Chapultepec: An authentic Mexican taqueria in South Florida

One thing I have noticed in the 4 years I have spent in the metro Miami area is there is a wide variety of cuisine, but surprisingly, there is not so much variety when it comes to authentic Mexican cuisine.

I had heard about Chaputlepec, 23 NW 2nd Avenue and it had been on my list to try for some time. I finally made it with a friend on a Saturday night, and upon arrival they had set up outside to serve tacos street style. This was a good sign, because this is how it is often done in Mexico, and I have never seen this until now in metro Miami / Fort Lauderdale.

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Deciding to take a seat inside – though there was outside seating available, we reviewed their simple menu offering the typical fajitas, assorted tacos (all the right ones: al pastór, de lengua, barbacoa, res, pollo), fajitas, churrasco, as well as honduran baleadas and salvadorean pupusas.

We ordered a bucket of cold, assorted Mexican beer; the weekend special is 6 Mexican beers for $20. Tacos were $2 each; a fair if not great deal, and of straightforward, authentic quality. Not the best I have ever had, but the real deal. The staff was friendly, and accepted all major credit cards.

I also ordered a pupusa with my meal. A pupusa is a Salvadorean specialty and when properly done, it is sublime. The pupusa I got was disappointing. It tasted like it was pre made, stored, and re-heated on site. The texture was not good, and I could not taste the fillings. I did manage to get most of it down by dousing it with an excellent habanero sauce that you have to ask for specifically. It appears to be made on site, and is deliciously hot. It was served with the customary curtido, a salvadorean cabbage based relish, and the curtido was good, and properly made.

My dining companion ordered a churrasco, which came out properly cooked to medium, and was a good quality piece of skirt steak. Not too tough, and well seasoned. The yellow rice and refried beans that came were pedestrian. They were not bad, but not great. They were ok. Fresh tortillas were served steaming and wrapped in a cloth to keep them warm.

Chapultepec is not the best Mexican restaurant ever, but it is real, authentic, and it is good. I definitely would go back.

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Gentílí, a premium Italian olive oil new to the US market

Many of you know that the marketplace for olive oil is in some ways more complex than the marketplace for wines. There are great wines and awful wines, but at least we don’t have a significant problem with counterfeit or adulterated wine. Not so with olive oil. There are fakes, that is to say diluted or completely different oils scented to mimic olive oil, lower grade pomace oils mislabled as extra virgin, oils mislabled as to country of origin and then legitimate but just plain awful oils.

A new (bottled since 1820 but new to the US) extra virgin olive oil being imported into the US via South Florida is harvested and pressed by the Gentílí family of the Lazio region of Central Italy.  Offered by the botique firm “Best From Italy” operated by expats Anna & Marco Zanna, it is touted as a “finishing oil” meaning the finest grade of oil (from any type of plant) for use only on raw, cold or already cooked foods. The point is that the heat of cooking will burn off the aromatics that separate this finest grade of oil from more robust or less delicate products.

Methodology

To test the olive oil, I set up a 4-step process. I set some aside plain to be sampled with fresh Cuban bread, a white bread with a neutral flavor; I made a salad of a minced fresh tomato, chopped fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, shaved garlic and kosher salt, then I got out my mortar and pestle and ground some garlic with the olive oil and a touch of egg white to create an aioli.  Lastly I boiled some Dreamfields brand penne pasta to the “al dente” stage to sample neat, that is to say, just the pasta and the olive oil alone.

An olive oil tasting

3 of the 4 ways I tested this olive oil

Step 1, bread

Upon opening the bottle, and sampling the aroma, there was the unmistakable olive oil smell, but admittedly it was not particularly strong. This led me to anticipate a milder oil, probably harvested towards the end of the olive season.  The oil is clear – not crystal clear and synthetic looking, but naturally clear, evoking a traditional artisan cold pressing. Upon sampling it on a slice of  mild, neutral tasting bread, the first thing I noticed was as I anticipated, a mild encounter, though not at all flavorless. There was a fruity start, followed by  the unmistakable almondy flavor that only comes from olive oil, but surprisingly finished with a peppery yet still mild taste.  This olive oil is mild and delicate, but not without character.

