Saturday, January 21, 2012

Harry's Pizzeria - Miami Design District

MGFD Bacon Pizza

When it comes to pizza, there are many styles. There's your basic Neapolitan. There's your hardcore Verace Pizza Napoletana. There's New York-style pizza. There's your more esoteric thin-crusted Lazio style pizza, Sicilian, grandma pizza, New Haven style apizza, Chicago deep dish ... pizza maven Adam Kuban came up with a list of 21 different regional styles, and surely there were many more that were overlooked.

The pizzas at Harry's Pizzeria, the new pizza joint from local hero Michael Schwartz, are precisely none of those. But they are quintessentially in the style of Chef Schwartz and his namesake Michael's Genuine Food & Drink: great flavors, with a focus on local ingredients and in-house preparations.

Almost five years ago (!) Schwartz opened MGF&D in Miami's Design District. It was an instant hit, and for good reason: the menu was accessible but exciting, it focused on local products without being sanctimonious or dogmatic about it, and both the food and the place had a relaxed, unfussy style that was perfectly in tune with the impending economic meltdown. MGF&D immediately became one of the most popular and well-regarded restaurants in town and has continued to hold that status to this date.

Though success came quickly for MGF&D,[1] Chef Schwartz was deliberately slow in building upon it. The expansion bug finally bit in 2010 when he added a second Michael's Genuine in Grand Cayman. This past year has seen several new projects, not only Harry's Pizzeria, named after his son Harrison, but also a consulting gig for Royal Caribbean's 150 Central Park on the Oasis of the Seas cruise ship, and the in-progress takeover of the restaurant and dining operations at the Raleigh Hotel on South Beach.

Harry's Pizzeria

(You can see all my pictures in this Harry's Pizzeria flickr set).

Harry's is the most modest of those projects. The space, right down the street from MGF&D, became available when Jonathan Eismann's Pizza Volante (which was one of my favorite local pizza places) shut down. It already had the same kind of wood-burning oven that was installed at MGF&D, where a pizza of some sort has been a fixture on the menu since they opened. They kept the oven, revamped the rest of the space with a small bar and casual dark wood furniture similar to that at Michael's, got Friends With You to supply some decorations, and opened up for business in late September.

Harry's Pizzeria menu

The menu is a simple affair: a short list of "snacks" and salads, followed by about ten different pizza options. It's typically rounded out by a few specials, usually a soup, a starter, and a pizza of the day. And that's it. If you're not in the mood for a pizza, you'll struggle to find something to make a complete meal.

(continued ...)

Polenta Fries

As for the starters, one of my favorites is the polenta fries - polenta that's been cooked and cooled, cut into blocks the size of large "steak fries" and then fried till crispy on the exterior. They're served with a tangy tomato dipping sauce that's more ketchup or chutney than marinara.

Housemade Ricotta

The starters also include the same luscious, creamy house-made ricotta that often appears among the MGF&D snacks atop crostini, but here it's a more DIY affair. Daily specials introduce a bit more variety, including on one visit a very nice coppa di testa with pickled eggplant and shards of Parmigiano cheese.

Orange and Radish Salad

Perhaps it's more responsible, though, to counterbalance the upcoming dough and cheese with a little roughage. The salads are bright, crisp, clean and fresh - I've enjoyed both a simple affair of escarole with bread crumbs and an anchovy dressing, and another with arugula, slivered fennel, watermelon radishes, olives, orange segments, and shavings of Piave cheese.

But shouldn't we be talking about pizza?

MGFD Bacon Pizza

Yes, we should. There is a Margherita Pizza on the menu (and it's a good one, if maybe a tiny bit overly salty), but otherwise, these pies largely eschew tradition. The crust is thin, tends more towards crisp than doughy, and the dough has a bit of whole wheat flour in it to add a touch of earthy heartiness. They're baked quickly at high heat in the wood-burning oven and typically pick up a decent amount of char around the edges, along with some nice bubbling of the outer crust. Personally, I prefer a bit more of a risen, doughy outer crust to the more cracker-y style, and on my most recent visit the pies were tilting in a slightly more supple direction, though I think Harry's pies will always be thinner and crispier than a typical Neapolitan style.

