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News Every Day |

Who has the best pizza in South Florida? This time around, we’ve got 2 winners!

Who has the best pizza in South Florida? This time around, we’ve got 2 winners!

It’s shaping up to be a week of winning here in South Florida: The Florida Panthers are newly crowned Stanley Cup champions, and two local restaurants won separate contests for serving stellar pizza.

This month, we decided to make our Best of South Florida Dining series extra-special by having both a popular-vote competition and a blind taste test with a panel of judges. After all, the topic of pizza gets a lot of love and deserves all the praise.

Readers could nominate any pizza style — and South Florida has oven-baked options aplenty. Out of more than 700 nominations, we ended up with six finalists because of a tie. The top vote-getters, in alphabetical order, were:

So who reigned supreme? Well, we can tell you that the readers and the judges did not have the same No. 1.

Chef/owner Josie Smith-Malave (center) hosted the blind taste test at her Wilton Manors restaurant, Bubbles & Pearls, and served as a judge along with South Florida Sun Sentinel entertainment reporter Rod Stafford-Hagwood (left) and Mike Mayo, host of "Mike Mayo's Lunchbox." (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Chef/owner Josie Smith-Malave (center) hosted the blind taste test at her Wilton Manors restaurant, Bubbles & Pearls, and served as a judge along with South Florida Sun Sentinel entertainment reporter Rod Stafford-Hagwood (left) and Mike Mayo, host of “Mike Mayo’s Lunchbox.” (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

THE JUDGES’ PICK

On Tuesday, pizza fans tuned in for the blind taste test live on “Mike Mayo’s Lunchbox,” a streaming show in which the former South Florida Sun Sentinel columnist dishes about all things food. The panel of judges included Mayo along with Sun Sentinel entertainment reporter Rod Stafford Hagwood and chef Josie Smith-Malave, owner of Bubbles & Pearls restaurant in Wilton Manors, which hosted the event. Show producer Mike “Lubie” Lubitz also provided pizza commentary.

The contest was simple: A large cheese pizza was ordered from each restaurant finalist and given a letter, to keep judging anonymous. The pies were critiqued on taste, texture and appearance, factoring in ingredient quality and flavor (cheese, sauce, dough) and paying special attention to the cornicione (edges). Judges also took into consideration that the pizzas were reheated.

In the end, they had a unanimous winner: Sicilian Oven.

“A robust little slice with little blotches of red sauce, beautiful tiger-spotted undercarriage,” Mayo proclaimed as he picked up a slice, dangling it in the air. “The sauce is very good, very vibrant, not sweet, but it tastes like a ripe, beautiful tomato.”

Sicilian Oven, which has multiple locations, was the winner of the blind taste test at Bubbles & Pearls in Wilton Manors on Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Sicilian Oven, which has multiple locations, was the winner of the blind taste test at Bubbles & Pearls in Wilton Manors on Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Hagwood fell love in at first bite. “I’m going to buy this pizza a condo, I love it so much,” he joked.

How about that crust? “Beautiful! Just crispy and not big in the way of puffy cornicione, but just a crisp, beautiful flavor bomb. I love it,” Mayo said.

About those dollops of sauce on top, Smith-Malave said, “To me, when you get that bite, it makes it taste like lasagna because that’s what you love about the lasagna, is all that sauce and cheese kind of marrying together and melting in your mouth.”

Tomasso’s took second place, and Antonio’s was third best. See what the judges had to say about all of the pizzas, including an ASMR moment with Mayo crunching into the crispy crust of a Sicilian Oven slice, at Facebook.com/mikemayoslunchbox.

For more on Sicilian Oven, go to sicilianoven.com.

The Kristina Pizza is fresh out of the oven at Antonio's Pizza. (Amy Beth Bennett/ South Florida Sun Sentinel)
The Kristina Pizza is fresh out of the oven at Antonio’s Pizza. (Amy Beth Bennett/ South Florida Sun Sentinel)

THE PEOPLE’S PICK

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for … With more than 1,300 votes counted, Antonio’s was the clear People’s Choice winner.