Step 2, aioli

In the aioli (aioli is a condiment made of olive oil and garlic pounded together until a paste forms. Some people add a touch of egg as an emulsifier, yet some purists and traditionalists disdain this. I used about a half teaspoon of egg whites) the fruity and mild character of this olive oil balances the strong punch of the garlic very well. An aggressive early season or heavy Spanish oil might clash in this same situation.  Because it is a milder oil, the aromatics of the garlic stood out, giving the aioli an almost wasabi – like character.

Step 3, salad

The olive oil really shone in the tomato salad, contributing a silky texture and moderating the natural chalkiness of the cheese and crunch of the pine nuts. Its delicate flavor profile serves as a wonderful canvas, allowing the enjoyment of the complex fresh (never refrigerated) tomato taste and the fresh cut basil. Again, it served as a competent foil to the pungency of the shaved garlic. The wrong kind of oil would clash with the fresh basil but this olive oil supported the menagerie of flavors quite nicely.

There are some meals like jambalayas or ratatouile where you want a lot of different things going on flavor – wise. Other times you want simplicity. That is when you reach for this olive oil. Certainly fruity and with a peppery aftertaste, it still is unmistakably mild and delicate. A high quality canvas happy to play a supporting role to a cast of other finesse actors.  This should not be the only olive oil in your kitchen, but one to use in very simple preparations, like on a plain bruschetta or in a caprese salad with a pouch of fresh burratta. There are occasions where I prefer a more agressive “green” olive oil, pressed earlier in the season or from a different terrioir, yet this still rounds out nicely the 3 or 4 varieties of olive oil I try to keep on hand in my pantry.  Gentílí is a great value at the price of $19.99 for a half a liter (16.9 fl oz.) listed on the importer’s website, www.bestfromitaly.us.

Jimmy’z Kitchen – comfort food done up casually cool

It was a Tuesday night, almost 8pm and the dining room of Jimmyz Kitchen was sparsely populated. The streets outside were quiet. At the same time tranquil and ominous, many cities have these “neighborhoods in transition.” The trendy and hip or at least those who pretend to be, live in close proximity to the bums, crackheads and the decent but impoverished. Many cities have neighborhoods like this. The Short North in Columbus, East Cleveland, in Miami it’s called Wynwood, The Design District. Nestled between the infamous hood of Overtown, Little Haiti to the north, and “midtown” which is otherwise merely the extreme north end of Downtown, the design district is home to lots of warehouses turned art galleries, haute design furniture stores, fancy or at least expensive restaurants, and still quite a few carry outs, liquor stores, and mom & pop beans & rice joints. A promising indication of the direction the area is headed though is the relatively new shopping center and high rise residential development anchored by a Target, Home Goods & Marshalls.

Jimmy’z Kitchen, opened in this environment a few months ago as an offshoot of their long time Miami Beach 0peration on Alton Road. At 2700 N. Miami Avenue, Jimmy’z is not surrounded by fancy sights or on a trophy corner, but the location is convenient to many potential diners, including Downtown, the nearby University of Miami & Jackson Memorial medical facilities, all the Design District galleries and the midtown condo residences up and down Biscayne Blvd.  The dining room is bright and inviting, with a combination of vivid color and unfinished concrete. Occupying an unusual niche between fast – casual and full service dining, one places his or her order at the counter as if one were in a fast food restaurant, then proceeds to take a designer plastic seat and wait for table service when the order is ready. There was a menu written in chalk on the wall and normally one can assume that these are the daily specials but the cashier told me that the chalkboards were old and to ignore them, and to refer to the printed menu above the cashier stations instead.

