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For some reason, in this country we feel we need to create a day or a week for everything. National s'mores day, frozen food month, national clams on the half shell day--seriously, these are all things. Pizza, however, is definitely a big deal. And right now it's national pizza week, which ends today.
Unfortunately, pizza can be a rather contentious issue. Each year we pick the best pizza places in Broward and Palm Beach Counties as part of our best of awards. And each year, some people couldn't agree with us more and other people are pissed. That being said, in honor of the end of national pizza week, we've decided to compile a list of past five year's best pizzas.
2012- Tucci's Fire N Coal Pizza
Obviously, pizza can be a divisive issue, especially when it comes to style. There's little to argue about with Tucci's, unless it's whether to choose one of its signature coal-oven pies (we suggest the savory eggplant pizza or the simple Margherita) or to go rogue and build your own using piles of arugula, Kalamata olives, broccoli rabe, or prosciutto. They may not be the fastest pies around, as Tucci's makes every pie to order and doesn't stop until the crust has achieved just the right amount of char, the cheese has browned on the edges, and the sauce is blistering to the touch. Let others argue about the merits of thick versus thin; there are better ways to make use of your mouth in the presence of such flavor.
2011- Pizzeria Oceano
Wild boar cacciatorini with red onions and aged cheddar. Roasted eggplant with chilies, capers, and shallots. Local beet leaf with lemon and garlic. A stark departure from your average pepperoni or Margherita. These creations are dreamed up by Dak Kerprich, chef/owner of Lantana's Pizzeria Oceano. Kerprich goes for nothing short of perfection. He makes his own mozzarella and crafts only as much dough as the restaurant will go through daily. He sources local and artisanal ingredients and highlights their origin on his daily-changing menu. And his perfection shows in the rules surrounding his pizzas -- some might say to a fault, since Pizzeria Oceano allows no takeout (it would ruin the pizza's texture) or substitutions (he's the chef, not you). But the proof is in the product: Kerprich's wood-fired crust is airy-light yet brusque as a thin cracker. His toppings are always in perfect proportion, and his sauce is the perfect balance of sweet and tart.
2010- Sicilian Oven
Just like in the motherland of pizza, it's all about the wood here. In a marketplace dominated by coal-fired pizza, Sicilian Oven bakes its gourmet pies in an oven heated with smooth-burning, sweet-smelling wood. Coal often gets too hot: leaving scorched black crusts. Wood, though, cooks slightly slower and more consistently, giving Sicilian's pizzas a golden crust with just a touch of caramelized char along the edge. The Neapolitans would be proud. Atop the thin crust, you'll find perfectly creamy cheese, fresh vegetables, bits of ripe and tasty crushed tomato. The specialty pies are to die for: cervellata and broccoli rabe, bitter rabe with fatty sausage; calabrese margherita, salty mozzarella, roasted red peppers, sweet licoricey basil, green pesto, and perfectly grilled chicken. The look of contentment on your face as you leave will give new meaning to the term "get wood."
2009- Mauro's Gourmet Pizza and Pasta
The staff at Mauro's may not be the happiest, but they make a damn good pizza. The sign on the wall at Mauro's says, "NO KNIVES, NO FORKS, NO CUPS, NO ICE, NO CHEESE, NO PARMESAN, DON'T ASK," and it's translated into Spanish just so everyone gets the message. Other signs warn patrons "Prices are subject to change instantly" and "If you are rude, impatient, miserable, or annoying, there will be a $10 charge." They are not messing around. There is no menu. And you're just going to have to get over that. Artisanal toppings? Are you kidding? When you get your hot out the oven, giant slice, you will understand why this New York-style pizza, with its sheets of creamy mozzarella, its sweet but tangy sauce, its crust of perfection, has saved the lives of millions who roam from bar to bar on Hollywood Boulevard. Besides, we don't go for the smiles, we go for the pies.
After re-opening in November, this best of spot is back and better than ever. Pomodoro probably has a range of delicious appetizers, pasta, and other entrees, but the moment you walk through the front door, the aroma of cooking dough will draw you in and make you forget about the other possible options. The dough is tossed by a man of Mediterranean descent who takes his pie making quite seriously. Don't even try to strike up a conversation. The dough created is the perfect balance of soft and crispy. The sauce is lightly applied, with a subtle mix of spices and herbs. But toppings make the pies: vegetables straight off the vine; meats and cheeses direct from a deli, not the freezer. You wouldn't usually call a 12-inch pie a "personal pizza," but this isn't your usual pie, and here's betting you won't be toting leftovers.