Pizz-Off, Manhattan!

Our coal-fired pies should stifle all squawking snowbirds.

Number Two: Coal Mine, with a full liquor bar and outdoor patio, was Ellman's pick for the gold. In the absence of rabe, we ordered a large sausage-arugula ($20) and a delicious Tuscan salad ($14, large) — an ideally proportioned mix of romaine, white beans, salami, tomato, artichokes, and diced pecorino chopped into cubes and thoroughly — not heavily — coated in tart Italian dressing. Our pizza came puffing and steaming to our waiting rack, fresh raw leaves of arugula melting into the hot cheese. The thin, pleasantly sour crust had lots of textural things going on — some toothsome, some pillowy, some airy, some dense, with lovely pockets and black holes and areas of crunch and oily bits — a single slice as varied as a life well lived. Mozz and sauce melted together to make a uniform, dappled sea upon which tiny rounds of paper-thin sausage had been tossed like life preservers. The whole was happily olive-oily. Coal Mine makes a fantastic, authentic, New York-style pizza that ought to bliss out the crankiest snowbird. And for the wealthy gourmet, in a couple of weeks, the place will start serving black or white truffle pies, at $75 for a small one.

Number Three: Fire Rock opened just a few weeks ago on Clematis Street; it just nips under the wire by a nose the much-lauded Anthony's (these, I realize, are fighting words). Fire Rock was "out of broccoli rabe" and suggested we substitute broccoli (horrors!?) — we ordered, instead, a medium pie, the Mob-affiliated "Gigante," ($14.95) with black olives, hot yellow pepper rings, and sausage. Crust was airy, puffy, and gleaming with olive oil, dusted with semolina beneath, but it showed not a trace of coal-oven charring (subtract 10 bazillion points) and was a mite too limp for our limp-wristed predilections. "A sort of simulacrum of good pizza — an approximation but not quite the real thing," Ellman pronounced. Balance of ingredients: excellent. Hot peppers in proportion to salty olives, creamy squares of fresh mozzarella nestled into a spicy tomato sauce, thin slices of evenly scattered dried red sausage. Drawbacks: a truly pathetic salad of barely dressed mixed greens dumped straight from the bag (including the dreaded baby spinach) and a blaring, insupportable sound system. West Palmers, though, could do (far) worse than drop in for a Margherita pizza scattered with freshly torn basil leaves and an icy Oktoberfest.

Joe Rocco

Location Info

Map

Red Rock Coal Fired Pizza

50 NE 1st Ave.
Boca Raton, FL 33432

Category: Restaurant > Pizza

Region: Boca Raton

Coal Mine 399 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton. Lunch and dinner daily. Call 561-826-COAL.

Red Rock Coal Fired Pizza 50 NE First Ave., Boca Raton. Lunch and dinner. Closed Monday. Call 561-361-6655.

Anythony's Coal Fired Pizza2203 S. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale (also in Pompano Beach, Weston, and Aventura). Lunch and dinner. Closed Tuesday. Call 954-462-5555.

Fire Rock Pizza 1 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Lunch and dinner daily. Call 561-837-9050.

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Number Four: And finally, Lauderdale's beloved Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza. Anthony's is just 4 years old and claims to have installed the first coal-fired pizza oven in Florida, but the place already has the easy, lived-in, faintly smug look of a venerable, insanely successful pizzeria. So successful, in fact, that co-owners Michelangelo and Debra Mozzicato and Anthony Bruno have opened three new Anthony's in the past couple of years — in Aventura, Weston, and Pompano Beach, with another scheduled in Plantation any minute now. A sign above the bar announces (or warns) that "Our Pizza Is Well Done." It is. The crust is certainly blackened around the rim, but it has failed to heft itself up at all — there's no air there. Without those luscious pockets of faintly nutty nothingness, this crust's texture is uniform and less interesting. And a faintly unpleasant sour undertone asserted itself through each bite — I couldn't tell whether this weird flavor emanated from sauce or cheese. Anthony's uses the low-water chewy mozzarella, quite a lot of it, and a nicely chunky, variably distributed tomato sauce. Another plus: The broccoli rabe is sweeter than Red Rock's and used more sparingly. Meat, though, is practically prosaic — clumps of ground sausage no better or worse than what you'd pick up for breakfast at Publix. And the topping was too heavy and wet for such a thin pizza. Even with these caveats, they make the fourth-best pizza in South Florida. And that's something to chew on.

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