Pizza may be one of America’s favorite foods. It’s also become more American than Italian, with slices in cities from east to west offering a different take on how to best combine a few basic ingredients: cheese, sauce, and dough.
There’s New York-style, Chicago-style, coal- or wood-fired, Sicilian, and Neapolitan. Some bake up with a thick, doughy crust, while others are prized for being thin and crisp.
In South Florida, where people flock from all areas of the country, we each have our favorites. But there’s still good pizza and bad pizza, no matter how you slice it. To help navigate Broward County’s selections, New Times teamed up with WorstPizza.com founder and South Florida pizza expert Craig Agranoff to find the area’s best slices.
12. Times Square Pizza
2304 E. Oakland Park Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-566-7772, or visit timessquarepizza.net.
It's easy to pass Times Square Pizza as you speed down Oakland Park Blvd in Fort Lauderdale, but if you slow down and pull into the plaza, you might find yourself enjoying one of the area's best slices. The place has been around for over 20 years and its adored by Coral Ridge locals. The decor is a mix of photos of New York City, tossed in with a bit of Miami fanfare, and just a handful of tables. The pizza, however, is all New York. Although the kitchen is about the size of a small guest bathroom, the guys tasked with making the food put out a quality pizza, and prove you don’t need a lot of space to do it. The sauce is smooth — no clumps — and a mix of sweet and spicy. The ratio of sauce to cheese is always perfect, and the crust is strong enough to hold up to all the ingredients without flopping into a limp mess. For Agranoff, it reminds him of the slices he got growing up on Long Island. Head to Times Square Pizza for lunch: it sells two slices with a can of soda for $6.
11. Louie Bossi's Ristorante
1032 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-356-6699, or visit louiebossi.com.
The heart of the Louie Bossi Ristorante menu is the pizza, a selection of white and red-sauce pies that are baked for 90 seconds in the restaurant's 900-degree wood-burning oven. That oven greets you at the front entrance, visible from every corner of the restaurant. In it, a wet sourdough bakes into thin and chewy crust, blistered black in spots, and delivering a strong smoky essence that can be overpowering or just right, depending on your taste. There are more than a dozen to choose from, but the Margherita is the most approachable, layered with a vibrant San Marzano sauce, basil, sea salt, and imported fior de latte, a soft and buttery buffalo mozzarella.
10. El Tamarindo
712 Atlantic Shores Blvd., Hallandale; 954-456-4447.
El Tamarindo — which celebrated the opening of its fourth location in Lighthouse Point three years ago — is on the growing list of family-owned empires in South Florida. Originally from Fort Lauderdale and Hallandale Beach, chef-owner Néstor "Alex" Amaya is the man behind the magic here. From El Salvador, Amaya, who came to South Florida at age 12, began working in the restaurant industry, starting his career in the kitchen at his uncle's restaurant, Bella Napoli, as a prep chef. In 2003, at just 23, he opened El Tamarindo Cafe in Fort Lauderdale, a contemporary restaurant serving his own brand of Latin American cuisine. Today, his newest location in Deerfield Beach (and now Lighthouse Point) is a coal-fired pizza joint known for its unique, doughy crust smothered in a thick layer of well-baked cheese and sweet tomato sauce.
9. Mauro's Pizza
1904 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; 954-929-4001.
For a plain slice, nothing beats Mauro's in downtown Hollywood. Your typical late-night slice spot, and one of the few places on this list that will serve a single cheese slice, it's where you go after a round of bar-hopping. This isn't a sit-down type of establishment, but no one's food hangs around long enough to matter. The deck oven pumps out oversized slices with a thin, crispy crust and a perfect ration of cheese to sauce that's never too greasy, while also delivering a ton of flavor. That also means slices that are always fresh, and rarely re-heated. It's a no-frills kind of joint: no forks, knives, gourmet toppings, or Parmesan cheese. No chairs. Instead, you eat with your hands from a paper plate with a few dozen napkins while standing — and, no, the pizza doesn't need that extra cheese. It's also a great place to stop by for lunch during the day, when the line isn't out the door.
