"This style of pizza is a melting pot of different types of pizza," says Kerprich. "It's not Sicilian, it's not New York, it's not Neapolitan, it's not a grandma-style. It's something totally different, and even though I didn't want to admit it, it's far better than what I was serving at Pizzeria Oceano."
Of course, that's what you'd expect from a facility that's been more than two years in the making, what Kerprich describes as a pizza-only operation where he's been able to remedy many of the hardships he encountered making pies at his popular Lantana restaurant, which he recently rebranded into a seafood-focused establishment dubbed Jerk O.
Known across South Florida for his own Americano-style pizza, today Kerprich is revolutionizing the way you eat pizza not in a restaurant — but at home. To do so, he's taken his lauded pies and made them portable with a new dough (one that undergoes an extensive three-day prep process and took months to perfect); a bigger facility with a wood burning oven (that can offer up a consistent product for orders placed online or via telephone); and a staff dedicated to making the healthiest pies available in South Florida (using all organic and artisan ingredients procured locally, or in the US, several times a week).
Some may bemoan the fact that they can no longer order up the pie of the day at Pizzeria Oceano, listen to Kerprich chide customers for wearing too much perfume or attempting to change custom toppings, and still many more that love to hate him for refusing to have a phone. But there's plenty more to look forward to with Swell Pizza, he says.
"There's no one else doing this, making really good, healthy pizza — slow food fast-food — with all organic ingredients that are local and domestic," says Kerprich. "When I first started making pizza, I had to think outside the box. Now, I have to fit it in a box."
Despite the lack of sit-down service, at least now there's a place you can actually call, where someone will pick up the phone and take your order. There's also the option of using an new online ordering service that makes customizing your pie easy and efficient. And soon, a delivery service (currently in the works) will bring your pizza to you without any worries of finding a seat at Oceano's tiny outdoor patio (and even smaller interior dining room), or stumbling up to a kitchen that may run out of your favorite ingredient.
Unlike at Oceano where the pies — and overall menu — changes daily, Swell Pizza offers just three takes: a basic (with mozzarella, tomato sauce, provolone, pecorino, basil); a red (with tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, olive oil and an optional addition of pecorino cheese); and a white (with mozzarella, provolone, a soft fromage rouge, shallots, and pecorino with a side of chili oil). Each pie can be made customizable with add-ons like a domestically sourced mortadella, spicy capicola, serrano ham, garlic, onion, and Swell's own homemade mozzarella.
Not many people have heard the Pizzeria Oceano founder tell the story of how his Lantana restaurant came about: that before Oceano he owned and operated a New-York-style pizza restaurant on Singer Island, Miss Marsha's, named after his wife; that he never intended to specialize in pizza when he opened Oceano in 2009; and that he even toyed with the idea of calling it a "pizzeria" at all.
"After Miss Marsha's, I took a year off to dabble in different things," says Kerprich. "I knew I wanted to do pizza again, but I wanted to do it right. All organic, and using local foods. At that time, deciding to open Pizzeria Oceano was a big gamble for me."
In the past six years, Pizzeria Oceano's pies have been dubbed among the best in South Florida by sources including Sun Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, New Times, WorstPizza.com, JeffEats.com, and news channel CBS12. Moving forward, Swell Pizza will carry on Kerprich's vision to make a good — and good for you — pizza.
"Pizzeria Oceano was great, but it was also limiting. Changing the menu everyday, that wasn't something that could be reproduced with another location," says Kerprich. "My goal is to hopefully open more locations, to give everyone in South Florida a chance to try a good-tasting, healthy pizza — a true, local, organic pizza — they can take home and enjoy with their family. With this model, I'm finally able to do everything I've always wanted to do."
The restaurant is currently operating on reduced hours, and opens Tuesday through Sunday at 4 p.m. Swell Pizza will launch a delivery service from Boynton Beach to Boca Raton later this summer, and will expand business hours from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Swell Pizza is located at 309 NE Second Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-292-2020, or visit swellpizza.com.
Nicole Danna is a food writer 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 the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.