Antico Pizza Napoletana, housed where David’s Café used to be (1058 Collins Ave., Miami Beach), opened with the goal of incorporating owner Giovanni Di Palma's several Atlanta-based restaurants into one eatery.
The South Beach location serves menu highlights from his Antico Pizza Napoletana, Gio’s Chicken Bar Amalfi, and Caffè Antico under one roof in what Di Palma calls the "centro storico."
Guests can order their choice of ten wood-fired pies ($19 to $22) made with imported ingredients; savor wood-fired Salerno sandwiches called panuozzo ($13 to $14); or grab a pizzetta from the counter window.
But of all these Italian culinary treats, it's Gio’s chicken that people crave. The dish is offered in single or family-style portions ($21 to $55).
Several other chicken dishes are available, but the Sorrento lemon chicken, his grandmother’s recipe, is the most popular. “It’s infused with olive oil with Sorrento lemons. That’s how we get this flavor.”
Di Palma has garnered a faithful following for both his pizza and chicken in Atlanta, where celebrities such as Selena Gomez, Tom Brady, and Usher have become regulars. He sees the same pattern forming here.
“Most people get a quick pizza, and then they eat chicken after,” he laughs. “People that know both eat both... Emeril ate there twice. The guy can eat anywhere; he went for Gio’s lemon chicken. That’s a pretty good compliment.”
For those craving a quick pizza on the go, the expansive service window that wraps around the centro storico is open until 5 a.m. to serve pizzettas ($10, plus $2 for additional meats), small square pizzas. “Before the beach, after the beach, steady all night. It’s like a little party out there — it’s crazy!” Di Palma says.
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Bar Amalfi is Di Palma’s upstairs indoor/outdoor lounge, where guests can sip limoncello and enjoy Gio’s signature chicken. A handwoven basket called an o’panar attached to a pulley delivers porchetta sandwiches in the same fashion nonna hauls up cigarettes to her third-story Napoli apartment. “They don't have elevators there. The old people yell down to street vendors, and they put cigarettes, food, bread, whatever. And the money goes down and the food comes back up. They’ve been doing that for centuries, and they still do it.”
Di Palma hopes to add another specialty to his o’panar basket. He's working on bringing Gennaro Luciano, the Italian pizza baker from Naples' Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, believed to be the first pizzeria in the world, to create an original pie with him. The pizza, whose ingredients have not yet been revealed, will encompass the essence of the Amalfi Coast and will be available at the Atlanta and Miami locations of Bar Amalfi.
Clearly, for Di Palma, atmosphere is as important as the food. “I like to create an unusual feeling. When you combine great food with a feeling, it’s pretty powerful.”
Antico Pizza Napoletana
1058 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-216-7908; centrostorico.it. Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to late at night and Saturday and Sunday from noon until late at night.