Jonathan Eismann, chef of Pacific Time in Miami, has opened up a new pizza parlor and mozzarella bar in the Design District, right around the corner from PT. Opening night was last night and I stopped in to try it out. I've got a post with a link to the initial menu here and a further report on our visit here.
It's a small and simple place, mostly white and stainless steel with a bit of a color accent from some orange plastic chairs. There's a few rows of tables and some additional bar-height seating around the front windows. One one side of the entrance is the mozzarella bar, behind which in the corner is the wood-burning pizza oven.
We started off with a sampling of the mozzarellas and their accompaniments, followed by a margherita pizza. 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.
The list of pizza options is short, sweet and fairly traditional; there are also a couple calzones if you prefer your pizza stuffed. Locavores will appreciate the "Volante 100," with all toppings or fillings grown or produced within 100 miles of the store (though I should note that while Vito produces his mozz locally, I'm dubious he actually sources his milk locally). The menu also features a few sandwiches, a few pasta options, and a daily special (all old-school Italian stuff like lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, veal marsala) available to eat in, for take out or delivery.
So - best pizza in Miami? Too early to tell without trying the other competitors for that title. Besides, I don't really claim to be a pizza expert. I grew up here in South Florida which is not exactly a pizza mecca, so I lack the years of fine-tuning the pizza palate that an experienced New Yorker might have. 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 (18 choices for $18).
3918 N. Miami Avenue
Miami, FL 33137
Pizzavolante Pizza and Mozzarella Bar
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