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Racks-best pizza in So. Fla??

Miami Danny May 14, 2009 03:36 PM

I love Racks. This new Italian place with a great view on the Intracoastal in N. Miami Beach has great pizza It is baked in a domed brick/coal burning oven, and has the perfect crust-charred, a little ash-y, thin/crisp, but also a little chewy on top with that distinct dry coal finish. The oval-shaped pie I had was topped with artisanal sopressata secchi, goat cheese, aged provolone, and San Marzano tomatoes, and cooked just to the exact heat to separately bring out the best in all these high-quality ingredients, while also allowing them to mingle flavors for extra depth. When it is removed from the oven, the pie is then topped with a few hand-gratings of three-year-old Parmigiano-Reggiano, and some Olio Verde. The roof of my mouth is still ripped open the next day, as I could not stop consuming my two slices, right from the oven (which I was reverently standing in front of, naturally) before they cooled even slightly. I was offered one slice by the sweet-talking chef, but I 'mistakenly' ripped off two from the hot pie. I wanted to stay right at the counter, talking to the chef, Matthew, all evening, and just sample the pizzas as they came out of the oven. He later explained that the dough spends three days rising in wooden boxes he had hand-made in New York.

Of course they also have the red Berkel hand-slicer (I loves you Berky), and at this free event I attended, they were serving some beautiful prosciutto, speck, and some other imported salumi. But without a doubt, they have vaulted to the top of South Florida pizza-making. I guess that's easy, when, according to the chef, "You love what you do. You gotta love what you do." So yes, the secret ingredient, once again, as Marge Simpson once said, is salt. Sea salt.

Racks Italian Bistro and Market
Intracoastal Mall 163rd St and NE 36th Ave
N. Miami Beach, FL

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  1. m
    mialebven RE: Miami Danny May 14, 2009 09:13 PM

    You think they upped the ante against Anthony's?

    1. Frodnesor RE: Miami Danny May 15, 2009 04:21 AM

      That's very high praise for a place that's been open - 24 hours?
      Is this the old Shooter's location? If so, about time something decent went in there.


      1 Reply
      1. re: Frodnesor
        The Chowfather RE: Frodnesor May 15, 2009 05:13 AM

        I think the Water Club (opening soon) is going in the old Shooter's location.

      2. Miami Danny RE: Miami Danny May 15, 2009 08:14 AM

        If it weren't so special, I wouldn't have bothered writing about it. What does the time open have to do with anything, anyway? La Cofradia re-opened and everyone's been on that pretty quickly. So in my mind, if there is an obvious commitment to the food, it deserves mention. Of course I have yet to try the rest of the menu, but the commitment to the pizza alone was pretty awe-inspiring (in a foodie kind of way, of course).
        There is also another restaurant going in on the other side of Racks. I think a steak place would be the obvious choice.
        As for Anthony's, I'm not sure how this will play out, but I believe that Racks is a little more expensive, and more in line with a Fratelli Lyon-type joint, with the imported salumi, etc. Anthony's is more of a kid-friendly joint, with good pizza, but a little more mass-produced.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Miami Danny
          Frodnesor RE: Miami Danny May 15, 2009 11:08 AM

          I'm glad to hear it's good, just a little dubious about handing out superlatives based on an opening party. There's going to be lots of competition for best pizza with a lot of new places coming on-line. Per MenuPages, Sosta (from the Quattro folks) on Lincoln Road is opening tonight (despite mysterious reports already issued), and per UrbanDaddy, PizzaVolante (from Jonathan Eismann of Pacific Time) in the Design District is opening Wednesday.

          Apparently pizza is the new steak. And yet it's still impossible to find a banh mi in Miami. Why can't we catch up on this trend?

          MD - I noticed some peculiar similarities between the Racks menu and the Devito's menu ->
          Do you know if there's any kitchen connection?

          1. re: Frodnesor
            tpigeon RE: Frodnesor May 15, 2009 11:22 AM

            If you are referring to me and sosta about already issued reports, I have heard from people who went to the friends and family pre opening and said the pizza excellent. I just wanted to report that because quattro gets a bad rap here (deservedly so in my opinion). I did also state that there is a difference between cooking for friends and family and cooking for the public day in and day out, so I don't see what is so "mysterious" about any of it...One thing for sure, their prices look good.

            As for pizza being the new steak, I say bring it on. I think it will bring up the level of pizza in miami.

            1. re: tpigeon
              Blind Mind RE: tpigeon May 15, 2009 11:29 AM

              "As for pizza being the new steak, I say bring it on. I think it will bring up the level of pizza in miami."

