Miami Pizza Showdown Part I - Recap
We had a nice group come out for Part I of the Miami Pizza Showdown. Here is the rundown on the pizzas we tried:
Margherita - with mozzarella & tomato
"Joey" - with tuna, salami, gorgonzola, capers & spinach
"Carbonara" - with bacon, eggs, mozzarella & asparagus
"Dolce e Piccante" - with figs, gorgonzola, honey & hot pepper
Margherita "DOP" - with Italian tomato, oven dried Roma tomatoes, bufala mozzarella & basil
"Pizzavolante 100" - with local mozzarella, dandelion greens, tomatoes & arugula
"Bianca" - with fontina, 2 mozzarellas, goat cheese, arugula & thyme
"Cacciatorini" - with Italian tomato, local mozzarella, grana, California pepperoni & guanciale
"Soprano" - with broccoli rabe, Italian sausage, tomato sauce, parmesan & mozzarella
"Putanesca" - with olives, capers, anchovies, red pepper flakes, tomato sauce & mozzarella
"Genovese" - with rosemary potatoes, pancetta, caramelized onions, mozzarella & gorgonzola
"Popeye" - with spinach, roma tomatoes, tomato sauce, ricotta, mozzarella & basil
5600 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33137
2506 NW 2nd Ave, Miami, FL
3918 N Miami Ave, Miami, FL
I'll throw out the first volley, although Miami Dish and Mango & Lime have already put up they're takes. Disecting the pies:
Toppings: Joey's had more "outside the box" choices, PV focused more on minimal but quality toppings. It was a tossup for me.
Crust: Liked PV's more as I'm partial to crispy crusts but Joey's was more rustic and better char. I guess PV was experimenting with crust last night so have to reserve judgement till final recipe is decided upon. Guess it'll be an excuse to go back!
Thanks again Frod for putting this together and kudos to everyone for being such an amiable, laid-back and adventurous group.
Best pie of the night was PV's Cacciatorini. I liked everything at Joey's (including the unusual Joey and Dolce e Piccante) but couldn't really pick a favorite of that group. Other top picks include Andiamo's Genovese and PV's DOP & Bianca.
Find it difficult to rate the different styles on the same scale (Joeys & PV thin crust v. Andiamo's more substantial crust).
Thanks to Frod for organizing and to everyone who came out and enjoyed themselves. It was nice meeting everyone there.
I liked Joey's better than Pizzavolante myself. Skipped Andiamo. Would compare Joey's and Pizzavolante as Melting Pot vs. Salad Bowl. ;-)
Joey's crust was "better" - held better, better char, better flavor. Melting Pot - flavors melded and complemented each other very well - they had some unified and mighty fine pizzas. Carbonara and Joey were favorites. Personally, the margherita was not anything too special, and the dolce e piccante underwhelmed (but it may just be me - I don't think I'm not a fan of sweet-tasting pizzas since I've never had one that struck my fancy. Maybe a sweet-tasting dough would help complement/enhance it? I can hear someone screaming "overdose" here!)
Pizzavolante's crust was M.I.A. - Toppings overwhelmed the crust, in my opinion, although toppings are noted for being fresh ingredients. This was a salad bowl - much depended on where the toppings were placed, and a bite had a different flavor as the ingredients were not really melded and they were strong-tasting ingredients. Noticeably the fresh "bitter" arugula and the overly salty Cacciatorini ingredients. Their countering ingredients to balance the flavors were noticeably sparse. The sauce for their margherita was "interesting," for the lack of a better word. Not sure if I'm a fan.
Overall, I'd give the win to Joey's.
I would agree that there was a substantial style distinction between both Joey's and Pizzavolante as opposed to Andiamo, which makes it more difficult to compare all three together.
Andiamo felt like a good quality neighborhood pizza place, typical of what I am used to identifying as the NY pizza style based on the style of crust, but with a broader selection of interesting topping combinations. However, the execution on the pies that we ordered was weaker than I expected from the descriptions. The biggest disappointments were the Genovese and the Putanesca. I have had a nice combination of potato and gorgonzola on some pizzas in Italy so I had high expectations of the Genovese but Andiamo failed to deliver. The pancetta was barely present and undercooked so it had no developed flavor, the gorgonzola was minimally present and the caramelized onion felt like it had been barely steamed. Instead there was an overwhelming garlic flavor from some relatively large chunks, which seemed more liberally distributed than any of the other toppings. The Putanesca was a similar disappointment due to my anticipation of the flavors of the pasta sauce of the same name. The final product however was dominated by the anchovies, which had not had any excess salt removed, while neither the black olive or caper flavors offered much counterpoint due to the former being insipid (perhaps canned sliced olives rather than good kalamatas) and the latter lacking in quantity. I found the Soprano and Popeye pies more enjoyable as both matched my expectations but were not impressive enough to surpass them. Overall, I would have no problem eating again at Andiamo if I wanted NY style pizza with a nice diversity of toppings but I would not go out of my way or expect it to match more gourmet destinations.
Joey's and Pizzavolante are both working in the Italian thin crust style and therefore are easier to compare from that perspective. Joey's had a very thin and slightly soft crust whereas the crust at Pizzavolante was firmer and slightly crunchy. Flavor wise the Joey crust was slightly better but I preferred the texture at Pizzavolante, although that level of crispiness was not to everyone's taste. My personal opinion is that there is room for variation in crust and different textures suit different toppings. A higher fat content from meat toppings or a multiplicity of cheeses is better matched to a crispy crust while other topping combinations work better with a softer crust. From a baseline perspective, I was disappointed with the Margherita pizzas at both places because they were done as a standard fusion of sauce and grated cheese rather than thin slices of tomato and mozzarella, which would be the interpretation of the Margherita that I would expect from a pizza restaurant with gourmet aspirations.
Joey's provided a much broader range of topping combinations and in some cases was far more creative with what they were putting on a pizza. Although I thought the Dolce e Piccante combination was pretty interesting, I would be unable to eat more than a couple of slices of such a sweet pizza. It felt like this particular pie fell through the cracks somewhere between dinner and dessert and I would be far more likely to order it as a novelty item for the latter function. The Carbonara combination was another case of disappointing expectations with the classic pasta sauce flavors not being translated well to the pizza. The Joey combination was the most exceptional and despite the surprising juxtaposition of salami and tuna, the melding of flavors was quite pleasant. Overall, I would enjoy eating a Joey pizza again but I would have to try other topping combinations to find something else to like.
Pizzavolante produced my favorite pizzas for the evening despite having the smallest and most plain range of toppings. The Cacciatorini contrasted a rustic style pepperoni with almost gamy flavors and a generous though not excessive salt level with the more delicate texture and slight sweetness of the guanciale. The only drawback for this pizza was that by splitting it into 16 slices not everyone received both toppings together. The Bianca was my second favorite with a beautiful synthesis in the flavors of goat cheese and fontina. This was the only pizza the entire night where I felt that the flavors of more exotic cheeses were prominent in comparison with the three pizzas that supposedly included gorgonzola. Finally, despite being my third favorite the Volante 100 was also extremely good with bright fresh flavors from the local ingredients. Although this was not a pure Margherita due to the various greens, it would have been my favorite in this category just based on the quality of the tomatoes and the texture of this preparation. Overall, I would return to Pizzavolante for either of the two fixed combinations or to see what other ingredients wind up on the Volante 100.
Frod, thanks again for the organization and I am looking forward to round two.