Of the many different styles of pizza available in Miami these days (Neapolitan, Roman, Sicilian, Chicago deep-dish, Cuban, and even in one Japanese joint, "Sushi Pizza"), the most difficult to define is New York pizza. The one constant is that, like native New Yorkers, every New York pizza lover has a capital "O" opinion about why finding the Real Thing here is as unlikely as Ponce de Leon finding the Fountain of Youth.
And Andre, a lifelong Miamian with a New York heart, New York relatives, and five-year-old New York pizza place, is no exception. "In Miami it's all commercial -- dough premade, preshaped, frozen; cheap ingredients. In New York you got all the immigrants who know how to make everything from scratch."
As he opines Andre is coolly tossing a huge disc of precariously thin-stretched dough high in the air. At Z, pizzas are handmade on the spot with dough created from scratch every morning, homemade tomato sauce ("with no added oil; it's all tomatoes"), fresh whole-milk mozzarella cheese, vegetables that mostly have never seen the inside of a can, and quality cold cuts including, on one pie just added to the menu, prosciutto di Parma. Numerous nearby pizza places have waaay better prices -- like two sixteen-inch pies for $10 or $11 compared with Z's single $8.99 sixteen-incher -- but as Andre explains with succinct and undeniably authentic New York attitude, "I don't serve crap."
11007 NE 6th Ave, North Miami
305-758-8299. Open Monday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
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Of several pies that I and others tried, the type judged Most Effective at Making You Think You're in Times Square was the tomato/cheese with onions and anchovies. Tomato sauce, despite being greaseless (which actually divided the taste-testers, some insisting that the average N.Y. street slice contains more grease than the average Saudi Arabian oil well), was appropriately assertive -- concentrated essence of tomato. Cheese was fresh-creamy. Onions were fresh-crunchy. Perhaps most important, the astonishing amount of anchovies on our pie was by request; New Yorkers, including Miami-dwelling exes, like having some input. So if you only want a few anchovies, ask and that's what you'll get; the menu is just a rough guideline to your dream pizza at Z. And the saltiness of a mega-anchovy pizza makes Z's draft beers even more enjoyable than the refreshing $1.50 tab per glass does.
Leaving aside pointless authenticity arguments, Z's "white" pizza was the general favorite. It was not authentically white, meaning tomato-free, since the pie did have fresh tomato slices though no tomato sauce. But the combo of milky ricotta and toothy mozzarella was subtly irresistible, as were plentiful fresh basil strips. This pizza is available for $1.69 per slice as well as whole. Additional toppings at 50 cents each make any pie you can imagine available by the slice.
A veggie pizza was judged much, much tastier than usual for its type, its type being "healthy." But since the fresh broccoli, mushrooms, et al., were all cut into small and easily manageable pieces, my testers thought the pizza seemed "not obnoxiously overhealthy, like those pizzas that seem like stir-fries on crust." The only improvement I'd suggest: imported olives. This pizza's bland supermarket slices were Z's only canned vegetables.
The place has a conventional pizza oven, so fuhgeddabout those crisp black-bubbled crusts one only gets with an Italian-style wood- or charcoal-burning oven. Still, it's a thin and tasty crust. Is it real New York pizza? Who knows? Who cares? It's real good -- and, as is rare in life, you really can have it your way.