In a city jammed with outposts of overhyped New York restaurants, Lucali in South Beach is an exception. At the pizzeria on Bay Road, just a few steps from the Pubbelly mecca, pizza-makers wearing white T-shirts roll out doughs with empty wine bottles, cut porcini mushrooms with a mandolin slicer, and scoop dollops of fresh ricotta from a tiny tub.
Outside, there's no sign. Inside, there's no menu. The spot serves calzones and a single pie, dubbed "plain pie." There are seven choices for toppings, including shallots, onions, peperoni, mushrooms, and extra basil. There's a four-topping maximum per pie. When it comes to drinks, there's a choice of only red or white wine, as well as on-tap Brooklyn beers.
At Lucali, 20-inch pizzas are made by candlelight, and the entire restaurant glows. Maybe it's the glim. Or maybe it's because Lucali serves the best pizza in town.
Like its original location in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, Lucali is simple and straightforward. Mark Iacono, who opened the original New York restaurant around 2006, has developed a reputation as one of the country's best pizza-makers. In GQ, Alan Richman proclaimed it the second-best pizza in America.
As was reported by Miami Pop Media, Iacono has partnered with his cousin Dominic Cavagnuolo to launch the SoBe location, which opened to friends and family February 25. It's the restaurant's first expansion past the five boroughs.
Iacono is widely regarded as a perfectionist. Pizza-making is his obsession. His tomato sauce is a long-kept secret. (Many patrons order bowls of it on the side. It's really that good.) Pizzas are topped with sauce, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil sprigs, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Unlike other pizzerias in Miami, these pies aren't goopy messes of watery cheese withering atop mushy crusts. At this pizza place, a perfect mix of fresh and aged cheeses makes for a perfect pie. Lucali's pizzas have crisp edges spotted with slightly charred bubbles. A crunchy crust and soft center make slices pliable enough to fold. Forks and knives are not necessary.
Lucali is not cheap. The plain pie starts at $26. Toppings are extra. Portobello and shallots go for $3, and artichokes are a whopping $8. But pies are large enough to share between two hungry folks. Perhaps even three. In my case, probably just two.
It's worth it. And even though a chalkboard in the dining room reads, "Grand opening coming soon," last night at 9 p.m., every seat in the pizzeria was occupied.
So before wrangling with me about Lucali making Miami's best pie, check it out for yourself. The shop is located at 1930 Bay Rd. in Miami Beach. Hours are 6 to 10 p.m.
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Call ahead, or you might not get a table.
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.