Antonio’s has been serving up slices since 1978, when Tony and Karen Suriani opened the original location on Federal Highway in Dania Beach. Now it’s an even bigger family affair with their sons, Stephen and Daniel, running their two current pizza joints. Both of them oversee the restaurant at 4551 Hollywood Blvd. in Hollywood, and Stephen is at the helm of the 3088 Griffin Road location in Fort Lauderdale though “we all work together and collaborate to make it happen,” Stephen Suriani said. Plans for a third location, going back to Dania Beach, are in the works, he said.

Antonio’s menu also has salads, pasta, sandwiches, classic Italian dishes (The top seller? Chicken parm, of course.) and fresh seafood, as well as desserts such as N.Y.-style cheesecake and tiramisu. Another fan favorite: freshly baked rolls glistening with spoonfuls of garlic and oil on top.

“We’re actually known for our rolls,” Stephen Suriani said.

So how does it feel to be named the best pie maker in South Florida by the people?

“I’m really grateful to all of our amazing customers that made this happen,” Stephen Suriani said. “The readers are the judges and the ones with the taste, and they know good pizza …

“Myself being in the kitchen pretty much 100% of the time with my brother, and my brother overlooks all the recipes, we get the best, the highest-rated tomatoes that we use with our recipes, fresh garlic, all that stuff shows. They taste the difference.”

Stephen Suriani finishes a pie with a drizzle of olive oil at Antonio's Pizza in Fort Lauderdale. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Stephen Suriani finishes a pie with a drizzle of olive oil at Antonio’s Pizza in Fort Lauderdale. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Antonio’s make New York-style pizza with a crust that’s “got that nice crunch to it” along with “great sauce and great cheese,” he said.

In addition to their high-quality ingredients and equipment (such as their prized Bakers Pride brick oven), the Suriani family pride themselves on using one secret ingredient: passion.

“It’s just about doing things the right way and with principle doing it,” he said. “Everything has its place when you make that pizza, and just do it with attention and detail.”

While the classic cheese and pepperoni pizzas are predictably the most popular, Antonio’s also bakes specialty pies such as the Grandkid’s Pizza. They top a cheese pizza with homemade beef meatballs and ricotta cheese, and sprinkle it with fresh basil and grated Romano cheese once it comes out of the oven “because that’s what the grandkids liked on their pizza,” he said.

Manager Stanley Nortelus checks a pie in the oven at Antonio's Pizza.
Manager Stanley Nortelus checks a pie in the oven at Antonio’s Pizza. (Amy Beth Bennett/ South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Davie resident Vicki Griffith, who nominated and voted for Antonio’s, mentioned another specialty pie: The Kristina, which features tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and crispy eggplant and basil on top.

“Their eggplant beautifully breaded put on a pizza in these bite-size chunks is unbelievable!” she wrote in her nomination form.

“I have a thing about undercooked sauce and their sauce is perfect,” she added. “The toppings are fresh and delicious. They have the best meatballs in town, so put them on a pizza and you’re in heaven.”

She also has a tip to kick your pizza-eating experience up a notch: “I like to take the crust after eating my pizza and dip it into the wonderful garlic sauce that they put on their rolls.”

The Kristina is also Dania Beach resident Rose Ann Di Dio’s favorite pie, but she mentioned other pluses about the restaurant in her nomination.

“They put family traditions in the dishes they prepare and they are the ones (who) actually cook the food,” she wrote. “Every dish is prepared thoughtfully and with expertise, so that means everything is delicious from start to finish.”

Aventura resident Katie Prelaz wrote in her nomination that Antonio’s “always hits the spot!”

Why? Because the crust is “crunchy where it’s supposed to be crunchy, chewy where it’s supposed to be chewy, cheesy cheese, saucy sauce.”

For more information on Antonio’s, visit antoniosfl.com.

 

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