"There are too many Neapolitan-style pizza places in Miami," say some idiotas. They are wrong! Pizza is always a welcome addition to the neighborhood, especially when you're in Wynwood and there's such a thing as Taco Pizza Tuesday.
Yep. Taco Pizza Tuesday is officially happening.
The man behind the idea is Antonio Chia, owner of Café Babbo, which has been hiding in plain sight just a few blocks from all the arts district action. Café Babbo quietly opened during Art Basel but hasn't done a formal grand opening yet. "We are waiting till we have everything perfect," Chia says.
Perfection comes when double-00-grade dough gets tossed by a pizzaiolo from Naples and topped with the freshest ingredients (think San Marzano tomatoes) straight from Italy. "We make everything in house." The pie is then placed in a wood-burning oven that's been imported from Milan and is solidified with igneous rock.
The vibe here is retro Italian. A 1961 Fiat matches a manual coffee machine of the same year, and a silver-and-gold theme pervades, from the chairs to the walls and even a statue of Babbo that greets guests upon arrival. Although inside he's really made of wood (like Pinocchio), on the outside, Babbo is a real person -- at least according to Chia. "My dad made him in the '80s, and I've taken him everywhere with me since. He's famous, and people always want to take selfies with him."
Born in New York to an Italian father and Irish mother, Chia grew up during the neoexpressionist transavantgarde movement that swept Italy and subsequently New York during the '70s and '80s, of which the sculpture of Babbo was a product. "It's real art." And it's right at home in Wynwood.
But let's get to the food and drink at Café Babbo, which is an extension of Chia's roots. "We have wineries in Italy. This is where all this stems from." The Castello Romitorio winery is located in Montalcino, and as you might have guessed, its wines are available at Café Babbo. On wine Wednesdays beginning at 7 p.m., ladies can drink vino for just $5. But don't worry, guys -- there's fun to be had Thursdays during wine "aperitivo" hour -- when as long as you're drinking wine, food is free-flowing. "It's typical in Italy."
As far as the menu, it's short and sweet. Think antipasti, panini, salads, and pizza with a plethora of toppings. Follow the café on Instagram to see what creations Chia concocts on a whim. You like what you see? Go in and order it. "As long as we have it and can make it, we will." A recent creation was a hot-dog-and-four-cheese pie with a cheese crust.
Everyday pies include marinara, margherita, napolitana (tomato, mozzarella, capers, and anchovies), quattro formaggi (Gorgonzola, Parmesan, mozzarella, and fontina), tartufo (fresh truffle slices and ricotta), spicy salami, mare and monti (shrimp, baby octopus, mushroom, and arugula). Prices range from $7 to $18. There's also antipasti like burrata ($15), caprese ($12), and bruschetta, ($7.50), as well as panini with mozzarella and prosciutto ($8) or mortadella ($7).
Anything with an egg is always better, and pizza is no exception. The house Babbo pizza ($14) puts an egg and bacon on it.
Chia's favorite is the ruculosa. Prosciutto, arugula, mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes make up the white pie that won't even make you miss tomato sauce ($16).
But the real winner at Café Babbo is the taco pizza, which uses focaccia as the taco shell and stuffs it with arugula, ricotta, lettuce, guacamole, and a choice of meat (chicken or shrimp). The meatless version is absolutely delicious. Get it any day (upon request) or Tuesdays with two Coronas for $18.
Don't leave without having dessert. Homemade tiramisu ($9) is worth the calories.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha.
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