Purists who insist that pizza is simply about the perfect balance of dough, cheese and tomato will scoff, but the pizzas at Harry's are mostly about the toppings. That's not necessarily a bad thing, certainly not when you're talking about the MGF&D Bacon Pizza, topped with Michael's house-cured bacon, sliced fingerling potatoes, caramelized onions, gruyere cheese and fresh arugula. It's a perfectly balanced combination in its own way.

Pesto Pizza

Another nice combination is the Pesto Pizza, with reverses the customary composition of tomato, cheese and basil by using a basil pesto as the base, topped with more of that creamy house-made ricotta and slices of juicy fresh tomatoes.

Regulars at Michael's Genuine will recognize a few other combos that are often featured there: the slow-roasted pork with figs, fontina and arugula; the pulled short rib with gruyere and caramelized onions; the rock shrimp with grilled lemon, manchego and cilantro. A few new items round out the list: braised fennel with trugole cheese, basil and olives; oyster mushrooms with tallegio cheese and roasted chiles; meatballs with peppers and onions and escarole.

Pies generally run between $11-15. You could arguably split one between two people if you got a couple appetizers, but depending on your appetite, you might regret it. On the other hand, to be able to get a meal of this quality, sourced responsibly and prepared in-house with this kind of care and attention, for under $20 is a great deal regardless.


There is a short selection of desserts but they should not be overlooked. Michael's brilliant pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith supplied the formula for the zeppole, delightfully indulgent fluffy doughnuts showered with powdered sugar and served with a dipping sauce of ricotta whipped with honey. The combination is curiously reminiscent of the Thai donuts typically served with condensed milk and peanuts. On another visit I had a silky, tart, fragrant passion fruit panna cotta by pastry sous chef Trew Sterling.

Beverage choices likewise stick with the theme: the beers on tap are local (Monk in the Trunk, Cigar City, Holy Mackerel), the wine list is short and cheap, sodas are made in-house and delicious (don't miss the espresso soda), coffee is from the fantastic local roaster Panther Coffee.

When Michael's Genuine opened, after my first visit I said "My only hesitation in recommending it is the fear it will become impossible to get in." Sure enough, nearly five years later it's still tough to snag a table without an advance reservation. So we've been waiting for some time for a spin-off of some sort. And while I may have been rooting for a sandwich shop rather than a pizza joint, it's hard to find much to complain about with Harry's. It's got a narrow, focused mission - to serve great pizzas using fresh, mostly local ingredients, in a casual comfortable setting - and it genuinely fulfills it.

Pesto Pizza

Harry's Pizzeria
3918 N. Miami Avenue, Miami, FL

Harry's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

[1] Not to suggest Chef Schwartz didn't earn it. He had a great run at Nemo on South Beach when it first opened, then bounced around through a succession of other places - Atlantic in the now-demolished Beach House Bal Harbour, Afterglow on South Beach - before landing back on his feet with MGF&D.


  1. What a surprise to see another food blogger kissing Michaels ass. Let's be honest. The pizza kind of sucks. It's way too expensive. And the place will go down quick once this Schwartz infatuation dulls down.

    I generally enjoy your writing, Frodnesor, but you are becoming way too predictable (like most of your fellow Miami bloggers)

  2. Opinions about pizza are often strong, so if you think the pizzas at Harry's suck that's fine. I like them, though I'd prefer a little more give to the crust.

    But to say they're "way too expensive" is objectively ridiculous. They range from $11 to $15 for a pizza that is a good size for a "personal" pizza. Compare that to Andiamo, for instance, where the prices for a 10" run $9-12, the dough is flaccid, and ingredients probably come out of a can or off the Sysco truck, and I'll happily pay a couple bucks more for fresh, local and in-house prepared ingredients.

  3. We went as a group of 4. It was $125 (with tax and tip). We had a few appetizers, one beer each, that weird soda, and 3 pizzas. Gotta agree with the first commenter. We were definitely thrown off by the price.

    Volante pizza was much better.

  4. Frod, are you serious? I was hoping that you would be the first to honestly describe this place, but alas, you are conforming to the rest.

    First off, Pizza Volante was much better than Harry's. The dough, sauce, and plain old cheese pizza are not even comparison.

    Harry's appears to be your typical hyped-up place that only draws the attention of fad-finding bloggers (I have read many of your reviews, and they seem to be going down this direction.)

    Why did you praise this place? Because you enjoyed the toppings? Since when is pizza about the toppings?

