A bright neon sign on the corner of Las Olas Boulevard and 15th Avenue reads Luigi's Coal Oven Pizza. The newly-under-construction eatery is scheduled to open in Fort Lauderdale's swanky shopping and restaurant district in March -- just a few months
behind the anticipated opening of its next-door neighbors, Rocco's Tacos.
Napolitan chef Luigi DiMeo, of Rino's Tuscan Grill (located a few blocks away from the new pizzeria's locale), has been in America for just five short years, but he is ready to operate his own eatery and bring what he believes is the world's best pizza.
At 8 years of age, DiMeo began to work in his grandfather's pizzeria in Naples, Italy, where he learned the long-standing tradition of pizza making. Since 1984, an organization called VPN (Associazione della Vera Pizza Napoletana) has held strict guidelines of what constitutes an authentic Neapolitan pizza -- standards that DiMeo plans to stay true to in his restaurant.
Says DiMeo: "Strict rules must be followed to produce the world's best pizza, and that is exactly what I intend to do in my new home in Fort Lauderdale.
I will be cooking my pizza in coal ovens, not in wood ovens, which are the tradition of the VPN.
The reason for this is that I want to take on the challenge to perfect the pizza, which will be cooked in the 900-degree coal-burning oven that has become so popular in America."
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Once Luigi's Coal Oven Pizza opens in March, DiMeo will step down as executive chef of Tuscan Grill, leaving the kitchen to his sous chef. DiMeo will stay on staff as a consultant.
With more than 20 Las Olas businesses opening their doors within the past year, locals can get excited about new eateries and shops breathing renewed life into the boulevard. The intimate pizzeria with about 50 seats will have an outdoor patio and feature an extensive Italian wine bar. More good news -- Luigi's will offer free parking ($2 valet).
Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.