Nearly every corner of the country has its own style of pizza. There's Chicago deep-dish pies, New York thin-crust pizza, California-style slices, and Sicilian-style Detroit squares.
Sadly, Florida is not on the list of places with their own special pizza variety. But South Florida still loves its pies, and there's no denying it: In our search for the "best," we can always use another good pizza place. Especially if it's a Neapolitan pizza restaurant.
Lucky for us, Society 8 Hospitality Group's Steven Dapuzzo is looking to add to the choices with a new concept, Mastino Wood Fired Italian Kitchen & Bar, a casual Italian eatery that will go hand-in-hand with the group's SoLita establishments.
To see the partnership in action, Dapuzzo quietly opened the doors to his first Mastino establishment several weeks ago.
Where? Inside the main dining area formerly utilized by Delray Beach's SoLita, the group's upscale Italian eatery that opened in 2011. The idea is to replicate the joint pairing in Fort Lauderdale, where Dapuzzo is looking to reopen after closing SoLita Las Olas in April.
"I wanted to move in the direction of a more casual concept -- like a gastropub," said Dapuzzo. "No one in Delray was doing an Italian take on it. Mastino will [fill that void with] authentic, Italian soul food in a casual setting, alongside SoLita, which offers a more upscale dining experience."
Mastino is named for the Italian bullmastiff -- as legend has it, the same dogs used to guard the kitchens of the Italian pizza chef who created the Neapolitan-style margherita pizza for Queen Margherita, after which the famous pie is named. The restaurant is located at 25 NE Second Avenue, in the Pineapple Grove district of downtown Delray Beach. It currently shares the adjoining space and outdoor patio area with SoLita, Society 8's more exclusive, fine-dining establishment that opened in 2009.
In the past few weeks, Mastino has transformed SoLita's former main dining room from high-end to casual. The new eatery offers an array of classic Italian soul foods, wood-fired pizza, craft cocktails, and beer. A complete remodel features a number of reclaimed design elements giving the space a warm, industrial warehouse feel. The custom-built Neapolitan wood fired brick oven behind the bar was made by artisans in Naples, Italy, and is the focal point of the new restaurant, as well as the menu.
To execute the Mastino concept, Dapuzzo partnered with master pizza chef, Salvatore Campanile, founder of ZaZa Pizzeria Napoletana in Sugarloaf Key, Florida. Campanile, who has been certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (True Neapolitan Pizza Association), makes each pizza according to a strict set of "rules" governing authentic Neapolitan pizza making.
At Mastino, each pizza is baked in the restaurant's own low-domed oven; uses only imported Italian "00" flour; uses hand-kneaded dough (not rolled with a pin or prepared by any mechanical means); and each pie is no more than 35-centimeters in diameter, and not more than one-third of a centimeter thick at the center.
The menu also offers a number of Italian soul foods, small plates that include panini sandwiches, spit-roasted free range chicken, homemade meatballs, risotto balls, and a mini osso bucco. The fresh mozzarella bar is a highlight, serving hand-pulled house mozzarella cheeses, including fresh burrata, straciatella, and a specialty buffalo milk mozzarella that is imported twice a week from Italy.
The real focus, however, is on Campanile's pizza. The menu includes several "rosse" and "blanche" varieties, including the house favorite: the parma. The pies is made with a sweet San Marzano tomato sauce, the house mozzarella, basil, prosciutto, arugula, and cherry tomatoes.
If you're interested in learning more about making Neopolitan pizza, Mastino will be offering an Artisan Pizza Academy with a set of three culinary classes including: The Art of Mozzarella Class; Introduction to Basic Pizza Making Class; and the 5-Day Professional Neapolitan Pizza Certification Course. The classes will abide by the old-world artisan traditions based on a very specific set of rules that must be followed when creating an authentic Neapolitan pizza, said Campanile. Dates and prices for these classes will vary, and those interested in attending should contact Mastino directly at 561-922-0900.
Mastino Wood Fired Italian Kitchen & Bar is located at SoLita Delray Beach at 25 NE Second Street, Delray Beach. Visit mastinowoodfire.com, or call 561-922-0900.
South Florida-based Society 8 Hospitality Group currently operates SoLita and Mastino in Delray Beach, and oversees all food and beverage operations at The Atlantic Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale, including the two new oceanfront restaurants Beauty & the Feast Bar and Kitchen, and Ocean Market Grille.
Nicole Danna is a food blogger covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.
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