Most of you know by now that Michael Schwartz has opened a pizzeria named for his son Harry in the former Pizza Volante Design District space. The room has been tinkered with a bit -- industrialized, so to speak -- but the wood-burning brick hearth still spits out pizzas with thin, well-charred crusts. Except I liked the pies at Pizza Volante better.
All food tastes are subjective, but those concerning pizza seem particularly so. I named five of my favorites last week, a list that included a few thin-crust joints -- but my preference is for puffier, breadier pies. When indulging in the thin/crisp-crusted variety of pizza, my rule-of-thumb is that if it cracks when folded in half, it's too thin and too crisp. And that's what happens when you fold a Harry's slice.
Another problem is that the sauce on the pie contains garlic, which might go well with certain toppings but mars the purity of a Margherita -- the holy trinity of mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil thrown off by the raw garlic pungency.
I began my lunch with an order of meatballs and a side of polenta fries. The trio of meatballs was great -- moist, light, and tasty in tomato sauce; the garlic in the sauce made more sense in this context (though God forbid they offer a piece of bread with it; a side of focaccia is $3).
The polenta fries were perfectly crisp and golden on the outside, creamy and steamy within. A side of dipping sauce was the first thing I have ever been served in any restaurant associated with Michael Schwartz that was inedibly bad. I'm fairly certain it was not a cheap brand of bottled salsa overpowered by -- yes, more raw garlic -- but that's exactly what it tasted like. And the weird, gelatinous texture was likewise off-putting.
Oh well, nobody's perfect.
Prices are $4 to $7 for snacks (such as the meatballs and polenta), $7 to $10 for salads, and $11 to $15 for pizzas (large enough for two but not too large for one who is hungry).
Beverages rock, from housemade lemonade and sodas (in flavors such as fennel, vanilla-allspice, and espresso) to a quartet of Florida beers on tap (produced in Melbourne, Jupiter, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale) to Panther Coffee. And Hedy Goldsmith's desserts, kept simple here, satisfy as always; a chocolate chip cookie with a hint of salt was soft and fresh; zeppole with honey-ricotta were even better.
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Service was -- well, they'll have to work on this. I was barely attended to by a staff that apparently comprised people new to this type of work -- including a manager who, like the rest, had a pleasant enough demeanor but didn't know how to operate a room. The restaurant wasn't very busy, yet my empty plates were left on the table throughout the meal, water wasn't poured, and nobody was at the door to either seat me when I entered or say goodbye when I left. Again: Very un-Michael-like.
I'm not saying Harry's Pizzeria is a failure. Pizza will please fans of this style, and excepting the vile polenta dip, the food sampled was fine. The ambiance is cool and local, the prices affordable. Service, it should be assumed, will improve.
Still, with the exception of the beverages, there is nothing special about Harry's. Considering the man behind this place, that qualifies as a disappointment.