Which restaurant offers the best pizza in Miami? Curious and hungry mind wants to know. After a friendly discussion on Chowhound, the hounds decide to go out as a pack to hunt down the fabled holy dough. It was decided that the hunt will be done in three rounds, with the Design District as round one’s hunting ground.
First stop, we met up at Joey’s. While the neighborhood is not upscale, this Italian cafe has a chic charm to it. Besides a dozen choices of pizza, it offers several anitpasti, salads and pasta dishes; main entrees include interesting dishes such as cod with eggplant and cherry tomatoes remoulade, lamb chops with juniper berry balsamic and polenta.
Joey: tuna, spicy salame, gorgonzola cheese, capers and spinach
Carbonara: bacon, eggs, mozzarella and asparagus
Dolce e Piccante: figs, gorgonzola cheese, honey and hot pepper
Margherita: tomato, mozzarella
When the Joey pizza arrived and I found out that it has tuna on top, I thought: yuck. But the pizza turned out surprisingly good. Totally not the fishy and bland type I usually encounter. The Carbonara is an interesting idea, but as the toppings (bacon, egg and asparagus) are separated on their own, it failed to create the symphony as in a carbonara pasta dish. Dolce e Piccante is an interesting combination of sweetness and spiciness, and successfully won many votes for this place. Overall, I find the pizza quite good but not spectacular.
Next up was Pizzavolante.
Rather than a pizza place, it’s more a mozzarella parlor, for the pulled curd is the prima donna here. There is a mozzarella bar, with choice of mozzarella from locally made Mozzarita brand (nodini, ovoline etc.) to organic Vermont buffalo mozz to Italian Burrata, (all sitting tantalizingly in stainless steel bowls of ice) served with a variety of accompaniments (tomatoes, zucchini fritti, greens, pesto, wood roasted veggies, etc.). They also have daily specials such as short ribs, lasagna with sheep ricotta and even buffalo yogurt which I will definitely come back to try. For drinks, you can opt for a Bud for $1 each, or pick from their reasonably priced wine list.
With only five pizza options, the choice was relatively simple and we ordered:
Margherita “DOP”: Italian tomato, sun dried Roma, bufala mozzarella DOP basil and Sicilian sea salt
Volante 100: thus named because all ingredients, except the flour, comes from a 100-mile radius. On this day this included local mozz, dandelion greens, red and yellow cherry tomatoes and arugula
Bianca: fontina, local cow’s and bufala mozz, goat cheese, arugula and thyme
Cacciatorini: I was told the name means “little hunter”. Italian tomato, local mozzarella, grana, California pepperoni and guanciale (unsmoked Italian bacon made from pig’s cheek)
The crust here is rather thin, almost flatbread like. While a turn off for some, I do like it, light and crispy. Especially when I need to leave room for more pizza! (I don’t necessarily prefer thin crust. I like Pizza Uno’s deep dish too. As long as it has that crispiness and not doughy or soggy.)
Munching on the cacciatorini, I definitely like it better than the carbonara at Joey’s. The guanciale, slightly crispy, is simply delicious and better than the bacon in carbonara. There is no dispute the mozz is superior, as are most other ingredients, such as the fragrant greens on the Volante 100. Bianca is also very delicious and a surprising favorite among many who initially voted against it. My only complain of this place is the limited pizza options (or rather, the overall menu). Mozzarita has smoked mozz, and the best ricotta, that could make interesting toppings too. Hopefully in the future this new restaurant will introduce more options.
The pack continued to travel north, to sniff out Andiamo. Being a popular pizza place, it definitely gets highest mark for the variety of pizza and there are some interesting combinations. After considerable debate, we settled on:
Genovese: rosemary potatoes, pancetta, caramelized onions, mozzarella & gorgonzola
Putanesca: kalamata olives, capers, anchovies, red chile flakes, tomato sauce & mozzarella
Popeye: spinach, roma tomatoes, tomatoessauce, ricotta, mozzarella & basil
Soprano: hot & sweet italian sausage, brocoli rabe, tomato sauce, parmesan & mozzarella
First off, I have to profess that Andiamo has been my favorite pizza spot, along with Pinecrest’s Big Tomato. Even while in Joey’s, I mentally compared the pie to Andiamo’s in my memory and thought, I don’t think Andiamo fares badly in comparison.
Unfortunately, as I munched on, my neighbor declared, I don’t like Andiamo as much anymore, and I have to sadly agree. By comparison, the pizza was too greasy, too heavy, too salty, simply overwhelming. After the delicate, subtle flavor of Joey’s and Pizzavolante, Andiamo seems too pedestrian. The Putanesca was almost too salty to finish, though the Genovese was popular enough among garlic lovers. We didn’t order the Prosciutto, which had been my favorite for the generous topping of aragula, and even that pale in comparison to the just wilted, tender, not-too-spicy taste at Volante. The ingredients definitely are a totally different calibre, very industrial, though already a step up from many other pizza places. Maybe, if I come back another day, I will like Andiamo enough on its own, and I wish very much so, but today, it’s like emerging from a retreat in a Zen monastery up in the mountains into a rock concert.
Well, it’s pretty obvious from my comment that, after chowing down 12 pizza slices, my vote for round 1 goes to Pizzavolante. It’s really love at first bite for me. The group’s vote is a toss up though. I guess it depends to a degree on personal preference: how you like the crust, and whether you give more points to creative, unusual combinations, or to great ingredients simply prepared. Either way, look forward to round 2 (North Miami).