My companion and I decided to start with a shared appetizer of conch salad ($9.99) that came served on three large tostones. Called patacones in Colombia and Venezuela, tostones are flattened and fried plantain slices. The conch salad was deliciously prepared – not too creamy and piquant but not too sour. Conch salad is The Bahamas’ version of ceviche. The same idea, made with conch as the star instead of shrimp, fish or some other seafood. Like ceviche, the trick is to make it acidic enough to properly pickle the fish without overpowering the delicate seafood flavor. Jimmy’z gets it right.  Oh, we ordered a bottle of wine. A very good Cotes du Rhone, 2007 Les Trois Couronnes was just $19.00. Wine prices ranged between about $14 to $50 per bottle and I believe we got an excellent value for our bottle. By the way, don’t be offended when you ask for a glass of water to accompany your meal or wine. They will point across the dining room to some cups and water pitchers; you serve yourself. If you order a soft drink or a tea, they give you the bottle at the counter as if you were in a Subway restaurant.

Thinking we would split and share a couple of entrees to sample more variety, we decided to start on our main course by ordering the Churrasco Mofongo ($17.50). For those unfamiliar with the cuisine of The Greater Antilles, mofongo is a dish made of fried and mashed plantains to which other savory ingredients are added such as pork rinds, garlic, onions, sauce, etc. Not to be confused with mangú, which is simply the plantain equivalent of mashed potatoes, mofongo is not a side dish but the base of a hearty meal and most certainly NOT diet food. Mofongo surely has something to do with so many great “beisbol” athletes coming out of Cuba, Puerto Rico and The Dominican Republic, 3 places where mofongo is a staple. If you eat this stuff on a regular basis you are going to have surplus kilocalories of energy to burn!

I have had plenty of mediocre mofongo over the years, even in places like San Juan and Santo Domingo. Mofongo is a lot like an omelet. The ingredients are very simple, it’s all in the technique. Jimmy’z doesn’t sweat the technique, they know what they are doing. Mofongo when prepared properly is a balance between creamy and crunchy. Think about an expertly prepared french fry or hash brown. The outside is crispy and the inside is creamy.Not only was the mofongo perfectly balanced and not too greasy (a common mistake) but the accompanying adobo seasoned flank steak churrasco was perfectly cooked to order – medium rare in our case.  The churrasco cut is by no means the most tender cut of beef but like sirloin, what it lacks in tenderness it makes up for in flavor. This churrasco was very juicy (it is a sin to overcook and dry out a churrasco – or any steak for that matter, and to order it well done is also a sin!) It was a good foil to the mofongo and the two tangoed well on the tongue.

For the second entree… well there was no second entree. The two of us could not finish the first because we were simply too full. This is no reflection on the quality, the food was great, the service was friendly and efficient and the environment was fun and inviting. In fact, they had closed by the time we left two hours later and politely waited quietly until we got the hint that they wanted to go home. I started to get the point when they had turned off all the lights in the kitchen. This was not until after we did find room to split an order of their guava cheesecake ($4.00). The cheesecake was creamy and unlike most casual restaurants – even unlike many higher end restaurants, I think it just might have been made there on the spot, or at least purveyed by a local gourmet bakery. The red guava glaze though was so sweet and tangy that it would have probably made a kitchen sponge taste good.

Two of us had a belt busting good dinner with great bottle of wine for under $50 excluding tip. Jimmy’z is a great place and the only real gripe I can think of other than they need to do a better job of keeping their menus in sync is that they totally busted my diet. Jimmy’z Kitchen Wynwood  is open from 11am until 10 on weekdays and until 11 on weekends. It is a fun, casual place serving ample portions of superb, well prepared food.

I’ll be back.

