Monday, July 6, 2009

Miami Pizza Crawl - Part III - South Beach Edition

After forty pies, are we becoming jaded and world-weary pizza eaters? Was the rainy, humid weather putting a damper on the pizza ovens? Whatever the reason, Round 3 of the Miami Pizza Crawl seemed like something of a letdown, though it finished on an up note. This portion of the tour covered Lincoln Road - the newly opened Sosta Pizzeria, as well as a couple more established pizzerias, Piola and Spris. About 15 hardy pizza fans braved the foul weather to sample the following:

Sosta Pizzeria
Sosta (sundried tomato spread, mozzarella, burrata, prosciutto crudo)
Carpaccio (tomato sauce, mozzarella, beef carpaccio, arugula, parmesan)
Siciliana (tomato sauce, mozzarella, anchovies, capers, black olives, basil)
Brie & Speck (just like it says)

Piola (fresh mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, basil, tomato sauce and mozzarella)
Carbonara (bacon, egg, parmesan, tomato sauce and mozzarella)
Curitiba (catupiry cheese, hearts of palm, artichokes and mozzarella)
Posillipo (fresh mozzarella, anchovies, oregano, cherry tomatoes and tomato sauce)

Carbonara (tomato sauce, mozzarella, pancetta, egg, parmesan and black pepper)
Ortalana (tomato sauce, mozzarella, grilled eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, roasted peppers and portobello mushrooms)
Frutti di Mare (tomato sauce, mozzarella, calamari, clams, shrimp and mussels)
Patate e Pancetta (mozzarella, pancetta, potatoes, rosemary and parmesan)

Here's my take:

Sosta -

We started the evening at Sosta, a spin-off of Quattro Gastronomia, which opened on Lincoln Road a few years ago. I hear the space is very nice, but I arrived late and immediately sat at our outdoor table and never got a good look inside. The menu features a lengthy - nay, intimidating - list of about 30 pizza options, though some of them require careful study to find what ingredient distinguishes one from another (sort of like the Monty Python Spam restaurant).[*]

One of the unofficial rules of "Pizza Crawl," starting with the "Joey's Pizza" at Joey's Wynwood, is that if there is a pizza named after the restaurant, then it must be ordered. Unfortunately, the "Sosta" pizza made little impression, other than that the sun-dried tomato spread with which it was anointed instead of sauce was too sweet. If there was burrata, it was wasted, as it was was indistinguishable from the mozzarella.

The carpaccio pizza, topped with slices of raw beef which in short order were cooked pink from carry-over heat, was likewise curiously underflavored, the beef tasting like not much of anything when raw, and like under-salted steamed roast beef after it sat. The Siciliana fared better than the others, simply because its flavors (anchovy, caper, olive, basil) were bolder, and used decent quality ingredients (a pit in one of my olives was testament to them not using pre-pitted olives). The brie and speck also just wasn't doing it for me, but that may just be a matter of personal preference. The crust on all of their pies was good if a slight bit soggy, but likewise surprisingly lacking in flavor. Having heard some very good things about Sosta, I had expected it to fare better. Maybe we just had an off night there.

Piola -

Piola has its roots in Italy (Treviso, to be exact, which - someone please correct me if I'm wrong - is not exactly pizza headquarters of Italy; it has a location in Naples as well, but it's Naples Florida, not Naples Italy), but has an even stronger presence in Brazil where it has 9 outlets. The menu, even more encyclopedic than Sosta's with over 50 pizza options all prepared in a wood-burning oven, shows a distinct South American bent. We tried one of these, the "Curitiba" with catupiry cheese, hearts of palm, artichokes and mozzarella. While the creamy catupiry cheese was an interesting change of pace, it was something of a one-note wonder, and the hearts of palm and artichokes tasted straight from the can (and we're not talking any artisanal Spanish canned goods either). The "Piola" was bland, and the "Carbonara" had not been given sufficient time for the bacon to crisp so it tasted fatty and flabby.

