But despite the fact that I was on vacation, I still found time to work. You see, a few years ago when I was in Miami for the first time, friend to Slice Harvester and Miami native, Cristy Road, enlightened me to the fact that her home city has an entire culinary sub-culture of Cuban pizza shops that serve Cuban Style Pizza!!! I am not usually into regional pizza variations, but I love Miami and I love Cuban food, so I thought that maybe it would be awesome. Also fuck it, I am totally into regional pizza variations. Who am I kidding?
Anyway, my special lady friend's sister Dita suggested a couple of Cuban pizza places and Cha Cha, her mother, and I visited two of them. Earlier tonight when I was talking to Cha Cha about what to include in this review, she mentioned that her mother saved her soda cup as a keepsake from our day of Slice Harvesting! I tried to save all my stool the following day, for similar reasons, but those nazis in the TSA wouldn't let me bring that shit on the plane. (Har har).
Our first stop was Montes De Oca, on SW 8th St and SW 52nd Ct. This place is really awesome! It is half indoor and half outdoor, like many things in Miami. The outdoor portion has cool stone seating, and the indoor portion feels warm and inviting like a good diner. Everybody that works at Montes De Oca is really nice. They don't really speak any English, and my Spanish was horrible, and Cha Cha who sprechen zie Spanish was outside smoking when I tried to order, so there was a lot of gesturing and hand waving and making up words. Ultimately it took a total of three waitresses to get an order out of me, which is totally shameful. I vow to learn Spanish better from here on out!
Now, the first thing I noticed about this pizza was that the "toppings" were not on top! That's one of the things that seems to distinguish Cuban pizza from regular pizza. They put the toppings under the cheese. It is perhaps less visually tantalizing, but far more effective in terms of being able to eat the thing without it falling to bits. Like, sometime about halfway through my childhood, I noticed that when my mother prepared her bagel and lox, she would put the cream cheese down, then the cucumber, tomato and onion, and then finally put the lox on top. I always thought she was doing things totally backwards, because I put my vegetables on top of my smoked salmon, because they clearly looked better there! But then I realized, and by "I realized" I mean "she pointed out to me," that my bagel would fall all over the place all the time and hers remained neatly in place.
Anyway, this pizza was AWESOME. Another characteristic of the cuban pizza, at least the personal size, (as opposed to the family size, which is what they call a regular pie) is that it comes on a thick, soft crust, a lot like I remember Boboli being. It didn't even occur to me when I was there, but I am starting to wonder if the bigger pie has a thinner dough! I guess I'll find out in a few months when I am in Miami again. ANYWAY, this pie was like the most awesome Boboli pizza your mom ever made you while you were stoned and she didn't know it. Totally rules! Cha Cha's mom said this pizza was "rustic and delicious."
Montes De Oca - Pizza Mixta - $7.95
5241 SW 8th St (at SW 52nd Ct)
Coral Gables, FL 33134
Our next stop, Rey's Pizza, was about 10 blocks West on SW 8th. Doing some amateur internet sleuthing, I learned that Rey's Pizza was, allegedly, the first ever Cuban Pizzeria, founded by two best friends. They had a falling out some time in the 80s or 90s (I don't remember! WHO CARES?!) and then the one dude split and opened Montes De Oca! There is nothing I love more than a good falling out. (Maybe a good blood feud?) And so I was slash am totally excited about participating and perhaps exacerbating this feud by eventually liking one of these places more than the other!!!!! OMG!
Rey's Pizza is shaped like a castle, which is awesome. I love most non-White Castle castle-shaped businesses. I wish I could go back in time and add that to the interests in my livejournal profile. "...cutting onions with a serrated knife, non-White Castle castle-shaped businesses, Wu-Tang grammatical errors..." It would've fit so well. I tried to take a picture of Rey's Pizza from the front, but walking in front of cars with an air of authority and snapping a quick picture of a business seems like it might get me murdered in Miami as opposed to just honked at like it does here in New York.
|Rey's Pizza has an awesome costume mascot.
Rey's Pizza has no outdoor area, and the inside was brightly lit like a fast food joint. If any of my Miami readers want to write a scene report from Rey's Pizza at like 3am on a Saturday, I'd love to print it. This place seems like it would be totally awesome in the middle of the night. I'm not sure if I prefer the warmth of Montes De Oca to this place, I think it's situational. Like, I think depending on the circumstance I'd prefer both equally. The employees at Rey's Pizza were really nice, too. And they have their own brand of Meatless Spaghetti Sauce for Multipurpose Italian Specialties!
There was a little bit of deliberation, but for the sake of continuity I decided to get a Pizza Mixta here as well. I had the unfortunate experience of watching them cook my pizza here. They assembled the pizza on a countertop and then placed it in one of those weird conveyer belt ovens you imagine them having in prison kitchens. It was a real serious bummer for me to watch, but I figured, when in Rome or whatever. Anyway, they gave me my pizza eventually and I ate it eventually.
This pizza was WAY more well done then the last one and Mom remarked that they were more stingy with the ingredients than Montes De Oca. Cha Cha's initial assessment of this pie was that it would be better, because she likes her pizza burnt to a crisp apparently! JK. This pie was nicely just nicely browned, but after the altogether pretty pleasant experience I had with the last one, I had a hunch that Cuban pizza was not as good when cooked as thoroughly as a New York slice. And I dare say, I was right!
The crust was thinner and crunchier, but that didn't suit the style of pizza so well. The crust at Montes De Oca was thick and airy, and the cheese on top was viscous and warm without ever crisping. Generally all the flavors and textures of that pie were round and comforting. This pie, on the other hand was sharp and rough. And in general it just wasn't as good! I think even if it had been cooked "properly" (I don't even know if that's the word I am looking for), it wouldn't have been as good as Montes De Oca. If I were to describe this pie in two words, I would say "stingy and crisp," which pales in comparison to Mom's assessment of the last pie as "rustic and delicious." Ultimately, though, even if the other place was better, this was good food and I would eat it again!
Rey's Pizza - Pizza Mixta - $7.95
6340 SW 8th St (SW 63rd & 64th Aves)
West Miami, FL 33144