Klime Kovaceski once turned his nose up at pizza.
The 55-year-old Macedonian chef has been a Miami mainstay since 1984, when he arrived to open the first U.S. outpost of Jama, a place that specialized in hearty Eastern European classics such as goulash and stroganoff. His greatest success came in the mid-'90s at Miami Beach's Crystal Café, serving modern takes on Old-World classics. He sold the business in 2004, took up consulting, and eventually landed at Fort Lauderdale's New River Pizza & Grill. The cacophony of running a dining room and a delivery operation was addictive.
"Many chefs think they can run a pizza place," he says. "We all think we know everything, but it's totally different."
The experience set him on a new path. And though Kovaceski is still among South Florida's most beloved chefs, today he seems more keen on business than culinary pursuits. The focus at his latest endeavor, Crust (668 NW Fifth St., Miami; 305-371-7065), is offering the world by delivery to the petit bourgeoisie occupying the new towers that stretch from the Miami River to downtown.
The plates here are as sizable as those at the Cheesecake Factory. There's fried calamari ($9.95), a cheeseburger ($9.95), and the same pork tenderloin with caramelized Granny Smith apples ($16.95) he served at the 79th Street Causeway's shuttered Trio on the Bay.
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Even formulating the pizza dough seems to have been a profit-driven endeavor. "It's designed in such a way that when it's delivered 45 minutes after it comes out of the oven, it's still fresh and crispy,"
A mushroom pizza ($13.95 to $19.95) is ringed by a crisp crust fortified with semolina flour and loaded with portobello and button wedges. It's also zigzagged with synthetic-tasting truffle oil and enough greasy cheese to soak each slice to mush.
A pair of beef and turkey meatballs shows up draped in a tangy tomato sauce topped by domes of ricotta cheese that hold the ice-cream scooper's shape. The meat blend is an anticlimactic health push. Pork would have been far more flavorful. A mountainous side of Gruyère macaroni 'n' cheese is rich, nutty stuff that can satisfy anyone. At $5.95, it's also more than a full meal. A classic chicken Francese ($15.95) is embarrassingly large, tepid, and served with enough gummy risotto to feed a poverty-stricken Italian town.