The "Posillipo" was found in a separate section of the menu and was described as a version of a traditional Neapolitan style pizza, supposedly shaped smaller with a thicker crust and edges. I could detect nothing different about the crust other than that the cornicione was perhaps a wee bit wider. The anchovies it was topped with were saltier and furrier than those at Sosta (and I am a big anchovy fan, so this is no slur on anchovies generally), and the one cherry tomato I came across was green and under-ripe. I've had good pizzas at Piola, but this was also a pretty disappointing showing.

Spris -

At least we closed out the evening on a high note. At Spris we easily had our two best pizzas of the night, their Carbonara and their Patate e Pancetta. The Carbonara had nice crispy pancetta, an oozy fried egg, big shards of shaved parmesan, and a fine dusting of ground black pepper. The Patate e Pancetta, though somewhat similar, was also done well, with thinly sliced potatoes that were both tender and a bit crisp, salty pancetta, more of that generously shaved parmesan, and a whiff of rosemary. This was a vast improvement over the similar "Genovese" pizza at Andiamo we had in Round 1.

The Ortolana was a difficult pizza to share, because the assortment of vegetables - roasted green peppers, grilled eggplant, thinly sliced zucchini, portobello mushrooms - were artfully arranged in separate sections rather than scattered. Aside from the arrangement, though, I felt the ratio of topping to crust on this pizza was out of whack, way too laden with vegetables even if it was generous. The Frutti di Mare, while an interesting idea, will not cause anyone to forget New Haven style clam pizza any time soon. I couldn't really detect any seafood other than ringlets and more ringlets of calamari, which were a bit bouncy (probably breaching the "2 minutes or 2 hours" rule for cooking calamari by virtue of their time in the pizza oven).

While Spris certainly was the best pizza of the night (the two best pizzas actually), I wouldn't put it ahead of either of my winners from Round 1 and Round 2 - PizzaVolante and Racks.

Update: For other takes, here are links to Mango & Lime (with pix!) and Blind Mind's recaps of Pizza Crawl Pt. III.

Sosta Pizzeria
1025 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Sosta Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

1625 Alton Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Piola on Urbanspoon

731 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Spris on Urbanspoon

[*]Another crawler has suggested a "Cheesecake Factory / Nexxt Cafe" like similarity between Sosta's menu and that of nearby Spris. I'm not sure I agree. Several of these are pretty common pizza nomenclature - "capricciosa" for a pizza with ham, mushrooms, artichokes and olives, "quattro stagioni" for the same done in four separate sections, "ortolana" for a vegetable pizza, "diavola" for spicy sausage, - and others are just common ingredients - prosciutto cotto e funghi, tonno e cipolla, etc.


  1. Ive been thinking about this and I have to say that I think having burrata on a pizza is a waste of a good cheese. It just isnt all that distinguishable when melted amongst the other ingredients.

    I know that terms like "quattro stagioni" and "diavola" may be common pizza terms but I still think the entire menu just read like that at Spris without much differentiation.

    It is still my opinion that, overall, I thought Joey's had the best pizza crust for its flavor, thickness, and crisp. However, I think if you take Joey's out of the equation youre really splitting hairs when it comes to crust (and obviously I say this w/o having visited Racks/Anthony's). So in the end for me it comes down to toppings. I really liked the pizza with guanciale and the Volante 100 at Pizzavolante but I thought there couldve been a lot more "meat", as evidenced by the people who did not get guanciale on their slice there. Though my opinion may be somewhat biased based on eating at Spris on Lincoln Rd countless times over the years, I think they deliver the best pie with a crisp crust, generous toppings, and great flavor on the most consistent basis.

  2. I must have eaten at Spris on an off night a few Fridays ago. It was tasteless, cold, with congealed cheese and wilted toppings. Not impressed at all.

  3. Our pizzas at Spris were all hot and fresh, and also probably my favorite crust of all the pizzas of the night. Go figure - maybe the lesson is that pizza ovens are finicky creatures.