When they opened Stanzione 87 in April 2013, Franco and Ashley Stanzione were former high school sweethearts (Gulliver Prep) freshly back in town after living and studying in New York.
They were 23 and in love, and their energy and enthusiasm for Neapolitan pizza and each other helped push them over some of the hurdles of being first-time restaurateurs: seemingly endless construction outside their Brickell spot, having to explain an unfamiliar style of pizza to Miami diners, and telling them — again and again — that they can’t have a side of ranch dressing or substitute pineapple on their pie. Through it all, Franco kept his head down by the pizza oven, stretching dough and shaping fresh balls of mozzarella, while Ashley worked the front of the house with a smirk and long pours of natural wines.
Nine years in, Stanzione 87 is a beloved veteran of the Miami food scene, and the Stanziones are still standing, embracing, and growing. They opened Ash!, a Neapolitan pizza parlor, at Miami’s Citadel food hall in 2019 and a second location at Doral’s Shoma Bazaar in March. And in 2020 they welcomed Cleo, their baby daughter, into the world. These days, Franco says, the couple’s work-life balance is more in check than when they started out.
“We used to have a life, it’s just that our lives were constantly about work, work, work,” he says. “Now there’s work, and there’s also life with these two beautiful people in it.”
Stanzione 87’s menu includes some mainstays from the restaurant’s earliest days and some additions picked up along the way. Here’s a look at five dishes that show the restaurant’s evolution, and the stories behind them.
1. Chopped Salad
Franco remembers that when they were planning to open Stanzione 87, Ashley “really wanted to have a salad on the menu that she could eat every single day.” This is that salad. Hearty enough to be a meal of its own but also the perfect crunchy-cool complement to pizza, the chopped salad hasn’t changed since Day One, except to fine-tune the vinaigrette.
It’s a heap of iceberg and radicchio, salami and chickpeas, red onion and smoked mozzarella, and pepperoncini and cherry tomatoes, all tossed with loads of dried oregano and Stanzione 87’s tangy house vinaigrette. “We think it goes great with pizza — on top of pizza, too,” Franco says. “Absolutely delicious.”
2. Sweet and Spicy Wings
During Stanzione 87’s first seven years in business, not a day went by that a customer didn’t ask Franco to put wings on the menu. “I always resisted wood-fired wings because they don’t do that in Naples (Italy),” he says. Then the pandemic happened, and Stanzione 87 added more to-go items like frozen pizzas, subs — and wings. (Franco also used 400 pounds of donated pizza dough to sling hundreds of free pies for out-of-work hospitality workers and charities.)
When the dining room was shut down and there were fewer plates to wash, Franco trained his dishwashers to prep the wings, which are cooked sous vide with Calabrian chiles and honey. Franco finishes off the wings in the pizza oven for “a really nice char,” and serves them with a creamy housemade “zesty” sauce — the closest thing to ranch you’ll find here. A dish that he was once reluctant to serve isn’t coming off the menu anytime soon.
3. Carbonara Pizza
Each year at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, an unofficial chef party pops up after hours. One year it happened to be at Macchialina chef-owner Mike Pirolo’s house, and he invited his pal Franco over to help cook some pizzas in his backyard oven. Pirolo had egg yolks on hand and smoky bacon from local purveyor Proper Sausages, whose co-owner Freddy Kaufmann was also at the party, and Franco started cranking out carbonara pizzas for his industry peers.
“That moment meant a lot to me,” he says. “To be invited to this event with so many people who I’d been looking up to for so many years, and to be able to make something for them that they knew was special — I felt pretty proud of that.”
Franco asked Pirolo for permission to put the party-night pizza on Stanzione 87’s menu. The friend said yes.
4. Mais Pizza
Fans of Stanzione 87’s corn pizza don’t just like it — they love it. “Corn over pineapple any day in terms of weird things on pizza,” Franco says. Far from weird, white pizza dotted with sweet corn is a common sight in Naples, and fresh corn is a popular topping on red pizza in Latin America, he says.
The mais pizza’s base is a whipped blend of cream and cheeses, including gorgonzola, which lends a touch of tang and sweetness reminiscent of crème fraîche. “When we started making pizza, very few places around here were doing a cream base on their white pizzas or even had a dedicated menu of white pizzas,” Franco says. “White pizzas have always been super-important to us, as much as the reds.” It’s topped with Stanzione 87’s hand-pulled mozzarella that melts under the heat of the restaurant’s blazing-hot oven and prosciutto cotto that crisps with wisps of char. And, of course, the corn.
5. Red Smoke Pizza
Proper Sausages’ bacon makes another appearance on the menu, this time on a red pie that is Stanzione 87’s ode to spicy amatriciana sauce. Franco brings the heat with a homemade hot sauce — a blend of Calabrian chiles, anchovies, olive and caper brines, and vinegar — that’s cooked into the tomato sauce on this pie. Bacon, shallots, and smoked mozzarella amplify the salty and sweet notes, and more hot sauce streaks the top. Franco tested it as a summer special a few years ago (with Proper guanciale before switching to bacon), and it’s been on his permanent menu ever since.
“This one’s a banger,” he says. “We thought, ‘Nah, it won’t work in Miami. It’s too heavy or whatever. People won’t want it.’ And it’s our best-selling red pizza.”