    Also, I went to The Local based on your recommendation. Not just one of the worst meals I can remember, but pretty much embarrassed that I took friends there.

    Please do not take this wrong. I have been following you since the Chowhound days. It's enough with these places that are reviewed based on how "funky" their menu is. I, my family, and friends are more interested in places that are actually good than "foodie" good. Please go back to what you used to recommend.

  5. Anonymous - that's about $20 per person excluding drinks, tax & tip. I realize that's more than a Domino's pizza and a cheesy bread, but how much did you expect to pay? I happen to have an old Pizzavolante menu (yeah, I liked it too) and their pizzas ran $9 - $14 - and were smaller than Harry's.

    David - "Since when is pizza about the toppings?" I think I kind of covered that point when I said "Purists who insist that pizza is simply about the perfect balance of dough, cheese and tomato will scoff, but the pizzas at Harry's are mostly about the toppings."

    They're not doing traditional pizzas at Harry's. They're not going to appeal to pizza purists. Their crust could be better. They also still make for a very good sub-$20 meal, IMO.

    Incidentally, I've got no idea what the "fad-finding bloggers" are saying about Harry's - I've not read any other review of it other than a kvatchy little thing in Short Order from Lee Klein.

    I'm also pretty sure I don't know what "actually good" vs. "foodie good" means. There's good food, and there's not good food. I like the good stuff.

  6. Businesses are an extension of the owner.

    Ever notice how service at Michelle Bernstein's places is always incredibly kind and hospitable. All of Michaels places seem to be staffed by those who are pompous and arrogant.

    Put me down as another who did not enjoy Harry's.

  7. Hello haters!

    Bunch of ungrateful commenters should just get your own blog.

    Frod, go back to old Frod so that my family and friends can reap the benefits of your recos. Who cares what YOU want to eat or write! You damn conformist!?

  8. The pizza is a vehicle for his creative toppings. It's not for everyone. The pies that are good are very good. But that margherita shouldn't be on the menu. Worst one I've ever had.

  9. I Have to eat Matzoh for a week a year. I don't want my dough to taste the same. And the polenta stickss really aren't that good.

    But the best comment I read was the one about the attitude. From the second you walk into Michaels Genuine, the hosts give attitude. Then, a good portion of the bartenders give attitude. Then, a good portion of the servers give attitude.

    Don't understand the arrogance even with such success.

  10. I'll admit that the service issues are the hardest ones for me to be objective about, since MGFD is a place I've been going to steadily for nearly 5 years now and I'll candidly admit it's likely different when you're a regular. But the fact that many people have the same complaint sure suggests it's an issue - and while pizza preferences may be subjective, a bad service experience is not a matter of taste.

  11. I am also a regular at MGFD, and I have experienced many times instances where the front of the house personnel go the distance for complete strangers. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was sitting at the bar at the height of the Friday dinner rush, when a group of 5 vacationers from Chicago showed up for their reservation. The hostess couldn't find the reservation, and then everybody realized that they had inadvertently made the reservation for the following Friday. Within minutes, they had arranged to get them a table, even though the place was packed. This is not the type of arrogant attitude described by others.

  12. Put me down for one that was neither crazy for Harry's Pizza, and, though I love MGFD's food, I also think they could seriously tone down the snoot-factor.

    I don't think I blogged about Harry's, because the experience was so "blah," that I couldn't even get jazzed up enough to be remotely funny in my complaining.

    The pizza (to the extent I remember it - I only remember eating the shortrib pizza which had too much going on) was "meh," and the over-toasted bread points with the ricotta were disappointing. As for service, I can't remember it at all.

    I've actively avoided going back. Andiamo isn't that far away. And it makes me vastly happier. I'm not saying Andiamo is the best of the best -- and I admittedly love(d) Gino's (before they messed with their recipe) but I'll take either to Harry's any day.

  13. Oh, but congrats on the Post of the Week! My disdain for Harry's doesn't bleed through to your work.

  14. How can Michael Schwartz take over a pizza place and make worse quality pizza? I liked Pizza Volante, it wasn't amazing, but Harry's Pizza is a complete misfire! I'd by happy with the price if the quality was there, but isn't not. My server wasn't accommodating either. Though it is just a pizza place.

  15. Taste is subjective. This rings even more true when it comes to pizza, something people are strangely passionate about in an extreme way.

