I am in travel status attending a convention in Miami this week. I arrived a little early and decided to drive up to Fort Lauderdale and visit unquestionably the best pizzeria in Florida. What initially attracted my attention to Anthony's is the coal oven. In fact, they have two.
What I didn't expect to find was the owner who turned out to be a true pizzaiolo by the name of Michaelangelo. His only passion in life is pizza. He comes from Sicily but learned pizza making in northeast - I believe Connecticut and/or Rhode Island.
I arrived at about 4pm - just before the dinner rush and Michaelangelo greeted me warmly. Of course, I called in advance and made sure the owner was there and that he would be available to talk pizza. After he rightfully determined that I was not a commercial threat to his operation, he opened up to me and expressed his love for pizza. We spoke much longer than I had earned a right to but he seemed genuinely happy to share his love.
In that respect he may be very similar to Chris Bianco in Phoenix because the only thing Michaelangelo has on his menu besides pizza are chicken wings (served with foccacia), calzone, foccacia, and cheesecake. That's about as pure of a pizza concept as you can get.
He has two ovens, four pizza men who work the oven, turning pizzas, assembling ingredients, and helping support his every need. He however, is the only one who "makes" the pizza. They do it all in a very small space considering how large the restaurant is. The ovens are really converted from wood burning models and are modular not brick. I asked why he would use coal and not wood. His thoughts were that Pepe's and Sally's Apizza in New Haven use coal and those two pizzeria's were his inspiration. Another factor was that he was looking to have a competitive edge in the local marketplace and coal fit the bill.
Now on to the pizza. I suggested that I wanted his best Margherita. An example of his love for the trade. He humbly suggested the fresh mozzarella with sliced tomato and fresh basil. There was no sauce on the pie at all. Fresh sliced tomatoes were used instead. I will post all the pictures I took as soon as I get home. But know this, the pie was good. Very good. And very well done I might add. I like char and my pizza had it in spades.
I inquired as to the use of a biga and the reply was no. His family recipe didn't use one and that was that. When I suggested that some of the artisanal pizzerias were beginning to incorporate their use he seemed quite interested. He didn't use 00 flour but wouldn't confirm if it was high gluten. He did say it wasn't a hard flour but he didn't elaborate any further on that point.
Michaelangelo struck me as quite the businessman. He told me that they pump out an enormous number of pizzas a night from the two ovens which are both on the smallish side. Frank Pepe's can hold 25 pies at a time, his can hold only 6-7 each. He also let me know that his ovens lose about 125-150 degrees during the dinner rush hour so the best time to visit any pizzeria is just before dinner time. The ovens are fully stoked and really hot. I found that portion of our conversation facinating as you can well imagine.
I hope to post the beautiful pictures this Friday. I also invited Michaelangelo to vist our special community and contribute if he felt so inclined. He promised he would.