Miami experienced some growing pains during our millennium’s first decade, with very few compelling dining options beyond Latin or seafood. That changed with the advent of neighborhoods that seemed to sprout up overnight, like Midtown, plus New York restaurant carpetbaggers who opened mirror images along Miami Beach. However, there have been some independent thinkers. One of the leaders has been Michael Schwartz, who earned a national reputation (and James Beard Award) with market-driven Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink before adding Harry’s Pizzeria in Miami’s Design District, naming the establishment for his son.
Schwartz was behind the bar during our visit and said they already had a limited pizza program at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink when a pizzeria with the same oven became available. The new concept with a white awning featured tightly packed tables indoors and on the sidewalk, eight seats at a wood bar bathed with auburn light, and a black wild boar head mounted on the back wall, wearing a Santa hat. Wallpaper sported food related cartoons like broccoli, tomato, garlic, bacon, sausage, and a salt shaker. A small library of pizza books resided behind the bar, including Ed Levine’s Pizza, Reinhardt’s American Pie and The Art of Fired Cooking.
There’s something to be said for minimalist pizza, where the crust, sauce and cheese can’t hide beneath fancy toppings, which is why my first round selection at pizzerias is always a Margherita ($11). Harry’s crust is thin and crisp, and probably overcooked in patches, as the black, charred spots indicated. My personal preference is often for bubbly, Neapolitan style crusts with the tang of a sourdough starter and lasting chew, but this pie still had good flavor, with pools of mozzarella and fresh basil topping zesty tomato sauce.
It’s fun to get one at least one pizza with sauce, and one without. Harry’s offered some elaborate oddities, including one pizza with Florida alligator, but our sauce-free pie starred Slow Roasted Pork ($14). A healthy amount of pulled pork that picked up the flavor of the burning wood, which joined sweet dried figs, sweet grilled red onion, Fontina, and uncooked arugula. The pizza was fairly well balanced, but the overall effect was too busy, and toppings overshadowed the crust.
It was welcome to see four local beers on tap, including cloudy, pleasantly hoppy Cigar City Jai Alai IPA ($6) from Tampa and a milder, effervescent Monk in the Trunk Organic Amber Ale ($5) from Jupiter.
Pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith has earned a reputation of her own while working with Schwartz, and her desserts delivered, including fresh-fried Zeppole ($5), chewy discs dusted with confectioner’s sugar and presented with housemade honey-whipped ricotta, which she folded with orange zest, combining sweetness and tang.
Harry’s has by no means redefined the modern day pizzeria, but it did contribute a viable option to Miami, a city with a dearth of pizza, and complemented the main menu item with seasonal touches, blackboard specials, and good local beers. Harry’s probably won’t garner the national reputation that Schwartz’s previous concept did, but it should make neighborhood types happy.