For the past year, David Fouquier has been trying to make Fooq's, his small restaurant in downtown Miami, work.
The restaurant, which Fouquier opened in February 2015, was known for serving fragrant Persian-French dishes in a bistro setting.
Fouquier tells New Times the restaurant suffered a significant loss in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"A large portion of our sales came from people coming from the Arsht Center, the American Airlines Arena, and the clubs downtown," Fouquier says. "COVID took a toll on arts and entertainment all over the world, and it took a toll on downtown Miami."
The restaurateur, who made Zagat's 30 Under 30 List a few years back, said Fooq's went from doing 150 covers a night on weekends to a little over a dozen. In order to execute his intricate dishes, Fouquier employs a large staff that, during COVID, sometimes outnumbered guests.
"We would run daily specials and we were constantly butchering everything in-house," he explains. "It was a large operation with 13 or 14 full-time employees. That was fine when we were doing 150 covers a night, but it just wasn't sustainable in these times."
The Fooq's founder tried to pivot by offering his space to chefs for pop-ups in order to cover basic expenses like rent and electricity.
"Had we kept Fooq's going, I would have found a way to make it work," he maintains.
But rather than continue to tread water, the restaurateur, who divides his time between Miami and New York City, came up with an alternative: Make pizza.
And not just any pizza. New York-style pizza.
Eleventh Street Pizza, which opens today for online orders, will bake the pizzas Fouquier craves when he's in the Big Apple.
"I'm a born-and-raised New Yorker, so pizza is in my genes, especially New York pizza," he says. "The first thing I do when I get off the plane is hunt down a good slice."
Fouquier noticed that, while Miami's Neapolitan and thick-crust pan pizza games are strong, when it comes to establishments that bake New York pizzas, the pickings are slim.
"Lucali and DC Pie Co. have amazing pizza, but Miami doesn't have great representation of what I call pizza," he says.
The problem, Fouquier says, lies in the ingredients.
"Even in New York, a lot of places use low-quality ingredients. The slices are just sitting in the case, waiting to be reheated. Generally speaking, they're not as good as they can be."
Fouquier pledges to elevate the New York pizza by using the best ingredients he can find. He did his research, quizzing friends and restaurateurs in New York. The two secrets to a good pizza, he concluded, are quality and consistency.
With that in mind, Fouquier set out in search of suppliers. He found place in Utah, Central Milling, that produces organic pizza flour. He sourced the best tomatoes from California and the best cheeses from Italy.
Then he called his friend Aquiles Bisogni and asked him to partner in the Miami pizza venture. Bisogni has nearly 30 years of experience making pizza in New York City.
Pizzas at Eleventh Street include the basic Brooklyn cheese pizza, a vegan tomato pie, a vegetarian pie filled with local bounty, a pepperoni pie, and even a Middle Eastern pie topped with braised lamb, mint, and tahini.
Prices start at $24 for a whole pie.
Other menu items include salads, a square Sicilian-style pizza served in giant slices that feed up to three people, meatballs, and freshly baked cookies. Only about 25 to 30 pies will be offered daily, with orders taken on a first-come, first-served basis.
For now, the restaurant is accepting orders for takeout only. When indoor dining in a small space becomes more of a common experience again, Eleventh Street Pizza will open its doors for dine-in.
In preparation for that day, Fouquier has been testing recipes and seeking feedback through generosity.
"We've been making pizzas for first responders. We've been making low-key donation pizzas," he says.
Eleventh Street Pizza's website is open for advance orders. The first pie pickup date is Thursday, March 4. Pizzas will be available Thursday through Sunday next week, then Wednesday through Sunday for the foreseeable future.
And what of the fate of Fooq's? Fouquier says he's working on a more ambitious version of the tiny but mighty restaurant.
"Think of it as Fooq's 2.0," he says.
Eleventh Street Pizza. 1035 N. Miami Ave., Miami; eleventhstreetpizza.com. Pickup only, Thursday March 4 through Sunday, March 7, from 5 to 10 p.m.; Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 10 p.m. thereafter.
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