Even the wordliest or most fun vacations can include a craving for a taste of home. And nothing screams Long Island comfort more than a slice (or three) of brick-oven pizza. But when your travels take you South, I found five Florida pizza meccas serving delicious wood-fired pies with hints of local flare totally worth the morning-after guilt. Plus, they’re all within striking distance of the Interstate. Dig in.
Pizza Bruno, Orlando
Those flying into OIA should consider timing arrivals to catch an early dinner at this neighborhood gem a few miles away—there’s nearly always a wait, and the famous garlic knots are known to go fast. (Don’t bother phoning ahead, Pizza Bruno doesn’t have a phone.) Pop a PBR, bully tablemates into ordering one of everything and trade slices of clam pie with garlic confit and guanciale, the crimson ghost with calabrian chilies and hot sopressata or classic ‘roni. You could save room for dessert, but the smart money and calories are on a side of meatballs with lemon ricotta. Go.
Grato, West Palm Beach
It’s 3pm and you need pizza (and a smart cocktail). Grab a seat at Grato’s, where a limited all-day menu includes all of its brick-oven pizzas. The easiest time to score a table at this chic and spacious spot in the historic El Cid neighborhood is in between lunch and dinner. The Dak, a white pizza with onion, ham and just the right amount of rosemary, pairs perfectly with wine-on-tap or an aperitif. Go.
Jerk Oceano, Lantana
Formerly known as Pizzeria Oceano, this quirky patio in the burbs posts a different menu online each day, focusing on local ingredients and the considerable whims of Chef Dak, the namesake for Grato’s popular white pie. Check in advance to make sure that you like what’s on offer, because there are just one or two pizzas each day and substitutions are never, ever permitted. Go.
Scuola Vecchia Pizza e Vino, Delray Beach
When Sharon and Shaun Aloisio chose “old school” Italian as their restaurant’s moniker, they weren’t kidding around. The kitchen makes mozzarella and burrata-style cheeses in house daily and fires hand-stretched pies in a 1,000-degree wood-fired oven, with swoon-worthy results. This crisp and cozy spot on a quieter stretch of the main drag serves up more than 20 varieties with traditional ingredients such as the red-sauced Padrino (caciocavallo cheese, hot sopressata, gaeta olives and basil) or the award-winning white Delray (truffle spread, fresh mozzarella, mushrooms and prosciutto). Go.
Osteria Acqua e Farina, Fort Lauderdale
Pizza isn’t the main focus of this high-end (and high dollar) eatery in a smallish strip mall, but the wood-burning oven that greets guests at the entrance hints at good things to come. Imported salumi and Italian cheeses such as taleggio, scarmorza, robiola and gorgonzola top beautifully charred pies, which are small enough for one but big enough to be passed around the table. The tiny dining room gets packed with regulars even early in the week, and the wait staff may rush you through a $50 bottle of wine quicker than you can say “dolcetto,” but sublime pies alongside more upscale offerings make this osteria worth the outing. Go.