A first look: Oh! Sushi Restaurant & Market does not disappoint…

Where I am from up north, there are lots of all-you-can-eat buffets but not that many sushi restaurants.  In Miami there are plenty of sushi restaurants but not so many buffets.  Off the top of my head I can think of 5 sushi places within 1 block from my Miami Beach office but like so many other things in Miami they suffer from polarization. You either have disposable tray take out style fast food joints (a few of which are quite good) or you have the high end white tablecloth trendy spots engineered to impress your date (all of which are very expensive). While there are a few Asian restaurants in town offering both good sushi and good value – Kyojin, POC and LAN Pan-Asian come to mind, they are not sushi restaurants, rather restaurants that offer sushi.  Where Oh! Sushi Fills the gap is in its offering of a full service quality sushi experience in a casual, friendly environment.

I was invited to a social-media pre-opening so admittedly the experience was not the same as a walk in diner but there is a lot I can say here. The restaurant is in a nondescript strip center typical of its Doral environs, located at 9036 NW 25th St. across from the Miami-Dade Police Operations Center. It is not that easy to see from the street so the police center makes a good landmark. The strip center has ample parking, which is always a plus.  The restaurant was very well decorated with lots of attention paid to detail from the bamboo tables and flooring to the Japanese pop-art decor. Even the obligatory “must wash your hands” sign in the spotless restroom was not only customized for the Oh! Sushi brand but very detailed – Lest you forget how, it even takes you through the entire process step by step.

The Japanese are famous for applying technology to everyday living and Oh! Sushi brings this to us with their purpose built combination sake heater /dispenser, and a high tech robotic coffee machine from the future (or maybe from Japan). HDTV screens throughout the restaurant actually show sushi being prepared from the vantage point of a camera placed above the prep space. The thought put into the development of the Oh! Sushi brand by Restauranteurs Felipe Del Valle, Veronica Silva and Eloy Contreras and their culinary consultancy Create-A-Restaurant is evident, and even though this restaurant is not part of a chain or franchise, the concept has been fully developed and will translate and duplicate well. I would be neither surprised nor disappointed to see Oh! Sushi locations sprouting up in multiple locations or even on the pages of the business section of The Wall Street Journal at some point in the not too distant future.

I was immediately seated and served a bowl of edamame ($3.59). Edamame is simply soybeans cooked while still in the pod. Tasty, healthy and fun to eat, I like to eat edamame as an alternative to popcorn while at home watching a movie or football game. Oh! Sushi’s preparation was steamed, salted just right with coarse grained kosher salt, and served with an extra bowl for the empty pods. I chose the warm house sake as my beverage, and it was  quickly brought out to my table. I was pleased to see that the house sake is Sho Chiku Bai. Not an expensive or exclusive brand at all, but one of my favorites and the one I tend to keep on hand around the house.

I was served a seafood salad with mixed greens, sesame seeds and a touch of seafood. The two salads listed on the menu are salmon and wakame seaweed (both $7.99), but I think this was something specially prepared for the occasion.  The next course was three assorted gyoza dumplings ($0.99 each), two steamed in the traditional way and one fried. They were plated on a colorful rectangular plate with mixed black and white sesame seeds and in a warm sesame sauce. They were pork and chicken, served at the right temperature, and not slimy as poorly prepared dumplings can be.

The sushi assortment brought out on a traditional wooden sushi geta included sake nigiri ($0.99 each) – the salmon was quite fresh, futomaki ($0.99 each, 4pc. minimum) and a surprise – their “Crunch” Maki roll ($1.29 each, 4 pc. minimum) made with tuna, kimchee, tempura, roe and scallions was rolled not in nori seaweed as is customary, but pink “mame nori” which is a soy-based wrapper. Mame nori was invented it turns out for those either allergic or averse to seaweed or simply in want of variety. Personally I like the taste of the ocean that seaweed gives, but mame nori offers an interesting and innovative presentation variety with a neutral taste. It is available in several colors and can also be used in the sushi cones known as temaki ($4.59). In addition to the daikon garnish, shaved beet root added to the color of the presentation. The shoyu, or soy sauce was authentically Japanese Yamasa instead of one of the more commonly available Chinese types.  A side chicken tempura futomaki roll ($4.95 for 5 pieces or $9.90 for 10) was brought out and was hearty enough to serve as an entree by itself.  It is a chicken futomaki roll battered in tempura, fried, sliced and then plated in an elongated glass  dish. All the sushi was competently prepared, plated and presented. The rice held together well but was not overly starchy and the fish was impeccably fresh. Sashimi is also available, $5.99 for a three piece serving or $11.99 for 6 pieces.