              Yeah, and the prices...

              I still think Spris is the best in Miami for taste and money. Let the arguing begin...

              1. re: Blind Mind
                tpigeon RE: Blind Mind May 15, 2009 04:34 PM

                So far so good on the prices...

              2. re: tpigeon
                Frodnesor RE: tpigeon May 15, 2009 12:07 PM

                You created quite a bit of mystery with that one. Forget pizza and steak. Give me banh mi.

                1. re: Frodnesor
                  lax2mia RE: Frodnesor May 15, 2009 01:11 PM

                  I've made treks deep into Broward for banh mi. It's not that hard to make!!!! If we can press ham, pork, cheese and pickles into a sandwich we can sure as heck make banh mi. As for pizzas, like Spris, but prefer Piola (oh wait, maybe I'm thinking of hostesses).

                  1. re: Frodnesor
                    Blind Mind RE: Frodnesor May 15, 2009 08:11 PM

                    last time I asked for banh mi I got slapped in the face...

                    1. re: Blind Mind
                      Frodnesor RE: Blind Mind May 15, 2009 09:16 PM

                      Maybe it was the pronunciation.

                2. re: Frodnesor
                  Miami Danny RE: Frodnesor May 15, 2009 03:14 PM

                  "I'm glad to hear it's good, just a little dubious about handing out superlatives based on an opening party."
                  Frod-Again La Cofradia comes to mind. A place where one has eaten lunch exactly once at the first lunch service after re-opening. Merits 800 words. Dubiously delightful.
                  And I'm not trying to predict the future, I'm just saying it may be the best right now.

                  1. re: Miami Danny
                    Frodnesor RE: Miami Danny May 15, 2009 03:39 PM

                    I handed out no ceviche superlatives. And the truth is Cofradia's really not a new restaurant. It's the same owners, the same chef, the same location, and really at least 50% the same menu but with the prices pulled back maybe 20%. And I've been back for happy hour.

                    I'm happy you're so excited about Racks - it makes me want to try it. I'll just pass on the "San Marzano gravy."

              3. r
                rainroosty RE: Miami Danny May 16, 2009 04:12 AM

                Great that you have found the perfect pizza for you - definitely not great for me. I wonder how their meatball subs are?

                3 Replies
                1. re: rainroosty
                  LargeLife RE: rainroosty May 16, 2009 06:59 AM

                  Wow! Finally! Some real interaction! This board has been dead for weeks! Thank goodness!


                  1. re: rainroosty
                    Miami Danny RE: rainroosty May 16, 2009 07:30 AM

                    If you are saying that great pizza and great meatball subs go hand in hand, then I wholeheartedly agree.

                    1. re: Miami Danny
                      rainroosty RE: Miami Danny May 16, 2009 08:10 AM

                      You got that right. I wouldn't even think of doing business with a pizza joint if they didn't have the meatball parmigiana sub. :-)

                  2. HabaneroJane RE: Miami Danny May 18, 2009 01:35 PM

                    Wow, I thought Racks should be renamed Racket for the lack of authentic Italian fare...that said, we didn't have pizza..we ordered Chicken Parm, got Veal instead (oops, said the clueless waitress--chicken, veal, it's all the same), Gnocchi with cheese, which had the consistency of golf balls and some Publix-grade (actually, Publix is better) prosciutto, sour mozzarella and provolone, all served separately on massive wooden planks---on which my husband remarked, 'what are they going to do, build a deck?'. Cheese and salumi served with nothing, no crackers, no bread. Just some syrupy, vile black olives. Bread we had to ask for was three slices of stale, cold something that may have resembled bread in its past life, served with yet another vile dipping sauce of tomato and oil. Chopped salad was doused in somethng that tasted like lemon pledge, clams were barely visible, the size of a small caper, buried underneath masses of breadcrumbs. The one good thing about the clams was the sauce. In between the cheese and salumi folly our waitress asked if we wanted to imbibe in the house specialty--a strawberry mojito. Because strawberry mojitos are exactly what one would have with chicken--excuse me, veal parmesan and rock solid gnocchi. Best of all, waitress made sure to tell us that everything we ate was available in their sub par deli. At that point, we just laughed, paid the bill and left, vowing never , ever to return.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: HabaneroJane
                      rainroosty RE: HabaneroJane May 19, 2009 08:47 AM

                      Jane.......roflmao!.......I laughed out loud through your entire post! It's just funny! :-)

                      1. re: rainroosty
                        HabaneroJane RE: rainroosty May 19, 2009 08:50 AM

                        i actually didn't even take the time to write the part about when i asked the waitress what was in the gnocchi and she replied, "Cheese Pizza."

