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, 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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
3918 N. Miami Avenue, Miami, FL
 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.