By Sara Liss
The goods: The restaurant beast that is Mary Brickell Village cannot be stopped. Adding to downtown’s burgeoning culinary mecca is Blu Pizza e Cucina, a gourmet pizza and Italian restaurant that offers belly-filling fare to Brickell office refugees. The brick-walled dining room, suffused with the sounds of opera arias and the smells of fresh pizzas baking, has an urban neo-industrial feel. A ponderous mosaic tile-covered circular pizza oven holds court in the center of the corridor-like dining room, while two bars – a 12-seat pizza bar and a 10-seat wine bar – provide ample spectator views to the buzzing open kitchen. Seating options span both indoor and courtyard settings. With inviting tables commingling with the neighboring Abokado restaurant, the courtyard easily exemplifies Mary Brickell Village’s bustling new dining scene.
The grub: A bounty of Mediterranean-inflected Italian eats, including pizzas, paninis, calzones, salads, pastas and fish and steak dishes. The wood-burning oven is the star with blistery-crusted pizzas, toasted sandwiches and stuffed calzones providing the foundation for the rustic fare. Prices are low enough to encourage sampling from the voluminous menu. Pizzas range from $10-$15, pastas $11-$15 and salads $7-$14. Mains rarely climb above $20 for veal scallopini or fresh fish. Executive Chef Riccardo Tognozzi, a veteran of Bay Harbor Island’s Caffe Da Vinci and North Bay Village’s Oggi, knows his way around a gnudi, having worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy.
Dinner starts with crusty ciabatta rolls and an olive oil-infused bean dip. Starters like the tomato and mozzarella rice croquetas and the burrata mozzarella (flown in from Puglia) set the stage for the hearty fare. Blu offers an ample list of pizzas both with and without tomato sauce. The "salmone e caprino" pizza comes topped with fat slices of smoked fish, mozzarella, smoked salmon, goat cheese, red onions, capers and fresh arugula. A pizza "diavola" is a heady combination of tomato sauce, mozzarella and spicy salamino. Pizzas can also be made with 100% organic soy flour. For something lighter, venture beyond arugula and romaine for less common salads: a heap of baby spinach, dried apricots, golden raisins, fennel, and toasted almonds dressed in a citrus vinaigrette. For pasta fanatics, the homemade pumpkin ravioli dotted with shards of asparagus in pink sauce may inspire return visits.
The wine list offers over 100 bottles of mostly Italian wines including varieties produced in a sustainable environment or with certified organic grapes grown without pesticides or herbicides.
Blu’s dessert menu includes classics like tiramesu, zabliogne and chocolate mousse, but also features a waist-conscious mini-dessert sampler with three finger-size portions for those who like to taste but not overindulge.
The verdict: Pizza lovers and Italian food aficionados have plenty to satiate at Blu Pizza e Cucina. Organic foodies will appreciate Blu’s eco-conscious wine selection.
Blu Pizza e Cocina, Mary Brickell Village, 900 S. Miami Ave, ste. 130; 305-381-8335