If I pretend to be a critic, then I must be critical of something. The only negative was one common to most affordably priced Japanese themed restaurants, and that is the use of a powdered wasabi / horseradish blend instead of fresh grated, or at least frozen pure wasabe. I would venture to say that many people have never even had the pleasure (or pain) of experiencing pure wasabi on the palate. Once you have had the real thing you will know the difference. It is like the difference between British or Chinese hot mustard and ball-park mustard.  Admittedly, true wasabi is much stronger and more pungent than the common restaurant mix, it must be freshly grated or kept frozen and thus is more expensive to obtain and to handle. Still, true wasabi is so much better than the blend that in my opinion the blend should only be found as a side to grocery store or fast food sushi. This is the only minor gripe I have from what was all around a superb dining experience.

A chocolate crusted cheesecake was served for dessert. It was tasty and very attractively plated with a strawberry topping, but I don’t think it was either Japanese or prepared on site. Desserts and ice creams are all offered at $3.99. No flavors were listed on the menu so I believe they are either still working this out or want to retain flexibility in their offerings.

Oh! Sushi also contains a mini market of Japanese specialty items including toys, candy, condiments, and common Japanese kitchen staples like seaweed, katsuobushi and dashi-no-moto. They don’t have everything needed to stock a Japanese kitchen, but they have enough supplies and novelties to warrant a visit by the home cook or Japanese design afficionado.

Overall I highly recommend Oh! Sushi www.ohsushi.com as an enjoyable, casual spot where sushi is served at an affordable price point yet is expertly prepared with the best quality seafood. The waitstaff was friendly and efficient, and very conscious of every table. The restaurant opens to the public Tuesday, September 27, 2011 and also offers delivery in the Doral area.

diners at Oh! Sushi Doral, Florida

diners at Oh! Sushi

Taiwan (Republic of China) enters the Spirit World – with an impressive whiskey

Recently I attended a VIP reception sponsored by The Government of Taiwan as a part of the Asia / American Consumer Electronics & General Merchandise Trade Show (AACS.11) here in Miami.  The reception was designed to highlight Taiwan’s electronic, manufacturing and tourism industries, as well as their emerging couture and liquor business.  I will admit that up to this point I was oblivious to any food or drink specifically Taiwanese – Modern Taiwan was formed when Chaing Kai Shek and his Nationalist forces and supporters fled to the island of Formosa to escape Mao Tse Dung and the Communists. I have always thought of Taiwan’s cuisine and tastes to be essentially the same as mainland China’s.  Taiwan evidently wants to change this perception by stepping out on the world stage and revealing their own identity.

Law # 28 of Robert Greene’s “48 Laws of Power” states: “Enter into action with boldness.”  Food & beverage conglomerate King Car Group of Taipei is doing just that by introducing its Kavalan distillery and their award winning line of single malt whiskey to the world at large.  Doing their homework and bringing in experts from Scotland and Japan, they built from the ground up a modern distillery in 2002, releasing their first product in the Taiwanese domestic market in 2008.  They have spent the last 3 years perfecting their craft and building capacity for a global roll-out. They offer 4 varieties: A straightforward single malt whiskey as well as varieties aged in port, sherry and bourbon barrels. In addition to this they have a canned, ready – to – drink highball product.

