Long ago there was a pizza place in South Florida with a sign on its door that read: “Pizza: $1 a slice. $3 if you tell us how much better it is in New York.”
And while years ago, that gap in quality might have been accurate, Miami’s pizza scene today can hold its own with anything up north.
“I feel like this is the beginning of the pizza boom,” says Greg Tetzner, the owner and founder of Old Greg’s Pizza, which became a citywide obsession during post-lockdown 2020. “The artisanal, mom-and-pop style always existed, but there’s an influx of it now. Everyone has their own style, and are putting their fingerprints on it, and every location you go to will have a different experience and different pizza.”
Long gone are the days of sufficing with mediocre delivery or a South Beach slice shop. Now, whether you’re hankering for Detroit deep dish or classic Neapolitan, Miami has an abundance of places doing it well. But what are the differences between these different pizza styles? And who is doing it best? We talked to some of Miami’s top pizza makers to get the skinny on the Miami pizza scene, and they dished on who they think is tops in South Florida.
While a slew of pizzerias tout their thin crust, high-temperature pies as “Neapolitan,” the traditional style is quite narrow. “It’s actually ruled by some very tight and specific rules,” says La Natural chef-owner Javier Ramos (who makes clear his pizza is not Neapolitan). “The type of flour, the temperature you cook it at, the type of tomatoes. Naples is very serious about its pizza, and as a consequence, it’s one of the most ruled and regulated pizzas in the world.”
The rules are complex enough to make a tax accountant cringe, but the main points to remember are that traditional versions are cooked in a wood-fired oven for 60 to 90 seconds, the dough must be stretched by hand, and tomatoes, flour, and olive oil must be sourced from certain places.
Where to get it:
- “Stanzione 87 are the OGs, and I love their style,” says Tetzener. Indeed, Franco Stanzione’s flagship Brickell shop was the first in the city to make true Neapolitan pies, and it’s now approaching a decade in business. “People get what I’m doing now,” Stanzione says. “And now I think we’re one of the cheapest places in Miami. Where else you getting an appetizer, two pizzas and a bottle of wine for under $100?”
- La Leggenga in Miami Beach is another spot cooking pizza by Neapolitan rules. “They have great dough,” says Ramos. “If you don’t have the right amount of salt, the flavor’s not gonna pop out and I think La Leggenda does a good job of that.”
- ‘O Munaciello has locations on both Coral Way and in Midtown, in addition to its shop in Florence, Italy. Its pies have a dark ash bottom that gives the pizza a little extra crunch which some clearly prefer, as it was recently named the 25th best pizzeria in the world.
Rules and tradition are great, but some chefs would rather put their own spins on Neapolitan pizza. For them, a new genre called Neo-Neapolitan was born. The quality can be the same, assuming the restaurant is focusing on using the right ingredients; nearly all our experts agreed that it always boils down to personal taste.
Where to get it:
- La Natural. This Little River date night spot is about as close to eating in Italy as you’ll find in Miami, with white stucco walls, a wood-burning oven, and a wide collection of Italian and natural wines. “La Natural has some really good stuff,” says Michael Schwartz, the local legend behind Harry’s Pizzeria. “I think it’s an interest but restrained approach to how they make pizza and what they put on it.” That translates to creations that are unique but still minimalist, like wild mushrooms and fontina, or flor di latte, onions, and za’atar seasoning.
- Lucali falls into a lot of categories, but this South Beach staple is an excellent example of a modern twist on the Neapolitan classic. Mark Iacono’s Brooklyn hit arrived in Miami nearly a decade ago, and redefined the concept of a true pizza restaurant with its gigantic thin crust, wood-fired pies topped with aggressive amounts of basil. “Lucali has always been my favorite pizza place outside my own,” says Foulquier. “It’s a family atmosphere where you can have fun. It reminds me of my childhood when I used to eat with my family.”
This is the beginning of the pizza boom.— Greg Tetzner, Old Greg’s Pizza
New York-style pizza is probably Miami’s most prevalent: A big, round pie with thin crust, topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and a litany of toppings. It’s the stuff of late-night drunk slices and quick lunches on the go. Crust is usually made from high-gluten bread flour and has a crispy texture. New Yorkers will tell you theirs is best because of minerals in the water, but these are the same people who insist the Knicks are a viable contender every year.
Where to get it:
- Eleventh Street Pizza, helmed by former Fooq’s owner David Foulquier, is a downtown perennial, though its latest location in Downtown Dadeland might be even better. Foulquier and company put a little twist on the New York concept, though, making their pies with a sourdough crust that makes it unlike anything else in the city.
