Geeking Out on Pizza in Fort Lauderdale: Luigi's Versus South Florida Favorites

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Anthony's pizza
I'd been looking forward to reading Jamie Long's review of Luigi's Coal Oven Pizza this week, since, like many of you, I'm passionate about my pizza. Growing up in Jersey and doing time in New York, it's hard not to geek out on pizza in the country's pizza epicenter.

Coal oven pizzerias are common up there, but virtually nonexistent in DC, my home until a month ago. When I had learned there are so many coal-fired pizza joints here, I was elated. Florida, as you may be aware, tops New York City in coal fired pizza ovens, reported Serious Eats pizza expert Adam Kuban in 2009. Most of this growth, he wrote, can be attributed to the Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza chain.

As a South Florida newbie, I was intrigued to discover
that South Florida's coal oven pizzas are nothing like those in New York. Except at Luigi's.

Despite that he's 100% Italian and has not lived in New York, Luigi DiMeo makes pies that are similar to those churning out of coal fired ovens in Little Italy and Brooklyn. As closely as he says he's adhering to the Naples VPN, he's making what's essentially a New York-Neapolitan pie.

A quick primer from Mr. Kuban. On Slice, he delineates two types of Neapolitan pies. One, the Neapolitan standard, is baked in a wood-burning oven. This pie is ten inches across and features a puffy cornicione (crust), San Marzano tomatoes, and fresh ingredients, used sparingly.

The second is a New York-Neapolitan, a variation on the pie adopted for hotter, coal-fired ovens. Baking these take two to five minutes, depending on which pizzaiolo you're talking to. The defining characteristic of New York-Neapolitan is a larger, thinner, crispier pie. Lombardi's in New York, one of the country's oldest pizza joints, helped define this style.

What's off-putting to Neapolitan neophytes is the soupy, wet center, which means you may have to resort to a knife and fork, says Kuban in his Neapolitan for Dummies post from last week. The crust is decidedly floppier.

The reason for soup- and here's where the major difference lies between South Florida pies and New York-Neapolitans- is that the latter is made with a super fine "00" flour. Soup is the result when a pie doesn't bake in a 700-plus degree oven for long enough.

Anthony's pies are more similar to a Northern Italian style pie. Made with all-purpose flour, Anthony's dough makes for a thicker, chewier crust: better for a pizzaiolo with a heavy hand when it comes to toppings. D'Angelo's pies are closer to Anthony's than Luigi's, since they use an AP/00 blend.

"You can't make pizza with 100% "00" flour," said a cook at D'Angelo when I called yesterday. "You can't because of the glutens."

A little research says otherwise. Luigi DiMeo claims he uses 100% Caputo "00" flour, as do a half dozen pizzaiolos I have interviewed for various stories on Neapolitan pies made in DC and New York. Different flours result in drastic variations of thickness and texture when it comes to pizza crust.

Which brings me back to the Luigi's versus Anthony's discussion (or D'Angelo for that matter). Through this lens, it's tough to say what pizza is the best in town, since it's such a personal choice. They're totally different.

As with many forms of comfort food, we gravitate toward food that brings back fond memories of people we love and a town we've left behind.

Such is the case with pizza. If you're from South Florida, perhaps a thicker-crust pie with a generous spread of toppings is your thing. If you're from the Rust Belt, it might be a slice of Sicilian. Me? I'll polish off this margherita pie from Luigi's at my desk. I'm missing home.


Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Facebook and on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.

Location Info

Luigi's Coal Oven Pizza

1415 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL

Category: Restaurant

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9 comments
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John L
John L

The chef is obviously the most important factor with any pizza. That said, I'm also a firm believer in wood over coal.

Clark
Clark

The oven nonsense is just a gimmick. A way to convince people that your dough, sauce and cheese is better than the other guys.

Dave
Dave

I don't see how someone who has been in town for 3 whole weeks has the standing to talk about the best pizza in town. When you've only been to 3 of the 40 candidates you should just talk about something else

melissamccart
melissamccart

Hi Dave. Thanks for your comment. If you take notice, I didn't name a best pizza in town. I discuss styles and variation.

Robby
Robby

What rubbish. Anthony's pizza sucks because they are a bunch of arrogant slobs who have no idea how to cook. A skilled, dedicated chef can make a good pizza in any oven

melissamccart
melissamccart

I disagree, Robby. Working with dough is hard. Working with dough and dealing with a 60o to 800 degree oven in south Florida in august is an ass kicker. It's fine if you don't like the restaurant but it would be helpful if you were constructive rather than sideswiping with insults.

Robby
Robby

They choose the 800 degree oven. If they don't have the skill to deal with it that's their problem.

They were making damn good pizza in ny before anyone was using coal fired ovens All of this crap about ovens is the same bs as bagels and the water. The reason the pizza sucks down here is because you have lots of bad pizza makers. Many have proven you can make great pizza in a standard commercial oven.

Try to learn something. Good chefs can make good food with any oven. Write it down.

Scottrozinsky
Scottrozinsky

VPN says REAL Italian Pizza is cooked in Wood Fired Ovens NOT Coal. I guess Sicilian Oven's Pizza must be the closest to the real thing.They use only WOOD, no gas, no coal!!!!

MelissaMcCart
MelissaMcCart

Yep, you're right. No gas, no coal, "00" flour.

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