This past Sunday, I took part in the North Miami leg of the pizza crawl. We visited Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza , Pizza Fusion, and Rack’s Italian Bistro & Market (pictured above). I had a slightly different experience than the rest of the group because my party arrived late. There were already 25 or so people packed like sardines at the makeshift banquet table that Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza set up for the event. So my group had a seat at the bar and ordered two of our own pizzas to try.
Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza * 17901 Biscayne Boulevard * Aventura * $11.50-$22 per pizza (8 slices)
We ordered a fresh mozzarella, sliced tomato and basil pie along with a broccoli rabe and sausage one. Anthony’s was out of broccoli rabe, so we substituted arugula. I enjoyed my pizzas here more than I have on previous visits to Anthony’s (in Fort Lauderdale). I think it’s because I’m not a fan of “pizza well done” and the crusts on these pizzas were soft and doughy compared to the charred base Anthony’s usually prepares. While others in the group were disappointed with the underdone pizzas, I was pleasantly surprised. The mozzarella pizza was not memorable. I enjoyed the zing of the parmesan and arugula on the second pie-I would try that one again.
One note: this place would be good for a date if you are worried about awkward silences, because this particular Anthony’s is loud. That’s not necessarily a problem; just don’t plan on having any meaningful conversations here.
Pizza Fusion * 14815 Biscayne Boulevard * Aventura * $7-11 for a personal pizza, $12-$21 for a large pizza (8 slices in a large pizza)
When I first arrived at Pizza Fusion, I was intrigued by some of their pizza toppings (roasted beet and feta; pear and gorgonzola) only to realize that these were salads. I’d be curious to try those pizzas! The actual pizza offerings on the menu were appealing, but not mind-blowing: standards (cheese, pepperoni, Hawaiian) and vegetable heavy offerings, along a “very vegan” soy cheese pizza. I was curious to try this one, but feared general revolt from the table.
(BTW: What’s up with Philly steak pizzas? They had one at Anthony’s too. I guess I won’t knock it ’til I try it.)
The staff here was accommodating and quick. I think we made their Sunday as the restaurant was almost empty before we arrived. Servers brought out flatbread with olive oil, tapenade and tomato sauce.
We ordered six pizzas, all with the original organic crust, which was thin but good. My favorite pie at Pizza Fusion was the four cheese and sundried tomato, which was spread with a combination of goat, provolone and parmesan cheeses. That one stood out.
The others were harder to differentiate between. Founder’s Pie was a favorite of the group, but I’m not a fan of chicken on pizza. We also tried the organic pepperoni; bruschetta; organic eggplant and fresh mozzarella; and farmer’s market pizzas.
The pizzas were all palatable, but not stirring. On an average day, you just want pizza to taste good. However, I had to keep looking at the menu to remember which slice I was I was eating.
I have to say that it might have been challenging to taste the differences because of the small pieces we sampled, given the size of our group. Also, by the time I got to taste some of the pizzas, they were cold.
I want to be more enthusiastic about Pizza Fusion because it’s downright saintly to bring pizza to people who cannot eat it because of food allergies and make it taste good. Pizza Fusion is an eco-friendly business from their packaging to their ingredients to their hybrid delivery Smartcars. For these reasons, I’d be willing to give Pizza Fusion another try.
Rack’s Italian Bistro and Market * 3933 NE 163rd Street * North Miami Beach * $12-$15 per pizza (8 slices)
This was a “loaded visit”, given that debate over this restaurant’s status as the “best pizza in Miami” was the genesis of the crawl itself, and given the amusing user comments on the Rack’s MenuPages site.
Sunday night, the staff seemed busy, but not manic, and was quite solicitous of us. They quickly brought out bread with olive oil and pesto for us to try.
This was my favorite of the three North Miami pizza places. I love when everything on a menu looks so good that I don’t know what to order.
The pizzas here were relatively small and rustic-looking with generous crust along the edges.
My favorite pizza of the night was the portobello: a white pizza with mushrooms, truffle oil, speck, and sumptuous gorgonzola dolce. My second favorite was the spinach pizza, with prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, and Reggiano cheese. Premium ingredients made for lovely pizzas. Again, I was surprised that my favorites emerged from the white pizzas.
We also ordered the sweet sausage pizza (meatballs, ricotta, onions, and Grana Padano), which I did not get to try.
This was a much larger pizza crawl and we lost some diners along the way due to lagging fortitude or bedtime (There were some children present). It was just as fun and convivial as the first time, although I think this is about as big a group as a pizza crawl can manage without becoming a chore to organize.
So far, Pizza Volante and Rack’s are the restaurants I am most eager to return to, with Joey’s in second place. The next crawl takes place in a few weeks in South Beach. You can join the Miami Chowdown Google Group if you would like details on this and other crawls. If you’d like some other opinions on the North Miami crawl, check out reports in Food for Thought and Mango & Lime.