"Pizza is like sex. Even when it's bad, it's pretty good." As a Connecticut boy, I was spoiled when it came to pizza.
Phil Baker's was owned by a retired boxer who turned out the most fragrant pie only blocks from my grandparents' house in Norwalk, Conn. It was, as New York Times food critic Gael Green wrote, "perfect pizza." Phil Baker's was torn down to make way for the extension of Route 7.
I have searched for 40 years to find this pizza of my boyhood. I went to Sally's and Pepe's and the Spot in New Haven. I haunted John's of Bleeker St., Arturo's on Houston St. and Tontonnos and Lombardi's on the lower East side. I went to Patsy's under the Brooklyn Bridge when it was still owned by Patsy.
In my college years, until I left Washington, D.C., there was only one sublime pie -- A.V. Ristorante on New York Ave., long ago torn down to make way for a convention center hotel. I was concerned about the quality of the pizza when I moved to the Sunshine State.
I didn't need to worry. Perhaps South Florida has such great pizza because many Italian American "snowbirds" moved here from the frigid Northeast.
I first rated pizza in South Florida for the Miami Beach Wire in 1985. The pizza scene has changed drastically. The task of rating pizza is difficult because tastes vary: some like it thin and oily (New York style) , others like it thick and bready (Sicilian). Some like it charred on the edges (coal fired), others prefer more cheese than sauce. The use of San Marzano tomatoes alone can get a pizzeria on our list.
Now I have rated the pizza of South Florida -- and to my surprise, the choices are as good as if we were in Brooklyn.
Best overall: Cafe Europa on Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale --"No Name" pie to die for.
2nd best overall: Giotto Pizza in Miami Beach -- no atmosphere, killer-thin pie.
3rd best overall: Pizzaria Oceano in Lantana.
Best balance: Lucali South Beach -- very chic.
Best pizza Margherita: Luigi's Coal Fire on Las Olas -- stick to the Margherita.
Best wood and coal combo oven pizzas: Tuccis Fire 'N' Coal Pizza in Boca Raton -- a hidden gem.
Best coal-oven pizza: Nicks New Haven pizza in Boca Raton; also, Espositos Pizza in Davie.
Most inconsistent:Anthonys Coal Fired pizza (can be undercooked at peak times, otherwise a contender).
Best Neapolitan pizza: Fratelli La Buffala in Miami Beach.
Best wood-oven pizza: Kitchenetta in Fort Lauderdale; Osteria Acqua and Farina in Fort Lauderdale and Sicilian Oven in Lighthouse Point.
Best Sicilian slice: three way tie -- La Pizzeria in Pompano Beach, Frankies Pizza in Miami, Kings County Pizza in North Miami Beach
Best regular slice: Times Square Pizza in Fort Lauderdale and Mauro's Pizza in Hollywood.
Gone downhill: Spris on Lincoln Road, South Beach.
Best deep-dish pizza: No winner.
Best brick-oven pizza: Andiamo Brick Oven Pizza in Miami.
Best thin-slice personal pizza: Joeys in Miami.
Best "Grandma" slice: River Front Pizza, Fort Lauderdale.
Blandest pizza: Steves's Pizza, North Miami Beach -- tasteless.
Surprising pizza: Cafe Martorano (Hard Rock location only).
Good only at 3 a.m. pizza: Primanti Brothers, A1A Fort Lauderdale.
Roger Stone, who wrote this piece exclusively for Sunshine State News, writes at StoneZONE.com on politics and at StoneonStyle.com on style.