Remember that pizza you had as a kid? Remember when you went back and had a slice as an adult even though you figured it couldn’t be as good as you remembered, but you had a piece anyway just for old time’s sake? Imagine your surprise when the pizza was as good as you remembered, maybe even better!
That’s the way it is at Miami’s Best Pizza, now celebrating its 40th anniversary. The pizza tastes just as good as it did when the business opened 40 years ago as Little Caesars. The Coral Gables landmark, 1514 S. Dixie Hwy., was opened by Al Papich, a former University of Miami football player. Papich was offered a Little Caesars franchise in Pennsylvania or in Miami and he chose Miami. The Coral Gables location across from UM made the deal a slam dunk.
For 20 years, Miami’s Best Pizza was a Little Caesars franchise, but at the end of the franchise contract the Papich family decided against renewal. Al Papich stepped down and son Ray and his business partner Charles Butler took over, changing the name to Miami’s Best Pizza.
“We’re working owners,” Ray Papich says. “We make the pizzas. You are always going to see an owner in the window.” As owners, Papich and Butler have made the pizza restaurant a fun place to work and that atmosphere has helped them retain their employees.
“I have very little turnover,” Papich says.
Over the years, Miami’s Best has made some changes, but how they make their pizza remains the same. “The way we make pizza was all set up as the original concept of Little Caesars,” Ray Papich says. “We’ve stood the test of time.”
Miami’s Best uses the same sauce and cheese they used 40 years ago and they hand toss their pizzas just as they did on the first day. Over the years, Papich has sampled many different sauces, but none has matched the taste and texture of the original.
While they haven’t changed the cheese or sauce, the restaurant has made changes. Miami’s Best now offers fresh salads, pastas, desserts and appetizers, along with the pizza and soft drinks. “Everything we do is freshly made every day,” Papich says.
Another significant change is that they now accept credit and debit cards.
“We were a cash only business until 2007,” he says. “We were kind of reluctant to go to credit cards and debit cards.”
Papich says they listened to their customers who asked for the change.
“A lot of people don’t have $30-$40 cash to feed their family,” he says.
While many restaurants are hurting because of the economy, Miami’s Best is holding its own. Papich says he’s keeping the price of his pizza the same in order to help his customers. “In the last two years, we have not raised our prices,” he says.
He also puts coupons on his webpage and Facebook page. Customers who go to the web page can print out coupons to use at the restaurant.
But some customers are happy to dine there even without a coupon. Pizza aficionado Mario Yngerto first tried Miami’s Best as a teen and while he now lives in Dallas he still eats Miami’s Best.
“It’s a traditional thing, when I come down we have to come here to get a pizza,” he says. “Nothing ranks better.” For details, call 305-666-5931 or go to < www.miamisbestpizza.com >