I readily admit that I am finicky when it comes to whiskies in their various iterations. I am not a Scotch drinker (I like my meat smoky, not my drinks) but I do enjoy the finest Kentucky & Canadian products from time to time. There is a warming effect unique to whiskey. Rum is a hot weather, tropical drink but whiskey can warm your bones on a cold night. Whiskey is what I had that cold October night after I was attacked by a wild boar in Tennessee (I killed and ate it).  This being said, I did not expect much when I sampled the first glass.  “Watery,” I thought, but then this was because the convention center bartender prepared it too early and did so on the rocks. Giving it a second try, she prepared a tasting neat, that is to say pure with nothing to dilute it.

Taking time to absorb the bouquet, it was straightforward and pleasant, clean and crisper than some other whiskies, which is a good thing.  Upon first taste however, I felt that familiar warming of the extremeties that as I said, is unique to whiskey.  This was not at all harsh, but cognac smooth. Very drinkable yet with an assertive flavor. A good liquor should be gentlemanly. That is to say, manly but not brutish and unrefined. Kavalan certainly meets this standard. It reminded me of what honey would taste like were it savory instead of sweet.  Normally whiskey is something I keep on hand for guest requests. When Kavalan is available in the USA – I am told they are still setting up import channels and handling licensing arrangements, I will certainly stock it – and enjoy it myself.

For more information: http://www.kavalanwhisky.com/en/default.asp

Top 10 little known wine regions according to International Living…

http://internationalliving.com/2011/05/top-ten-off-the-radar-wine-regions/

Casolas: Likely the best New York style Pizza joint in South Florida. A tremendous, delectable value.

There seem to be 2 types of pizza endemic to Miami. Owing to the glam culture perhaps, there is the “gourmet” or artisan pizza; the one made with fresh handmade mozzarella on rustic focaccia bread, perhaps bejeweled with rosemary and topped with heirloom tomatoes and the finest charcuterie. Peeled out of wood fired ovens, they are brought to your table by waiters dressed in black and served with a fine prosecco or Peroni. These are all very nice and some can be quite satisfying.

Then there is the other pizza. The American one. The one kids, college students and regular people of all ages eat. The one you eat with friends, or when you are not trying to impress people and fool them into considering you a sophisticate. This is the pizza you get at Casola’s Pizzeria & Sub shop, 2437 SW 17th Ave. in Miami.

Perhaps due to its East Coast location, the type of pizza most common in Miami (outside of the stuff you get in the national chains) is the New York style pizza, large pie style slices cut from a very thin crust. The pizza if eaten without the aid of utensils usually must be doubled into a U-shape just to prevent the large thin slice from flopping over and the toppings sliding off. This is different than the midwestern style known to pizza academics as “Chicago style thin crust” pizza often party-cut (square or rectangular slices) on a puffier crust with more substantial toppings. Both of these styles are only distantly related to the “Chicago deep dish” pizza which is more like a pot-pie made from pizza ingredients, or lasagna with bread instead of noodles, than anything that should be called a pizza.

Casola’s serves a very good rendition of New York style pizza. Open from 10:30am at least until 1am (Sundays), until 2am on weekdays and until 5am on Fridays & Saturdays Casola’s is a popular late night spot for South siders headed home from Downtown or Miami Beach partying, or for locals out and about in Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, Little Havanna or Coral Way. The establishment is set up for high volume. Counter style with 3 cashiers stations to take orders plus an additional station for ice cream (pizza & ice cream, anyone?) after placing your order and paying you receive a numbered receipt and wait for your number to be called. There always seems to be a high volume of both carry out and dine in orders. Casola’s also delivers to all of Downtown south of The Dolphin Expressway, Little Havanna out almost to Blue Lagoon, Coral Gables, The Roads, Coconut Grove and even Virginia Key and Key Biscayne.

