Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pizzeria Oceano - Lantana, Florida

Pizzeria Oceano

This was not the pizzeria I expected to be writing about now. With Miami's local hero Michael Schwartz having recently opened a pizzeria of his own (Harry's Pizzeria, named for his son, in the Design District spot that used to be the home of PizzaVolante), I figured that was going to be the subject of my next ode to pizza.[1] But earlier this week I found myself driving back from West Palm Beach around dinner time, and made a stop at Pizzeria Oceano in Lantana, a a place that had been on my radar since stumbling across this little blurb in Broward New Times (yes, you can always catch my attention with whipped lardo).

Two years ago, pizza was all the rage in South Florida, so much so that we staged a four part, eleven location pizza crawl in the summer of 2009.[2] That happens to be around the time that Pizzeria Oceano opened. But Pizzeria Oceano doesn't seem like a place trying to latch onto a trend as much as a genuinely singular vision. Chef/owner Dak Kerprich keeps a short menu that changes daily, procures as many of his ingredients as he can from local farmers and fishermen, and refuses to compromise on quality. In the morning they prep as much as they think they'll need for the day, and when they run out - sometimes as early as 7:30 pm - they close up for the night. Much to the puzzlement and chagrin of some, Pizzeria Oceano won't do takeout, and they won't do substitutions or additions. If you don't like it, they're OK with that.

So am I.

Pizzeria Oceano menu

The place itself is mostly patio, with about a half-dozen tables outside on the front deck sharing space with planters of fresh herbs. A tight indoor space has a couple more tables and a row of barstools along with the kitchen and its wood-burning oven. The menu lists a short selection of appetizers (a/k/a "Not Pizza"), and an equally short selection of "composed" pizzas along with one "basic" version topped with mozzarella, pecorino, tomato and basil which you can further embellish with a choice of toppings. The menu also lists the provenance of almost all the ingredients you'll find in the dishes.

Roasted Bluefish

You don't see bluefish on restaurant menus often, primarily because the oily fish has a tendency to turn rapidly, and is consequently accused of being too "fishy." The waiter advised that theirs was just caught off the coast of Cape Canaveral, and the fish was gorgeously fresh and clean-tasting. Accompaniments were simple and classically Mediterranean: wilted escarole, slivers of lightly pickled onion, toasted pine nuts.

Country Ham & Egg Pizza

But what we really need to talk about is the pizza. Though I had some inclination to try their "Basic" as a baseline test, the "Country Ham and Egg" won out. Of course it did. It's topped with shavings of country ham from Edwards Ham in Surry, Virginia, a couple of golden-yolked fresh eggs, creamy fontina and salty, sharp pecorino cheeses, a scatter of green onions and a generous grinding of black pepper.

(continued ...)

You could call it a breakfast pizza, you could call it a carbonara pizza - by any name, it was delicious. A thin-crust style, it comes out with blistered edges that have charred here and there. The toppings are warmed, the cheese is melted, the egg is cooked, but everything is still fresh after only a quick visit to the heat of the wood-burning oven. The ham is just a touch crispy but still mostly tender, the egg still gooey and runny. The crust leans toward crisp and cracker-y at the edges, but still retains some give, supple enough to fold a slice without it cracking.

If our eleven-stop pizza crawl had it made it this far north, Pizzeria Oceano definitely would have been somewhere near the top of my list.[3]

Pizzeria Oceano's pizza is not cheap by most people's standards - the "Country Ham and Egg" version was $19 for a pie about 13 inches across, and the "Basic" starts at $14 before you add toppings - but even if it's twice as expensive as your average pizza, it's still exponentially better.

It's a real thrill to find a place like this: simple and humble, but simultaneously serious and ambitious. Pizzeria Oceano does things in what they see as the "right" way, even if it means they're not going to please every potential customer. That has earned their chef a reputation as a "Pizza Nazi." It also should earn them a reputation for some of the best pizza in South Florida.

Pizzeria Oceano
201 East Ocean Avenue, Lantana

Pizzeria Oceano on Urbanspoon

[1] That will come. I was at Harry's Pizzeria for a friends and family event, and will be back again soon.

[2] Make what you will of the fact that three of those eleven spots - Casale, PizzaVolante, and the North Miami location of Pizza Fusion - have since closed.

[3] If you want some reference points to figure out what that means, I was also a big fan of PizzaVolante, had a great pie from Forno 52 out of a cart-mounted wood-burning oven at a Fairchild Tropical Garden event before they opened a shop down south, like the pizzas at Michael's Genuine though I think the crust trends a little to thin and crispy, and for "commodity" pizza think you can do much worse than Anthony's Coal Fired.


  1. My wife and I discovered this pizzeria a year ago. We live in Coral Gables and make the drive up to Lantana a few times a month for this culinary destination. By far the best pizza we have ever had!!! What makes Pizzeria Oceano great, is you never know what they will have on the menu.

  2. You need to channel your inner Chowfather and do Tiers of Pizza.

  3. Looks delicious! You should try Spris at Lincoln Road! They have really good pizza too!