charred pizzas showed his Neapolitan roots. But Frank Pepe's white clam pizza, created several decades later, is not traditional. Rather, it was likely the result of a "chocolate peanut butter cup moment," when someone got the bright idea to combine their pizza with their appetizer of fresh clams on the half-shell.

Nick's New Haven Style Pizzeria, in Boca Raton, carries on the legacy, with lots of authentic New Haven touches. The pizzas are made in a coal-fired oven that hits 750°, and come out "done well," as they put it. They're presented on a rectangular baking sheet, sometimes hanging off the side. They offer fresh Rhode Island clams as a topping for their specialty white pies. They even serve Foxon Park sodas, a classic Connecticut product that predates Frank Pepe Pizzeria by a few years.

Nick's menu includes a fairly broad selection of appetizers, salads, grinders, pastas and traditional entrées. But for a real taste of New Haven – get the a'pizza. You don't need to know the origin story to know it's good, especially if you get their signature combination of clams, bacon, peppers and garlic. The oceanic brininess of the clams finds a great match in the porcine saltiness of the bacon, a surf and turf held together by just a thin layer of cheese, brightened with the vegetal snap of the peppers and sharpened by the smack of fresh garlic.

Nick's New Haven Style Pizzeria
2240 NW 19 Street Boca Raton
561-368-2900
nickspizzeriabar.com

Kings County Pizza

GRANDMA STYLE Kings County Pizza doesn't have a fancy pedigree. It doesn't have a well-known chef. It doesn't have a certification from Neapolitan authorities. It doesn't have strict rules. It doesn't have a shiny tiled wood-burning oven. And it proves that you need precisely none of those things to make great pizza. In fact, Kings County, on a sleepy stretch of West Dixie Highway in North Miami Beach, barely even has a dining room where you can sit and eat your pizza if you're not taking it home with you. There's not much atmosphere, but it'll do, especially if you're just popping in to grab a slice of their classic New York style thin-crust pizzas. If you can plan ahead, though, the thing to do is to call in an order for the "grandma" pie, a rarity not often found around these parts.

A "grandma" pizza is a rectangular pie similar to a Sicilian pizza – but where a Sicilian pizza is puffy and doughy, a "grandma" pizza is stretched rather thin before the dough is pressed into an oil-brushed sheet pan. It's then given a thin but thorough blanket of shredded mozzarella cheese, and dollops of a chunky, garlicky, faintly sweet marinara sauce before it goes into the oven. It comes out beautifully golden and crisp all around the edges, with a tender, chewy layer of dough between the outer extremities and the toppings.

It may look like the pizza from your middle school cafeteria – do not be fooled. This is a classic example of the powerful alchemy of dough, cheese, tomato and heat.

Kings County Pizza
18228 W Dixie Highway North Miami Beach
305-792-9455
kingscountypizza.com

Pizzeria Oceano

ICONOCLASTIC STYLE Pizzeria Oceano seems to get a lot of attention for what it doesn't do: no take-out, no substitutions, no more pizzas after the batch of dough prepared for each night runs out. Chef/owner Dak Kerprich doesn't say "no" just to be difficult. These rules are all the by-product of a singular vision: to make great pizza, without compromises.

He doesn't do take-out because the pizzas aren't nearly as good when they're not fresh from the oven. He doesn't do substitutions because a lot of care and attention has been put into the two or three "composed" pies listed on a short menu that changes every day (you can, if you insist, get their "basic" pie and choose from among a few toppings). He doesn't make a new batch of pizza dough when he runs out because a crust this good needs a long, slow fermentation. So arrive early, take a seat on the patio strung with twinkle-lights, or inside at the dimly lit counter in the bungalow that houses Oceano's wood-burning oven, and trust that something good is in store.

Oceano sources extensively from local farmers and fisherman, but stretches its geographical range to include artisanal products like Virginia country ham and unique imported cheeses. So you may find a "Country Ham and Egg" pizza topped with farm fresh eggs, country ham, creamy fontina and sharp pecorino romano cheese, dotted with green onions and black pepper. Or maybe a "Red Shrimp" pizza with local royal red shrimp, shallots, mozzarella, ricotta, chili oil, lemon and nepitella (an Italian mint variety). Though the compositions change from day to day, what they always have in common is impeccable ingredients, exciting flavors and a thin, flavorful crust with a great balance of chewy, blistered and charred.

The combinations are as unconventional as Oceano's approach to customer service. And if you're as passionate about pizza as Kerprich is, you'll appreciate both. Pizzeria Oceano ought to get more attention for what it does: it makes some of the best, most interesting pizzas you will find in South Florida.

Pizzeria Oceano
201 East Ocean Avenue Lantana
561-429-5550

Read the full article at http://onlinedigeditions.com/article/Pizza+South+Florida/1451095/166845/article.html.

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