                        1. re: HabaneroJane
                          rainroosty RE: HabaneroJane May 20, 2009 01:53 AM

                          It's not even 5 a.m. and I'm laughing in my dark living room :-)

                    2. dbarnard RE: Miami Danny May 20, 2009 07:05 AM

                      We ate there, and while nice, it didn't seem extraordinary. Our pizza came late, but the manager bought us drinks, so that made it OK. It is rather pricey, but the cheese had some real punch to it. Call me a philistine, but I really couldn't tell the difference between sopressa and pepperoni, but my wallet sure could!

                      Pizza is basically peasant food, with no huge amounts of expensive ingredients. It shouldn't cost this much!

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: dbarnard
                        Frodnesor RE: dbarnard May 20, 2009 07:56 AM

                        I can't yet comment on the food and I'm not sure if there's big variation in the size of the pies from one place to the next, but their prices don't seem completely out of whack, other than the absence of cheapie marinara and margarita options. Rack's prices range from $12-15. Compare to:

                        Sosta ($7-14 with most $10+); Piola ($8-16); Joey's ($8-18); Spris ($9-15); Anthony's $11.25 + $1.50/topping; specialty pies are $16). The low end at each of these places are for marinara (sans cheese) or margarita options.


                        1. re: Frodnesor
                          dbarnard RE: Frodnesor May 21, 2009 10:50 AM

                          I thought that the pie was rather small- Since it was oblong, it was difficult to tell the size.

                          1. re: Frodnesor
                            The Chowfather RE: Frodnesor May 24, 2009 07:49 PM

                            Frod, Anthony's pizza is MUCH bigger than Rack's and better.

                            1. re: The Chowfather
                              t.time RE: The Chowfather May 24, 2009 08:28 PM

                              just started going to Pizza Heaven in Weston, very good, better than my last experience at Anthony's,

                        2. The Chowfather RE: Miami Danny May 24, 2009 08:09 PM

                          MD, I have to disagree with you on this one. Rack's is not the best pizza in South Florida. It's not even the best coal oven pizza in North Miami... It's not horrible and I'd probably go again if I was in the area (really close..) but I wouldn't make a special trip for this. It's similar to Anthony's in style but the pies are much smaller which makes them fall on the expensive side at $14.00 plus they are not as good. Additionally, I'm not sure what they were serving you guys on opening night but there was nothing thin or crispy about the dough/crust on both pies I sampled. It was on the soggy side and and the toppings/cheese slid right off when I attempted to take a bite. If you are looking for good coal oven pizza in the area, I would stick with Anthony's. If you are looking for thin/crispy crust style pizza I would stick with Spris and Piola. (I haven't tried Pizzavolante or Sosta yet)

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: The Chowfather
                            HabaneroJane RE: The Chowfather May 26, 2009 12:19 PM

                            I heard the pizza joint owned by Quattro is fantastic.

                            All that said, what's the best pizza place on South Beach that delivers?

                            I was digging Mario the Baker actually but called yesterday and no one answered. Was wondering how it could coexist with the subpar but long lasting Master's two doors down.

                            Ordered from Bella Napoli at the advice of someone and it was horrid. It was doughy, with congealed cheese and overall meh.

                            I used to like the place south of fifth around the corner from Nemo, Primo Pizza, until I ate aa vile, undercooked slice there and vowed never again.

                            Rustica was also subpar the few times I ordered. Nothing to write home about.

                            At a total loss as Spris and the new Quattro place doesn't deliver! Help!

                            1. re: The Chowfather
                              The Chowfather RE: The Chowfather Nov 10, 2009 06:52 PM

                              Made a much needed return trip to Racks and thought it was better than the first go round (had the secchi and the fiore di latte) but I still prefer Pizzavolante and Anthony's.

                              3918 N Miami Ave, Miami, FL

                              1. re: The Chowfather
                                HabaneroJane RE: The Chowfather Nov 12, 2009 08:19 AM

                                what's the deal with their alleged truffle pizza? was that on the menu? Debating making the trek up for that one but based on what I am hearing of late, not worth the trip...Loving Joey's pizza recently..

                                1. re: HabaneroJane
                                  Frodnesor RE: HabaneroJane Nov 12, 2009 08:25 AM

                                  The award-winning truffle pizza was on the specials board when I visited some time ago for $30+.

                                  1. re: Frodnesor
                                    The Chowfather RE: Frodnesor Nov 12, 2009 11:45 AM

                                    I love pizza and I love truffles but I'm not sure I love a $30 pie from Racks...

