Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pizzavolante - Miami Design District - First Look

[Sorry, this place has closed]

Ahh, pizza. That happy triumvirate of bread, sauce and cheese. I'll confess I don't pretend to be a pizza expert. Unlike many of Miami's denizens who are transplants from pizza meccas like New York, I grew up down here on South Florida pizza. Which ... well, until recently didn't really have very much to recommend it. It seems that may be changing.

After swinging by Pizzavolante earlier today to have a peek, I brought the whole Family Frod back for dinner this evening, which was their opening night. The small restaurant on Miami Avenue on the edge of the Design District was pretty well packed with friends and family. The layout is simple - to one side when you walk in is the mozzarella bar and behind it, in the corner, the pizza oven; there are a few rows of tables with funky orange plastic chairs, as well some extra barstool-height seating along the front windows.

We started off with a sampling of the mozzarellas and their accompaniments, followed by a margherita pizza. As I previewed in my earlier post, there are a variety of mozzarellas to choose from - an organic Vermont buffalo mozzarella, Italian D.O.P. mozzarella di bufala and burrata, as well as cow's milk mozzarella in a variety of shapes from local producer Vito Volpe. These can be teamed up with a number of different pairings, and we added organic spinach and arugula leaves, fried zucchini, zucchini again in a fine julienne, braised fennel, marinated olives and capers, and trofie pasta in a light pesto sauce, all given a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and good olive oil (two more Spanish olive oils, one smooth, one more peppery, are on the table if you'd like to add some more). The burrata was lovely - silky, creamy and luxurious - but my favorite may have been the little ovolini from Vito's, which were nicely dense without being too bouncy. I also particularly liked the julienned zucchini, flavored with a pungent whiff of fresh mint and good olive oil. The cool mozzarella, with the various vegetables, makes for a nice light start to a meal while you wait for your pizza to emerge from the wood-burning oven.

You don't have to wait long, as our margherita came out in about 10 minutes. I'd love to tell you that you can pick up the smoky essence of the wood-burning oven, but I'd be lying - I don't think the pie spends enough time in there to notice. It was a thin-crust model, the ridge of exterior crust crispy and the rest of it sufficiently firm to hold up the sauce and cheese, but not so much so that you couldn't fold it without it cracking apart (yes, I'm a pizza folder). The standout component of the bread-sauce-cheese trinity here was the cheese, Vito's again on the "baseline" margherita model, which I thought had a lovely milky, lightly salty flavor and great texture - melting but not stringy or rubbery. If you want to upgrade from the standard $9 margherita, you can go for the $13 margherita di bufala D.O.P., which brings Italian mozzarella di bufala, oven dried roma tomatoes, and Sicilian sea salt to the party as well. I'd love to do a side-by-side comparison. In the meantime, I was happy that Frod Jr. and Little Miss F found some school friends to play with, as it left a couple extra pieces of the pie for me.

So - best pizza in Miami? Too early to tell. I'll need to complete the Pizza Showdown before making any pronouncements. But there's already much here to enjoy: multiple varieties of fresh mozarrella with lots of savory accompaniments; really good pizza with high quality ingredients at a very fair price: and good cheap wines to wash it all down.

3918 N. Miami Avenue
Miami, FL 33137

Pizzavolante on Urbanspoon

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