Bertoni's Brick Oven Pizza and Lounge: "Gourmet Stop" Equals Car Wash and Panini

Okay, so there's this new trend - gourmet stops. It's when a gourmet food place is combined with a place where you need to run an errand. For example, a bakery combines with a place to change your oil. Hence, if you have to wait for something to get done, you can enjoy a gourmet coffee and a panini while you wait.

This "gourmet stop" concept is the idea behind Bertoni's Brick Oven Pizza and Lounge in North Miami on busy Biscayne Boulevard. There are dining areas both outside and inside. And you can get your car washed while you enjoy a drink, some pizza, or a gelato.

I love the idea. But of course, the concept utterly fails if the food blows. So, let's see how it measures up at Bertoni's:

We tried the chicken wings ($7.95 - $14.95) and the bruschetta ($7.50). Both tasted good -- the wings are actually seasoned instead of just being smothered in some sauce. And the bruschetta was prepared well and with very fresh ingredients. The only problem was that the bruschetta brings four tiny pieces. Not worth it for the price.

I ordered the chicken panini ($9.50) which comes with arugula, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, and cheese. The sandwich would be better off without the chicken -- as a veggie panini. The chicken breast is too thinly sliced for this type of sandwich. It's also much smaller than you would expect for the price.

Here Bertoni's offers a large and unique variety. When we asked about the unusual toppings on some of the pizzas, Chef Mariano Passamonte told us these are typical Italian pizzas. I ordered the Alethya ($14.50), the Capricciosa ($11.95), and the Quattro formaggi ($12.95). All pizzas come in one size, about equivalent to a medium.

I will skip a description of the Quattro formagi since it wasn't exceptional, and move on to the new queen of all pizzas -- the Alethya. The ingredients are as follows: tomato sauce, mozzarella, ham, hardboiled eggs, hearts of palm, red peppers, whole green olives, and thousand island salad dressing. Chef Passamonte told us that it wasn't exactly thousand island, but a mix of ketchup, mayo, and mustard. As weird as this pizza may sound, it tastes just as good. Somehow, the combination comes together perfectly to create this slightly different yet somehow familiar flavor. You cannot visit Bertoni's without trying this pizza. Actually, you should go out of your way. It is a gastronomic experience.

This is another example of where Bertoni's shines. The Dolce Vita gelato is to die for. It has a creamy, velvety texture and the perfect amount of sweetness - omg. I am not into sweets, ice creams, etc., and I had an entire scoop. It was delicious. I suggest you get a scoop of vanilla with an order of the panqueque de dulce de leche ($7.50), thin crepes filled with dulce de leche, served warm.

Bertoni's really combines the look and feel of a lounge with a gourmet sensibility. With some minor tweaks, it would be phenomenal, but as is, it is a pleasant and convenient place to stay fresh while your car gets refreshed.

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