8. La Fontana Pizzeria
2890 N. University Drive, Coral Springs; 954-575-5502, or visit lafontanapizzeria.com.
When you think of where to find the most authentic Italian wood oven pizza, Coral Springs probably doesn’t come to mind. But, there — tucked away in The Walk shopping plaza — is a hidden secret. It's called La Fontana, where brothers Tony and Spartak Tare are making some amazing pies. They hail from Ferrara, Italy and their pizza tastes like it Take a bite, close your eyes, and you can imagine yourself overlooking Ferrara's broad streets and palaces. The pizza at La Fontana is a perfect example of wood-fired pies should be done. The crust is nice and thin, yet also crispy, not overloaded with cheese or greens. The brothers insist on using quality tomatoes in their homemade sauce. This is more of a trattoria than just a regular pizzeria, and you can take advantage of an outdoor courtyard to eat under the stars during nice evenings.
7. Villa Rose Pizza
1114 N. State Rd 7, Hollywood; 954-983-7660, or visit villarosepizza.com.
Hollywood's Villa Rose is a family-run place that's been around since 1975, a testament to its fine fare. A small mom-and-pop place, it smells like pizza the moment you walk in the door, even if there's no one cooking at the old-school deck oven. The pies here are considered Chicago-style thin crust, and despite a few signature variations including the Villa Rose special (sausage, mushroom, onion, and green pepper) the plain cheese pie is one of the best around. If you like thin crust, that is. The pie arrives cut in squares, with a smooth layer of hearty, herb-flecked tomato sauce spread beneath a thin veil of bubbly melted cheese. The crust may be thin, but it's also pliant and chewy and cooked just long enough to yield a considerable amount of flavor without any burnt, charred edges.
6. Sicilian Oven
2486 N. Federal Hwy., Lighthouse Point; 954-785-4155, or visit sicilianoven.com.
Like many restaurants, including spots like Anthony’s Coal Fired, the original location is usually the best. This holds true for Sicilian Oven, a local chain that's opened four additional restaurants in South Florida in the past several years. Sicilian Oven is touted for its wood-fired pizza. But not just any wood fired pie: the owners are former Anthony’s Coal Fired pizza-maker Andrew Garavuso and his business partner Ralph DiSalvo, who opened DiSalvo’s Pizzeria in Hollywood. Unlike many restaurants, Sicilian Oven has two wood ovens cooking their pies, which helps the pizza come to the table faster during the busy lunch and dinner rush. Their pies arrive with a chewy, browned crust and just the right amount of caramelized char around the outer edges. The pizza here has more bite than you'll find at other area restaurants that use similar ovens, most likely the result of slower cooking times at other joints. This is a pizza that's certainly worth traveling for.
5. Esposito's New York & Coal Fired Pizza
2221 S. University Drive, Davie; 954-916-5667, or visit espositospizzaonline.com.
If you’re looking for a stellar coal-fired pizza in Broward, look no further than Esposito’s in Davie. It’s the type of pie you would drive miles to taste. The high heat of the oven ensures a charred, crisp crust. A variety of toppings and styles are offered, everything from a classic mozzarella pie to Esposito’s Own, topped with ham, mozzarella, mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, and arugula and drizzled with olive oil. The restaurant family also owns Grande Pizza in Sunrise (where you can find some stellar Detroit-style deep-dish) and Annie’s Pizza in Margate (another top-rated spot), which stands to reason these people know their pies.
