In Rome, in the Prati neighborhood located a short walk from the Vatican, there is a pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) joint named Pizzarium. The restaurant is tiny, there are no chairs, and there is a ridiculously long line at lunchtime. There are craft beers and a choice of fritti -- all things fried. Quadrilateral pies are prebaked and topped with a variety of fresh vegetables and cheeses. Slices are cut with scissors. Some are scattered with whole basil leaves; others are smothered in untraditional sauces such as hummus and potato paste. They are all excellent pies.
Pizzarium is owned by Gabriele Bonci, one of Rome's most famed pizza-makers. His slow-rise doughs and ingredient-centered pies have garnered quite the following in Italy and beyond.
In downtown Miami, just a short walk from Miami Dade College, there is a pizza joint also named Pizzarium. Pies are precut, prebaked, and sold in three sizes: taster slice, slice, or tray. There are arancini (risotto croquettes) on the menu.
When I asked co-owner Massimiliano Saieva whether Pizzarium in downtown and Pizzarium in Rome were related, he explained they are not. Saieva did not apprentice under Bonci, who has mentored a slew of pizza-makers around the globe. Instead, he was a student of Federico del Moro at Pizzeria La Coccinella in Italy's capital. Still, downtown's Pizzarium mirrors Rome's in many ways.
But that's not why I was at Pizzarium.
Recently, Short Order visited Lucali, the South Beach outpost of an acclaimed Brooklyn pizzeria. Since opening a few weeks ago, Lucali has earned a reputation as the best pizza in town. Lucali is not Roman- or Neapolitan-style pizza, though. It proffers a unique style of New York pie that was developed by pizza-maker Mark Iacono: baked to-order, blistered, thin crusts; fresh and aged cheeses; a secret tomato sauce, and patron's choice of fresh toppings. The 20-inch pies start at $26. Toppings are extra.
Shortly after Short Order's story on Lucali, a reader suggested that the SoBe joint does not bake the best pie in town and that Pizzarium makes a superior slice.
On a recent weekday afternoon at Pizzarium, an afterwork crowd trickled in to pick up a few trays to-go. Pies are on display behind glass. Crusts are about a half-inch thick, with large bubbles and a pleasant chew. (Doughs rise for about 96 hours.) Toppings vary. Some pies, including one topped with red onions, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and shriveled arugula, had clearly been sitting around too long.
Others, such as the funghetto, sprinkled with mushrooms, garlic, oregano, black truffle cream, and extra-virgin olive oil, as well as the campagnola, with eggplant, mozzarella fior di latte, mozzarella di bufala, and roasted red peppers, looked fresh. They were delectable.
At downtown's Pizzarium, prices range from $2.34 per margherita taster to about $41.80 per tray for the more creative pies, such as potato and rosemary or mushroom and speck. Five taster slices and one arancino ai funghi -- a risotto croquette filled with mushrooms and mozzarella cheese -- were $22. That easily feeds two.
Comparing Pizzarium and Lucali makes little sense -- not only because I like Lucali better, but also because they are different types of pies in a different price range.
Comparing downtown's Pizzarium to Rome's Pizzarium makes more sense. They both serve Roman pizza al taglio, employ like-minded methods for slow-rise doughs, and operate on a similar model.
This downtown pizza spot might not beat the Pizzarium in Prati, and it does not beat Lucali either. But, considering the reasonable prices and delectable funghetto, it's fair to say Miami's Pizzarium makes a pretty good pie.
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Just skip the arugula; go for a slice of the excellent mushroom variety instead.
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.