Restaurant News & Reviews

Harry’s Pizzeria is going away — but it’s not closing

Michael Schwartz is joining the trend of award-winning chefs opening casual, replicable restaurants as Harry’s Pizzeria becomes Genuine Pizza and will expand to 18 restaurants in the next three years.
Michael Schwartz is joining the trend of award-winning chefs opening casual, replicable restaurants as Harry’s Pizzeria becomes Genuine Pizza and will expand to 18 restaurants in the next three years. Genuine Hospitality Group

Harry’s Pizzeria is becoming a lot more Genuine.

Award-winning Miami chef Michael Schwartz plans to expand his ingredient-driven pizza restaurant to as many as 18 new locations in the next three years, with a new name that speaks to the restaurant’s intentions and its roots: Genuine Pizza.

“The word ‘genuine’ has defined everything we do,” Schwartz said. “It says a lot about what we do and why we do it.”

The move capitalizes on Schwartz’s success with the original Harry’s Pizzeria, which opened in the Design District in 2011 and was named for his son. It was rated one of the top 25 pizzerias in America by Food & Wine Magazine and led to a successful second location in booming Coconut Grove in late 2015.

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This rendering of the Aventura location will be the model for all future Genuine Pizza restaurants. Genuine Hospitality Group

For its expansion, Schwartz’s team wanted a name that spoke to the quality of the food and tied back to his James Beard Award-winning restaurant nearby — Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink — whose focus on locally sourced, sustainably raised ingredients put it on the national map. The restaurant also helped revive the Design District more than 10 years ago.

The Genuine Pizza menu will be the same one Schwartz says he spent five years perfecting, particularly the cold-fermented dough that is the basis for his pies. They are topped with a creative combination of ingredients — short rib with gruyere, arugula and caramelized onions or rock shrimp with roasted lemon, Manchego cheese, scallions and cilantro — an extension of Schwartz’s culinary talent.

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Chef Michael Schwartz helped design the look of Genuine Pizza. Genuine Hospitality Group

Genuine Pizza, like Harry’s, will use beef and pork exclusively from Niman Ranch, a network of 720 independent family farmers and ranchers who raise livestock humanely and sustainably (though the company was bought by the family-owned Perdue chicken company in 2015). They produce Genuine’s toppings, including hot soppressata, shredded pulled pork shoulder, braised short rib, meatballs and bacon.

Schwartz called on his longtime friend Sunil Bhatt two years ago to take over the business side as CEO of Harry’s-cum-Genuine Pizza and ferret out investors. That led to a third location in Downtown Dadeland last year, a vision for an expansion out of state and a $2.5 million infusion of cash from the Florida Opportunity Fund to help grow Florida businesses.

The first official Genuine Pizza will open in Aventura in November, followed by announced locations in Atlanta in December, Miami Beach’s Lincoln Road and Cleveland’s Shaker Heights next year, and Sunrise in 2019. The three current Harry’s Pizzerias will change over in the coming months to the Genuine Pizza name and style, designed by Miami firm McKenzie.

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Genuine Pizza will use toppings from Niman Ranch and the same dough chef Michael Schwartz has been perfecting over the last five years at Harry’s Pizzeria. Genuine Hospitality Group

“He wants to cook and innovate and mentor people. I do all the stuff he doesn’t want to do, and he does all the things I can’t do,” Bhatt joked, although Schwartz called his partner the best home cook he knows.

It’s a methodical yet high-stakes play for Schwartz as he joins the trend of award-winning chefs creating casual, replicable restaurant concepts with creative fare. Schwartz said he specifically wanted to retain the sit-down style restaurant that made Harry’s successful, rather than the trend toward the Chipotle grab-and-go fast casual.

“We want people to feel they’re in a nice environment,” Schwartz said, “still being served, attended to.”

Carlos Frías: 305-376-4624, @Carlos_Frias