There is pizza, and then there is Lucali. And while some are griping about the prices, even carbo-phobes should make an exception for this much-ballyhooed Brooklyn pie.
Its puffy, cracker-thin crust and fantastic toppings inspire fans to wait up to two hours for a seat at the New York flagship. Miami Beach’s suddenly hip Sunset Harbor neighborhood is home to only the second one, a near replica of the original but twice the size at 70 seats.
The space is appealing in its simplicity, with concrete floors and walls topped by tin ceilings. Old fans, wooden booths and mismatched chairs lend the makeshift vibe of an old Italian social club, and a Sinatra-sprinkled music mix seems just right. Servers are as earnest and unpretentious as the space.
It took owner Mark Iacono a few months to perfect the dough. Our a first visit in April, the center of our 20-incher was a bit soggy, but two weeks ago it was spot-on.
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It’s a one-size-fits-all deal. The nothing-plain-about-it plain pie comes with sauce and cheese (plus basil and garlic if you like). When it comes to toppings, I say go all the way: artisanal all-beef pepperoni, shallots, onions, hot peppers, portobello mushrooms, hand-cured artichoke hearts.
The indulgence costs $38, but in the scheme of things, it’s not such big bucks, especially when shared by four.
The handmade dough is coaxed into enormous circles by cute pizzaioli in tight white T-shirts rolling it with empty wine bottles into near see-through sheets.
The bubbly peaks and crevices, turned crisp by the heat of the wood-burning oven, surround a gorgeously thin center evenly layered with vegetables and meats cut on a mandolin just moments before.
There are eight slices, and eating more than two or three seems gluttonous, especially with the phenomenal tomato sauce. Made from imported Italian tomatoes, it has a bit of tang but no bitter or sugary aftertaste. You can ask for a bowl of it on the side for dunking your crusts.
Another secret to the success here: low-moisture mozzarella, buffalo mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses that melt into perfect, creamy harmony.
The side salads are anything but afterthoughts. Forest-green leaves are torn into bite-size pieces for the kale Caesar and tossed with a thick, subtle dressing with Parmigiano-Reggiano. A simple fennel and celery salad with loads of fresh parsley sings, as does the end-of-season tomato and basil.
A dozen Old World wines and twice as many craft beers from Brooklyn as well as Florida, Vermont and Colorado round out a fine selection of beverages to complement the deliciously unpretentious food.
The dessert to have is the gorgeously puffed calzone enveloping a light, whipped ricotta cheese sweetened with honey and drizzled with warm Nutella and powdered sugar.
Just to be clear, this is not the place to bring the soccer team after a big win. There are cheaper spots with perfectly good pies for that. This is for close family, a savvy business date or a special someone who can appreciate an extraordinary pizza.
E-mail Victoria at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @VictoriaPesceE and on her Facebook fan page.
Miami Herald critics dine anonymously at the newspaper’s expense.
If You Go
Address: 1930 Bay Rd., Miami Beach
Rating:* * * 1/2 (Excellent)
Contact: 305-695-4441, email@example.com
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 1 p.m.-midnight Friday-Sunday. (Extended hours and lunch service planned for fall.)
Prices: pizza $26-$38, salads $8-$9, dessert $8-$15
FYI: Wine and beer only. Reservations not accepted. Lot and metered parking. AX, DS, MC, VS.