Pizzacraft in Fort Lauderdale Serves Pies With Sex Appeal

A "sexy-ass" smoked bacon pizza. Click here for the full slideshow.
A "sexy-ass" smoked bacon pizza. Click here for the full slideshow.
Photo by CandaceWest.com

First came the burgers. Then the tacos. And now pizza.

On an unremarkable stretch of Himmarshee Street, past the busy late-night bars and Sunday-brunch congestion, you'll find Fort Lauderdale's newest artisan pizzeria. Proclaiming itself the lone wolf of elevated eating and drinking in the city's Himmarshee Village — with its New York-inspired red-brick walls, custom imported wood-burning oven, and adjoining speakeasyesque cocktail bar — it stands as the third concept in what has become a string of establishments recently launched by JEY Hospitality cofounder Marc Falsetto.

Like Tacocraft tacos and Rok:Brgr before it, the notion that this spot is all about the pizza isn't surprising. But don't let the name fool you; the dishes coming out of 1-month-old Pizzacraft Artisan Pizzeria aren't all about the sauce, cheese, and dough.

"I make sexy-ass food," Pizzacraft executive chef Bret Hauser will tell you, your first clue that the former Hell's Kitchen competitor wants you to know that his take on Italian aims to be something altogether different. "At the end of the day, food is like politics: You can't please everyone. But I think we've got something special going on here."

Pizzacraft Executive Chef Bret Hauser
Pizzacraft Executive Chef Bret Hauser
Photo by CandaceWest.com

To understand Hauser's definition of "sexy" — and boastful confidence — is to understand the 33-year-old himself. The Miami native grew up in a food-loving Italian household, with a father and grandmother that passed their passion for homemade cuisine on to him. He's even tattooed from head to toe in food, everything from a chef's knife and vibrant branzino across his forearm to spaghetti and meatballs on a fork and an artichoke fashioned into a grenade at his ankle.

Then there's his résumé. He jump-started his career with Todd English at Da Compo Osteria in Fort Lauderdale and busied himself in the South Florida scene before making the move to private chef, cooking for the likes of Sean Combs (AKA Puff Daddy). In 2014, Hauser earned himself that spot on Hell's Kitchen from a crowd of more than 1,000 hopefuls, mostly thanks to his vibrant persona. The self-made chef even managed to stay on host Gordon Ramsay's good side, made evident when the celebrity chef came to visit the season 14 competitor at his Fort Lauderdale kitchen recently, later Instagramming food photos from nearby Rok:Brgr.

So when the waiter delivers this pizza, the one this restaurant was built for and around, is it really as sexy as Hauser states? Well, yes and no. Simple is sexy, and these pies are anything but.

Arancinis, with wild mushroom risotto, mozzarella, and house marinara.
Arancinis, with wild mushroom risotto, mozzarella, and house marinara.
Photo by CandaceWest.com

After months of product sourcing and countless hours of taste-testing, Hauser and the JEY culinary team decided on a precise blend of high-gluten, high-protein artisan flour for a dough that's made with filtered Vero water and proofed for 36 hours, resulting in a crispy, aerated crust.

With that as the base, Hauser helped to draft a short list of signature pies, each cooked at 800 degrees. Those pizzas — four red and four white — arrive hot and pliable from a Marra Forni wood-burning oven manned by a pair of brothers whose only job is to ensure they cook up just right. That makes for a consistent slice, one that's not too bubbly, not too soft, and with just the right amount of blistered char at the bottom.

If you order the classic tomato and basil, you'll find it won't droop under the weight of all that extensive product sourcing, sauce, and house-made cheese. Even the white pie — loaded with fancy ingredients like cave-aged Gruyère, roasted farm-fresh eggs, and artisan meats from Miami Smokers — has a significant bite to it.

Polenta fries, with shaved parmesan, house marinara, and roasted garlic aioli.
Polenta fries, with shaved parmesan, house marinara, and roasted garlic aioli.
Photo by CandaceWest.com

If you prefer your dinner to be served the way you'd get it at Nonna's house, you can start with a pair of oversized meatballs served in a puddle of Hauser's stellar San Marzano marinara. They're topped with a tuft of fluffy homemade ricotta, the same that can be ordered alone as an appetizer, drizzled in honey and sea salt. Or go for the golf-ball-sized arancinis, balls of wild mushroom- and mozzarella-infused al dente rice baked and fried into perfect spheres.

The most creative appetizer, however, is also one of Hauser's favorites: polenta fries. For many, polenta — Italian cornmeal boiled into a thick, runny porridge — is often described as tasteless and soupy, with a texture similar to wet sand. But Hauser found a way to make the polenta haters concede.

At Pizzacraft, a cheese-infused polenta is fried into four-inch-long cubes and stacked in a crisscrossing pattern, arriving with a crispy, crunchy shell that gives way to a creamy polenta center. They're served alongside a small cup of garlic aioli for dipping. There's also a white ceramic crock of Hauser's simple red sauce, without which no Italian dish is complete.

Chef Hauser behind the line
Chef Hauser behind the line
Photo by CandaceWest.com

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The carb-loading continues with house-made pasta, hand-formed daily by Hauser himself. You'll find several options, from bucatini and rigatoni to thick-cut pappardelle. Order the orecchiette and you'll get classic Italian comfort fare, each ear-shaped node doused in a hot broth of olive oil and garlic and accented with long stalks of broccoli rabe and cuts of fennel sausage. The only thing about homemade pasta is that most come out thick and doughy, and Hauser's are no exception; but the dish arrives satisfyingly hot, and that broth is good enough to encourage bread dipping.

Come the end of the workweek, those same homemade oversized rigatoni find themselves in the weekly special, Nonna's Sunday Gravy, a dish served Friday through Sunday. Every weekend, Hauser re-creates the sacred Italian-American tradition, a meat-forward, all-day-simmered marinara cooked with short rib, sausage, and meatballs. It's served in a heaping portion and topped with ricotta cheese. Just like at Grandma's house, it's first-come, first-served, and once it's gone, it's gone.

"There's a lot of love in this food, and I think it shows," says Hauser. "It's good to be home in the city I love, making incredible food for an incredible group of people."

Pizzacraft Artisan Pizzeria
330 Himmarshee St., Fort Lauderdale. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. Call 954-616-8028, or visit pizzacraftpizzeria.com.

  • Arancinis $10
  • Polenta fries $8
  • Orecchiette pasta $20
  • Nonna's Sunday Gravy $28
  • Tomato and basil pizza $ 18
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Pizzacraft

330 Himmarshee St.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312

954-616-8028

pizzacraftpizzeria.com

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