Just south of NE 79th Street and west of Biscayne Boulevard is a soon-to-be-hot neighborhood called Ironside.
Started by a local visionary, Ofer Mizrahi, it is still mostly warehouses and commercial space on the railroad tracks. But it is becoming a trendy, unique, and green-friendly atmosphere of hipster realism. One of the first places to arrive at this outdoor carnival is Ironside Pizza.
The decor includes colorful refurbished chairs, long wooden tables, and a roaring wood-fired oven (which is all walled in, so it's safe for kids). Try the involtini di pizza ($12), with prosciutto di parma, salami, and ricotta brushed with truffle oil. All of the dough is produced according to Neapolitan tradition, made with flour from Molino San Felice.
The cheese and meat tagliere offers a choice of ten items, with one for $7, three for $18, or five for $28. There is burrata, whose "outer shell is solid mozzarella, while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream," according to the menu, as well as prosciutto di parma and house-made porchetta. They arrive on a flat bread board, and although the burrata wasn't well seasoned, the porchetta was perfect with fennel, rosemary, and other herbs.
The bruschetta ($8), made with in-house bread, was simple and refreshing. Green and red heirloom tomatoes came with a splash of olive oil and garlic -- and topped with feta.
The verde salad ($7) was full of yellow, green, and red heirloom tomatoes but a tad overdressed. The Florida ($10) included fennel, arugula, and Florida oranges. The caprese ($12) came with mozzarella fiordilatte, heirloom tomatoes, and basil.
Eggplant parmigiana ($14) -- covered with San Marzano tomatoes, basil, mozzarella fior di latte, and Parmesan -- was a beautiful dish but a bit underseasoned. The eggplant had a nice smokiness, and the sweetness of the tomatoes and basil was spot on.
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The night we dined there, the outdoor seating was filled with 40-plus people. Many were speaking Italian.
As far as pizza, try a simple Margherita ($11). It is classic Neapolitan style, cooked in a wood-burning oven and featuring a thin crust. The sauce is very delicate, and the mozzarella is excellent and fresh. Some of the other pies include the quattro stagioni ($16) -- with tomatoes, fiordilatte, salami, mushrooms, ham, artichokes, and olives -- and the diavola ($14), topped with tomato, fiordilatte, salami, and pepperoncini oil. All pizzas are available with a gluten-free crust and/or vegan cheese (add $4).
This secluded place off the Biscayne corridor makes it feel like a secret spot that only you and a few friends know about. That will likely not be true much longer.