    I agree with Chowfather that I don't go to Harry's to get a margarita pizza. I go for the topping combos and those are great. I like the pizza at MGFD/Harry's a lot. It's not bready, it's crisp, it's got the right amount of sauce for me, and the toppings are great combos. I liked PizzaVolante pizza too and named it my favorite after all the pizza crawls we did way back when. But I really can't make a comparison between a pizza I can eat today and one I had over a year ago, nor do I even think it's relevant.

  16. SuperBee - alas, runner-up for Post of the Week. I understand those who say they preferred PizzaVolante (though it's a moot point - PizzaVolante is gone), but Andiamo?

    The funny thing to me is that PizzaVolante had more than its share of haters too. Pizza is divisive stuff, apparently.

  17. I cooked the same style pizzas in the same style oven in NYC. Harry's is putting out a good pie from a great oven. Is a slice of meat in between two pieces of bread a sandwich? Theoretically, yes, but seriously it's not. A classic style pie, regardless of size, is pizza, so is a pie with toppings- but you can't compare the two to each other. If you think Andiamo's or Pizza Rustica is "pizza" then don't ever go to Harry's because you don't know what pizza really is.

  18. Have given it 3 tries now because I love the food at Michaels Genuine (even though I completely agree about service and have heard many say the same). Just can't get into the pizza. Don't like the dough. Like only about half toppings we have tried. And dare I say, I don't like the pastry chef desserts at either place.

  19. Do any of the pizzas (other than margherita) have red sauce? Picky eater in family wouldn't eat most of these specialty pies.

    Most of these look like what I would call flatbreads, not really characterize as a pizza. Not that's there's anything wrong with that but if a place was labelled a pizzeria (and i know you explained how many varieties) I might go in with different expectations and be upset with potatoes, gruyere and arugala on my pizza.

  20. MG places are waaaay overrated. And service definitely arrogant as hell

  21. Wow, this was unexpected.

    Count me in as one who thoroughly disliked PizzaVolante. I found the sauce highly acid, and used on just about anything they could. I was thrilled to see them go and curious to see how Schwartz would handle the space.

    First of all, the design and energy of the place is way different - more comfortable, less spartan and kinda cool. The food is very good, esp. for the price ($5 giant meatballs!). This is one of the few quality restos in Miami where you can expect (not strive for) a sub-$20 check. It's a great place for family, friends or a casual date. As for the pizza, it is a matter of taste, but it is cooked well and the toppings are quality.

  22. The Pizza (Margarita) at Harry's is fine. The freshness of the ingredients stand out. But i'm a purist, and all those pizza's with the crazy topping really convolute matters. As for price point, all these "fancy" pizza restaurants including Spris and Piola are at the same price point. That does not mean their cheap, it is simply the way it is. I vote for Steve's on Biscayne and 123 St. Like their motto goes... "You tried the rest, now try the best!" For a standard pizza, they are right on in taste and in price point.

  23. harry's is just an expansion for schwartz. i've eaten there and it's not a pizzeria, just an extension for him trying to cash in on a mini empire. we had 3 pizzas, 2 were raw (yes raw on the bottom)& the 3 appetizers were lack luster. this is what happens when a good cook tries to sell out!!! he's cooking for cruise ships now. the floating buffets, lol. if you want real pizza i will agree with you and travel to pizzeria oceana, the best i've had. it blows bianco's away!

  24. To tell you the truth I've been there and I tried the pie. I wasn't for me. Being from NY I grew up on real NY style pizza. I'm not saying bad I'm saying it's not for me and to me the price wasn't bad at all. Now I live in Broward county and if anyone's looking for a traditional NY style Italian joint you have to check out Scuotto's in Sunrise fl.

    I did enjoy reading your post. Especially all the comments.

  25. Reasonably ambitious, unique artisan pizza and equally cool appetizers here. Like the place, too--kind of a small, casual, somewhat industrial spot just off the main design strip.

    Thought the pizza with short ribs stood out, as did the meatball appetizer. Local craft beers and beer flights are also excellent. (Michael's Home Brew is good stuff, too.) Harry's wine list could be better.

    Main issue here: space and tables are NYC-quality tight and I've actually jockeyed for tables with some edgy neighbors. Still, I think this a great choice in the design district, worthy successor to Pizza Volante, too.