                                    1. re: The Chowfather
                                      HabaneroJane RE: The Chowfather Nov 12, 2009 12:15 PM


                                  2. re: HabaneroJane
                                    dmo305 RE: HabaneroJane Nov 15, 2009 02:32 PM

                                    Jane, the "black and white" pizza at Timo in Sunny Isles is delicious if you are in the mood for truffle pizza.

                                    Timo Restaurant
                                    17624 Collins Avenue, Sunny Isles, FL 33160

                              2. non sequitur RE: Miami Danny Jun 13, 2009 04:36 PM

                                With Pizza Crawl parts I and II now in the history books, this thread has become a little stale, but after reviewing everyone's crawl notes, I took the brood to Racks tonight and was not disappointed.

                                [side bar: I missed the 2 crawls because I was eating Deep Dish in Chicago during the first one, and Foccacia pizza in Long Island during the second. And it looks like I'll be missing the third because I'll be in Toronto].

                                It looks like the crawl turnout has been great, and I'm sorry to have missed the opportunity to see more faces. But I digress. Returning to Racks - yum.

                                The kids had their version of a margherita, but I think it is the white pizzas that are the real standouts (in tonight's case: the portobello, with gorgonzola and truffle oil, was very nice). I loved the presentation and the crust, which was both chewy and had the right amount of exterior crunch.

                                I've had lots of Anthony's, and I think my vote would go to Racks. I will have to do an in-person visit to Anthony's to be fair (I've mostly done takeout), but my Mrs. NS has now eaten at both "in person" and had the same conclusion.

                                At $12 for the plain and $15 for the portobello, the pies were priced competitively, but not cheap. With a waterfront location, some of that cost must be ambiance, which I think it bests Anthony's with.

                                My only gripe (if management is reading): why limit drink specials the the bar area? I'd happily add a quartino to my order, but tend not to when the price at a stool 10 feet away is half the price. I think the trend (particularly in this economy) is to extend such offers to the dining room.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: non sequitur
                                  HabaneroJane RE: non sequitur Jun 14, 2009 09:06 AM

                                  ate at Spris Friday night and it was horrid; congealed cheese, flaccid mushrooms, cold. i dont care how inexpensive it is, it's not worth

                                  went there in lieu of sosta becase we had a dog with us and Sosta doesnt yet have outdoor seating. can't wait to check it out, as I hear it is stellar.

                                  1. re: HabaneroJane
                                    taiga RE: HabaneroJane Jun 15, 2009 02:28 PM

                                    Forgive me, but this entire discussion has sprinkles of desperation. Miami is my home and I'm sufficiently happy with what we have to eat. That said, pizza is particularly weak here; we are way behind. Rack's, Anthony's, etc. are corporate endeavors. On this, I'm inclined to feel the earlier post by DBarnard; pizza is peasant soul food. I prefer the places that have some roots, which few of those we have been mentioning have. Danny has been conspicuously absent from the dialogue since the initial post. I wonder if he has an updated view?

                                    1. re: taiga
                                      Frodnesor RE: taiga Jun 15, 2009 04:11 PM

                                      And New York pizzerias are all charitable endeavors? If Miam pizza has been generally mediocre, what good are "roots"? I prefer places that have good pizza. Have you actually tried any of the new places yet?

                                    2. re: HabaneroJane
                                      The Chowfather RE: HabaneroJane Jun 15, 2009 04:15 PM

                                      HJ, Surprised to hear that about Spris. I was there recently and it was good.

                                      1. re: The Chowfather
                                        HabaneroJane RE: The Chowfather Jun 15, 2009 05:19 PM

                                        Yeah, it was very disappointing..and it wasn't even that busy where I could say they were overwhelmed...it was terrible! I can't wait to try Sosta.

                                        1. re: HabaneroJane
                                          lax2mia RE: HabaneroJane Jun 16, 2009 07:03 AM

                                          Sosta has been good so far. This past experience was better than the first. And apparently if you're Italian, your experience will be even better (as evidenced by the staff fawning over anyone walking in saying "Bona sera". I felt like I was on the SNL skit where the Italian guy interviews people a la Charlie Rose or Family Guy when Peter decides he can communicate with Italians by just saying "Bubada bipada" over and over).

                                          In my experience Spris has been inconsistent lately. One time good, another time meh.

                                          1. re: lax2mia
                                            HabaneroJane RE: lax2mia Jun 16, 2009 07:41 AM

                                            Hilarious lax! hahahaha!! I am going to try the Peter Griffin trick when I go in !

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