For round two of the pizza showdown, 28 diners met up at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza in Aventura at 6 p.m. to begin the tasting. We then made our way to Pizza Fusion in North Miami Beach and ended at Racks Italian Bistro and Market .
It worked the same as last time, except with more people we needed more pies. We ordered six at each Anthony’s and Pizza Fusion, and four at Racks because by that time the group had shrank to about 18 and bellies were getting full.
Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza
Here we took the nine specialty pies from their menu and eliminated three to get to our six pies:
- Paul & Young Ron - meatballs, sausage, hot peppers, ricotta
- Fresh mozzarella, sliced tomato and basil (no sauce)
- Meatball and ricotta – small meatballs over the traditional pie
- White pizza – ricotta, mozzarella, romano
- Eggplant Marino – like eggplant parm on a pie
- Philly cheesesteak
Anthony’s cooks its pies in an 800-degree coal oven and takes pride in its “well-done” pizzas. On a previous visit, the crust was too well done for my taste, particularly some edges that tasted outright burnt. Last night, however, it was better but inconsistent across the pies. Some diners said the crust was borderline undercooked on some of their slices.
My favorite here was the Paul & Young Ron. I typically don’t like pizzas with lots of meat on them but I liked the cheese and the mix of the ricotta with the meatballs. The eggplant Marino wasn’t bad either. The ricotta and meatballs (pictured above) was too similar to the Paul & Ron Young to make an impression. The steak on the Philly cheesesteak was way too salty to be enjoyable, though the caramelized onions were good. My friend really liked the bianca but it didn’t really do it for me. And as much as I like the simple combo of basil, tomato and fresh mozzarella, it didn’t blow me away.
Next stop: Pizza Fusion
- Organic pepperoni – +tomato sauce, mozzarella, provolone and parmesan
- Four cheese and sun dried tomato – roasted Italian eggplant, basil, roasted garlic, tomato sauce, goat cheese, mozzarella, provolone and parmesan
- Organic eggplant and fresh mozzarella – +red onion, tomato sauce and parsley
- Farmer’s market – roasted artichoke hearts, red onion, roasted zucchini, roasted portobello, tomato sauce, mozzarella, provolone and parmesan
- Founder’s pie – free-range chicken, kalamata olives, roasted red onion, tomato sauce, parmesan, mozzarella, provolone and gorgonzola
- Bruschetta – freshly chopped tomatoes, red onions, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, roasted garlic, mozzarella, provolone, parmesan
The Pizza Fusion we visited is housed in a strip mall across from Total Wine. The space has a modern, loft-like look, complete with visible concrete and pipes. The chain, which started in Deerfield Beach, uses all organic, natural ingredients and carries organic beer and wine.
When we were deciding what to order many of the topping combinations sounded great. But at least on my side of the long table, the comments were that the pies lacked flavor and tasted too similar to each other. Too much cornmeal on the bottom of the oval pies also gave the crust a grainy texture that I didn’t like.
I really wanted to like the place as it has a good concept but it seems to have landed at the low end of the spectrum for most everyone. Though not bad altogether, I wouldn’t make the drive for pizza there. If I had to choose a favorite here, I would go with the founder’s pie (pictured). My friends liked the bruschetta.
Final stop: Racks Italian Bistro and Market
- Spinach – prosciutto, smoked mozzarella, reggiano
- Portobello – truffle oil, gorgonzola dolce, speck
- Sweet sausage (pictured) – meatballs, onion, ricotta, grana padana
- Secchi – sorpresatta, provolone, fior di latte, goat cheese
Racks is located at the Intracoastal Mall on 163rd Street. Inside, it has brick walls, plain wooden tables and a small open kitchen visible as you walk into the restaurant. Their pizza menu is divided into rossa (red pizza) and bianca (white) with four pies in each category. Last night, they were also featuring a truffle pizza ($34) but we decided against it.
Like at Anthony’s, the pizzas at Racks are cooked in a coal oven. This made for a thin crust that was nicely charred on the bottom and on the slightly chewy edges but I found that it wasn’t too flavorful. The toppings, however, were good.
My favorite pizza here and of the night was the spinach. It had generous amounts of spinach and prosciutto and the smokiness of the mozzarella was a nice extra touch that didn’t overwhelm. Of the four, many fellow diners favored the portobello pizza. It was good but I wouldn’t order it again. It probably didn’t help that I didn’t get much portobello on my slice so that probably took away from it, but it was also too rich.
With that we concluded part II of the pizza crawl. It was easier for me to pick a favorite last night than in round one. We still have the beach to explore, however, so stay tuned …
Read the recap of Pizza Crawl Part I.
Updated: Read Food for Thought’s recap of the night
Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza
17901 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura
14815 Biscayne Blvd., North Miami Beach
Racks Italian Bistro and Market
3933 NE 163 St., North Miami Beach