The dining room is very spartan. There is a water cooler for those who opt for free self serve water over soda or beer (a thoughtful touch). The dining room (more like a galley) is lined with booths but the center is full of cafeteria style benches, something you would see in a summer camp lodge or a school cafeteria. This works though, as Casola’s is not trying to pretend to be some fancy highbrow eatery. There are also a few tables out front for those that want to dine outside. After receiving your pie, you are welcome to stop by a condiment station where a factory style powdered parmesan, oregano mix or crushed red pepper may be applied. It is not considered bad manners in Casola’s to walk over to another table and ask for a spice bottle as there are not enough for each table. It is just part of the atmosphere and the way things are done there.

On the first visit, I was entertaining a friend from out of town. Since I wasn’t that hungry, I naively thought I would “just have a slice” ($4.19 for pepperoni & cheese) along with a small order of chicken wings ($6.99 for 6 wings + $0.79 for sauce). My friend ordered a sausage stromboli ($6.99) and the idea was that we would create a little tapas platter and share between ourselves.

Silly rabbits.

One Casola’s slice of pizza is larger than some entire pizzas! It would take 3 picnic style paper plates to hold one slice of Casola’s pizza. When you order a single slice, they cut it in half for you “for your convenience.” Otherwise you would not be able to hold it. It’s just too big. Even still due to its thin, more bready than crispy crust, it’s too unwieldy to try to hold in a traditional manner and you are forced to at least consider cutting it into smaller, more manageable pieces with the provided disposable plastic cutlery. The pizza was very good. It is impossible to please everyone with a single pizza. Some like crispy crusts, others like chewy crusts. Some like the pizza overloaded with toppings, others prefer a more spartan approach. Casola’s pizza is more chewy, rather than the crisp, cracker like crust some prefer. Over a thin layer of rather neutral sauce it is topped with a very good low moisture (pizza style) mozzarella. In fact, the cheese is probably the best component of a Casola’s pizza. The topping, pepperoni in my case was good but not remarkable one way or another.

The chicken wings were not the tiny things that you get at most sports bars. They were large, full 3 part wing sections of the type your grandmother would serve between paychecks; back when chicken wings were considered “poor food.” They are served fried, crunchy and crispy; dusted with what tastes like a flour / cornmeal blend giving the skin a pleasing grit and texture. A local periodical voted Casola’s wings as the “best in town.” They are a significant departure from the way wings are served in sports bars or wing chains. The wings come dry and are not accompanied by dipping sauce, though blue cheese dip is available. They are delicious. Served straight out the fryer, they are too hot to hold for the first few minutes after seating. Once you are able to pry one open an enticing bouquet of vapor steams out of the fissure. With their wings, Casola’s achieves the perfect balance of a crispy exterior and a moist succulent, fully cooked interior.

The Stromboli was a huge, family size monstrosity that looked almost as big as a football. Served sliced in half it was stuffed with onions, mushrooms, bell peppers and cheese. They are available in either chicken or sausage varieties. The ingredients were well balanced and the Italian sausage was well seasoned but not overly spicy. A child would be able to eat it with no problem of it being to spicy. It is a challenge to be able to cook something so big all the way through properly. Normally something of this size would either have to be slow baked or the outside would cook before the inside. Somehow Casola’s pulls it off. I don’t know if they pre-cook the Strombolis based on predicted demand or what, but they know what they are doing. Claiming to have been around (First in New York, then Boston, then Miami) since 1944, they have had time to perfect their craft. It shows.

In addition to pizza, strombolis, wings and ice cream, Casola’s also serves croissant sandwiches, subs, burgers, salads, pasta dinners, catering, desserts, gelatos and…Doritos? (I have no idea why). Catering platters can be ordered for large crowds and parties. Oddly, french fries are not available on weekends.

Casola’s may very well be unbeatable on both quality and quantity. New York style pizza is not my favorite type but Casola’s offers far and away the best New York style pizza that I have had, and the hands down the best pizza-joint style cuisine I have experienced so far in South Florida. What they have chosen to do they do very very well, and with the added bonus of offering an amazing value.

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