4. Osteria Aqua e Farina
1145 S Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 954-523-1115, or visit osteriaacquaefarina.com.
Being a pizza expert comes with about a dozen emails a week from readers who tell WorstPizza.com’s Agranoff he doesn’t know good pizza simply because he hasn’t had a chance to try their “favorite” yet. Though it would be impossible to try every slice in every city, Agranoff comes close; when the pizza expert receives multiple requests from longtime readers about a single place, he’ll typically go out of his way to try it. That’s how he discovered Osteria Acqua e Farina in Fort Lauderdale. Founded by Giovanni Rocchio, chef/owner of Valentino’s, it made some terrific pies. Though Rocchio is no longer there, good pizza remains. Upon walking into Osteria, you’ll be greeted by a delightful aroma, one that hints at delectability of the pies, each made with topnotch ingredients and a special dough designed by Rocchio himself, tweaked ever so slightly since his departure. Pies arrive with crisp crusts and bubbling cheese. Every once in a while, the pies will be overcooked in the blistering-hot oven, but even so, this place is still one of Broward’s best options.
3. Joe's Old School Pizza
1090 N. Federal Hwy., Hollywood; 954-922-6161, or visit joesoldschoolpizza.com.
With a six-month-old location in Coral Gables, a six-week-old outpost in Cooper City, and the Hollywood flagship about to hit its three-year mark in November, Joe’s Old School pizza is on the rise. Chef/owner Joe Caristo is originally from Brooklyn but has spent the past 25 years in South Florida, enough to make him an honorary Floridian. New York is still in his blood, though, and also in his pizza. Once a certified general contractor, Caristo left the business to open his first restaurant in 2014, revamping an old gas station into a unique indoor-outdoor pizzeria. Today his deck ovens pump out amazing pies. Dough and garlic rolls are made daily from a balance of flour, water, salt, and yeast perfect for the South Florida humidity, Caristo says. He also uses top-grade Grande cheese and a “secret” red sauce that delivers a perfectly sour-sweet tang atop the crisp, thin crust. The best part: You’ll always get a fresh slice. Caristo doesn’t like anything lying around and believes people will wait the eight minutes for a fresh pie even if they’re ordering a single slice.
2. Cafe La Buca
451 S Cypress Rd., Pompano Beach; 954-786-0673.
Cafe La Buca in Pompano Beach isn’t the most elegant red-sauce restaurant, but what it lacks in decor it makes up for with its vibrant, classic Neapolitan cuisine. The menu changes almost daily, with dishes ranging from homemade pasta to fresh seafood and grilled steak. But the wood-fired pizzas are the unsung heroes of this menu — or should we say lack of menu? Daily specials and dishes are presented verbally, including pies that fire up in less than ten minutes, delivering a chewy-thick crust dotted with rounds of fresh, melted mozzarella and a colorful array of fresh herbs and gourmet toppings.
1. Vincent’s Italian Kitchen
106 Commercial Blvd., Lauderdale-by-the-Sea; 954-772-8111.
Every now and then, an Italian restaurant offers pizza on its menu. Usually, it’s nothing to write home about, but this isn’t the case at Vincent’s, which boasts a new Stefano Ferrara wood-burning oven handmade in Naples, Italy. A newcomer to the Commercial Boulevard beachside strip, the restaurant has quickly become a favorite spot for a quick pie throughout the day. Here, executive chef/owner Vincent Foti is putting the same attention to detail into his food as he does at famed Kitchenetta in Fort Lauderdale. Just like its alma mater, Vincent’s strips its dishes to their foundation and then revamps them. For Foti, good pizza isn’t about reinventing the wheel, but paying attention to detail: Homemade dough is made using imported Caputo 00 Italian flour, red sauce is assembled à la minute using Italian tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella is pulled daily. When the pie arrives at the table, tiny pools of olive oil are dotted atop, the final touch for the perfect pizza. Parking isn’t easy, especially on sunny days, but this spot is worth the inconvenience, because it serves easily one of the best pizzas you will try in Broward County — and possibly the entire state.
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Nicole Danna and Craig Agranoff are food writers covering South Florida. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow Craig at WorstPizza.com, and Nicole at @SoFloNicole or the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.