Miami's New Pizza Frontier
by jon warech
Dolce’s prosciutto and arugula pizza Napoletana
Miami cuisine certainly has a flavor, but usually it’s described with words like caliente, or at the very least, con leche. These days, there’s a new taste in town—an elevated, gourmet-level pizza cooked quickly in wood and brick ovens and sprinkled with novel farm-to-table toppings that has residents declaring, “Amore.”
You can find this authentic style of pizza—real ingredients, no sugar added, cooked at a high temperature for a crispy crust—popping up all over town, from Dolce at the Gale Hotel South Beach to Harry’s Pizzeria in the Design District and every Italian restaurant worth its weight in mozzarella in between. Each spot, though, adds its own special touch that takes the trend to a new level.
Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante chef Pietro Vardeu
“We stretch our own mozzarella curd, so we’re making our own mozzarella, and of course we’re creating our own dough,” says John Meadow, a cofounder and principal of LDV Hospitality, which owns Dolce. “Plus, we use a wood-fired oven with a mix of both maple and oak, which allows for 900-plus degrees of heat and lends a unique, balanced smokiness to the crust. The whole crust experience is so critical to what the pizza is all about.”
“We make all our own meats,” says sous chef Steven Martin of Harry’s Pizzeria, a Michael Schwartz restaurant that specializes in Roman-style pizza (a thinner crust). “Any kind of charcuterie as far as bresaola or any meats like that, we make it ourselves, which takes months. I’ve cured meat here for six or seven months.”
When the ingredients aren’t made in-house, they’re fresh-off-the-farm vegetables; cheeses like Taleggio, Gruyère, Fontina, or Manchego from local vendors; or other ingredients like salami or caputo flour shipped from Italy—if these spots can’t buy local, they’re going to extra lengths to find the best. As with the leading edge of the Miami food scene, this pizza is artisanal, and customers are paying top dollar for it.
Pizza Margherita at Terrazza at the Shore Club
Regardless of where the ingredients come from, all of these restaurants are using luxury toppings. Dolce has its Tartufata, a white pizza with speck, spicy salami, and truffle oil. Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante has a sausage and broccoli rabe pie. Terrazza at the Shore Club features a Boscaiola with roasted shiitake, oyster, and cremini mushrooms, Fontina, chives, and truffle oil. And at Harry’s, well, they’re down to give anything a shot.
“I had a guy come up to me and say, ‘What are you thinking putting potato on a pizza?’ and he ate it and he was like, ‘Oh my god, I totally get it,’” says Martin. “It was a great feeling. It just goes to show that all of our pizzas are very unique.”
Terrazza at the Shore Club
Of course, with the high cost of prime ingredients and unseen hours of preparation necessary to cook a perfect pizza in three minutes, the prices (ranging from about $15 to $35) are going to be higher at these establishments than at your local street-corner pizzeria, but the demand is even bigger. In fact, the pizza at the aforementioned restaurants and places like Prime Italian, Fratelli la Bufala, Serafina, and Macchialina is so popular that hot spots like Lucali in Sunset Harbour can pack the house with a menu featuring not much more than pizza, while the nearby Sardinia recently added pizza from its wood-burning oven to the menu, back by popular demand. Dolce’s Meadow tips his cap to the “significant community of Europeans and specifically Italians” for bringing the pizza culture beach-side, but it seems no matter who is doing the ordering, artisanal-style pizza is becoming the centerpiece of many restaurants.
“We put the pizza oven and the entire pizza production literally front and center on display in the restaurant,” says Meadow. “The smell permeates, and the wood burning adds the visual point of seeing the flame. Pizza is crucial to the identity of Dolce.” And it’s likely Miami’s pizza revolution is permanent. “Once you have the savvy, sophisticated dining base that we have in Miami now, that doesn’t disappear,” says Meadow. “Once you’ve tasted good stuff, you never go back. We talk about a pizza revolution in Miami, that’s here to stay.”
photography by gary james (vardeu); simon hare photography (dolce)
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.