South Beach's Blocks Pizza Deli serves authentic Italian pies

For six years, Eugenio “Eugene” Vittoni has been studying the behavior of yeast when mixed with flour and water. The results can be tasted at Blocks Pizza Deli, where he makes pizza from a light sourdough leavened for two days, creating a chewy crust pocked with air holes.

Eugene grew up in Verona in Northern Italy. His father worked as a bartender on a cruise ship, where he met his Australian wife. Their tall, green-eyed son studied business at Bocconi University in Milan. When a friend gave him a ball of 300-year-old starter dough, known as “mother dough,” from Sardinia, he began making pizza.

He keeps his dough in a temperature-controlled machine that proofs it. Every few days he refreshes the dough with flour and water to keep it alive. His brother-in-law in Miami invested in his concept, and their pizzeria done in subway tile and reclaimed wood opened three months ago.

The pizza is baked in a large rectangle and sold in blocks (squares) cut from the slab. The dough is made from unbleached white flour with toasted bran that adds crunch and fiber. Just behind the counter is a bright red state-of-the art Italian gas oven. The pizza is slid onto a rotating stone wheel with micro holes on the surface that allow heat to blast through, forming a crisp crust.

Toppings include zucchini strips, bacon crumbles, sausage, chorizo, Kalamata olives, red peppers, baby portobello mushrooms and leeks paired with tomato sauce and mozzarella.

Pockets similar to pita or Italian piadina are made from a puffed disc of dough, slit and stuffed with meatballs; sliced turkey, mozzarella and arugula; sun-dried tomatoes, feta and pesto or pulled chicken, spinach and provolone, warmed in the oven until the cheese melts.

Drizzle olive oil infused with garlic, rosemary or jalapeño over the baked dough. The two go hand-in-hand into your mouth.