- Pizza Tropical, the slice window outside Gramps in Wynwood, seems an odd place for some of Miami’s top pizza. But it’s the odd late-night slice that’s just as good without some drinks in your system. “I like their pizza a lot,” says Tetzner. “When we were in the process of opening Old Greg’s, it was a short car ride away so I ate that the most while we were building it out.”
- Pucci’s Pizza, with locations South of Fifth and Downtown, has stood the rest of time as a Miami slice perennial. “I went to New York and I’d put their pizza up with them any day,” says Square Pie City’s Jeremiah Bullfrog. “Pucci’s is definitely a go-to, that’s one of my haunts.”
Urban legend says Detroit-style pizza was born from a cast-iron plate taken from an auto factory, which an enterprising worker then used to bake a pizza with toppings and cheese all the way to the edge. Whether or not that’s true, the pizza’s characteristics match the story, with a thick crust filling the pan, then cheese, toppings, and sauce on the top. “It’s a misnomer that it’s deep dish,” says Square Pie City’s Bullfrog. “It’s a pan pizza with a cheesy outer layer that fuses to the crust.” That cheese runs all the way to the edge of the pan, creating a delicious ring of burnt cheese all around the pie.
Where to get it:
- Old Greg’s was a pandemic hit literally born out of Greg Tetzner’s kitchen that brought weeks-long waits for his Detroit-style goodness. He’s finally got a physical spot in the Design District and has also branched into a thin crust he describes as a hybrid of New York and Philly styles. But the thick crust Detroit-style pizzas are what made him famous, and if you’re ordering for the first time try the Jimmy Nardello & Proper Sausage square pie with shaved fennel, mustard greens, and roasted garlic mornay.
- Square Pie City, who started out in Timeout Market, recently opened a brick and mortar spot in Midtown that’s been an immediate hit. The Red in the Head, Fire in the Bed with chile peppers and Calabrian chile oil has been especially in-demand. As has the Ill Pepperoni, topped with generous amounts of Detroit style’s other trademark: grease-pooling pepperoni cups.
- Vice City Pizza. Set in far-flung West Kendall,, Vice City Pizza is slinging some of South Florida’s top pies far from the bright lights of Miami’s sexier neighborhoods. “I think what they’re doing out there is phenomenal,” says Stanzione. “They’re just doing great things, and that they’re doing all the way out in Kendall is even better.” Vice City boasts a big menu of both red and white sauce pizzas, including chicken parmesan and brie and fig creations. It’s a gourmet take on Detroit-style that is absolutely worth the trip out west.
California-style pizza is perhaps the only style which can trace its roots back to a single chef during a single era: Wolfgang Puck in the 1980s. He pioneered a pizza using a thinner, sweet crust and topping it with everything from avocado to pesto sauce and sun-dried tomatoes. Traditionalists may turn up their noses, but one need look only so far as a shopping mall or their freezer aisle to see how California style’s caught on.
Where to get it:
- Harry’s Pizzeria. One of Puck’s disciples was Michael Schwartz, who cut his teeth in the kitchen at L.A.’s Chinois when Michael’s Genuine was but a glimmer in his eye. “The California approach had a profound impact on me, and had an impact on how I see food in general,” says Schwartz. While Harry’s can’t really be boxed into any single style, he’s created everything from a Cuban sandwich pizza with Versailles to a pastrami pizza with Katz’s Deli, and is constantly pushing the envelope of what might taste good on pizza. “It doesn’t fit into any one category,” he says. “It was really inspired by the California hippie, earthy pizza influence. I think it’s part Neapolitan, but if I told an Italian that, they’d cut my head off.”
- Walrus Rodeo. Though this Boia De offshoot isn’t a pizza place necessarily, its wood burning oven is the centerpiece of the open kitchen and has gained the restaurant a loyal local following. “I (freaking) love that pizza,” says Tetzener. “That dough has great fermentation, it’s so good. They only have two pizzas on the menu but they’re both phenomenal.”
If you’re not familiar with New Haven-style pizza, you may mistakenly send it back for being overcooked. Char is its signature element, the result of cooking in a brick, wood-fired oven. You can get pretty much anything on one of these large, crispy thin crust pizzas, colloquially called “Ah-beetz.” The white sauce and clams are the signature combination; it’s a surprisingly delectable combination.
Where to get it:
- Frank Pepe is one of the original creators of New Haven-style pizza. “Our signature is all about that char,” says Frank Pepe’s Director of Operations Sean Barry, “It’s really going to bring out the flavor of the ingredients from Italy like olive oil and pecorino romano, or the sausage made in New Haven.”
- Anthony’s Coal Fired is a local chain that’s been doing the char-cooked pizza thing masterfully for a while. If the trek up to Broward is too much, Barry reassures South Floridians that Anthony’s does a “decent job.” And their wings could make a claim as the best in the city.