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Impoverished Neapolitans originally made pizza as a means of using up their abundance of tomatoes in a filling, inexpensive manner -- a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of herbs, and they'd pop the tomato-topped bread into a searing wood or coal-fueled oven. Back then you could traipse the streets of Naples for days, months, even years on end, and never witness a citizen eating pizza with ham and pineapple on top. Or barbecue duck and arugula. Or smoked salmon and goat cheese. In those days a "super deluxe" pizza would be one with cheese; a "designer" pie might've boasted a few salted sardines.
Steve's Pizza, serving pies to grateful North Miamians since 1974, is more a throwback to New York than Naples. Toppings include meatballs, anchovies, peppers, and onions, and America's three very favorite pizza garnishings -- which, in case you wonder about such things, are pepperoni, followed by sausage, and, in third place, slices of those cute canned button mushrooms. It's true that Steve's offers ham and pineapple as options too, but at least they're listed separately -- with no encouragement to pair them, nor any mention of the word "Hawaiian."
Then again choosing toppings for Steve's pizza is like picking out makeup for Uma Thurman -- what's underneath is so good it really doesn't matter. The crust is crispy, with blissful brick-oven blisters on the underside and a soft bready middle. The bubbling surface is formed with a light ladle's worth of oreganoed tomato sauce and a whole mess of mozzarella cheese; a smattering of Parmesan is in there as well.
12101 Biscayne Blvd.
North Miami, FL 33181
Region: North Miami
18063 S. Dixie Highway
Palmetto Bay, FL 33157
Region: Cutler Bay/Palmetto Bay
A one-page menu of traditional Italian restaurant specialties is also on hand, featuring baked ziti, stuffed shells, spaghetti and meatballs, eggplant parmigiana -- and an excellent meatball parmigiana hero. A hefty portion of lasagna likewise satisfies, plumped with lots of ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and fortified with sausage and marinara sauce. Dinners come with a small house salad.
While there is lots more to Steve's Pizza than pizza, ambiance doesn't kick in much of a contribution. The room is small, with brick walls that were evidently painted white quite some time ago. Wooden-backed booths that seat 28 total occupy most of the space, a Ms. Pac-Man game and some gumball machines squeezed in as well. There's also a counter with kitchen behind it, and the obligatory pile of white pizza boxes waiting to be filled.
Steve's pizza may not measure up to the BEST Big Apple pies, but it's as close an approximation to a regulation neighborhood slice as one could hope for so many miles away. That won't stop some, most likely from New York or Jersey, from saying, "You call this good bleepin' pizza? Where I grew up they'd arrest someone for selling bleepin' pizza like this." Let malcontents be malcontents -- if they really want access to a perfect pizza specimen whenever the mood strikes, they can always move back to whatever glum slum they come from and enjoy that benefit again. Steve's Pizza should suffice for the rest of us.