By Victoria Pesce Elliott
If you can get through massive, maddeningly designed menu filled with so many typesetting tricks — stars, moons, diamonds, forks and knives, red flags, chartreuse boxes, nutrition notes, unattributed quotes — there’s lots of things to like about the new Blu Pizza e Cucina in Mary Brickell Village — friendly staff, comfortable dining room and some very tasty pizzas.
Owners Maurizio Farinelli and Agustin Sanchez, the duo behind South Miami’s enduringly popular Trattoria Sole and Blu la Pizzeria del Sole, know how to run a restaurant. They know how to put together a wine list, too. The well-selected and fairly priced collection (generally less than double retail) includes bargain Sardinian finds and a couple of nice barolos. There are also draft beers from Italy, Germany and Belgium and bottles of Italy’s smooth Menabrea golden lager, among others. Beer makes a nice pairing with one of the cremosa pizzas covered in thin, salty ham and tangles of spinach. Its crust, like all those here, is authentically Italian — at once thin and doughy, chewy and crisp, with a touch of char from the wood-burning oven.
There are more than 25 pizzas to choose from, and most are fantastic. Creative toppings include huge strips of seared and peppered tuna loin, but it’s the basic mushroom or margherita that transport. The puffy, crusty, flour-coated rolls are also delicious, but the accompanying odd, orangy, bean-and-olive dip does not inspire. Also tasty is anything with the chewy faro grain, including a tangy, perfectly balanced, lemon and salt shrimp dish with diced red peppers, tiny cubes of sautéed zucchini and sweet golden raisins served cool with three exquisitely seared shrimp with a slightly caramelized edge. Other salads, though occasionally overdressed, are hearty, fresh and worth a try. The spinach with dried apricot and almonds in a citrus dressing makes a fine meal with the addition of grilled steak, chicken or fish.
A huge Italian burger is another almost-great proposition. The inch-thick patty had an appealing topping of gooey mozzarella over sun-dried tomato slivers, but was cold and raw in the center when ordered medium-rare. The steak fries alongside were some of the most delectable Ive had lately, though. We sampled two pastas with mixed results. The fettuccine with duck sausage, cherries and pistachios in a slightly creamy sauce was pretty competent. But a strozzapreti with hazelnut-mint pesto that should’ve been divine was dry as a feather duster because the gummy pasta had soaked up all the emerald-green sauce.
Desserts are more consistent. Best are the coconut flan, a cool custard with thick coconut shavings in an almond tulle cup alongside a densely creamy ice cream topped with fresh mint, and the warm apple tart with a luscious caramel ice cream.
Blu Pizza e Cucina, Mary Brickell Village, 900 S. Miami Ave., Ste 130, Brickell; 305-381-8335; 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun-Wed, 11:30 a.m.-midnight Thurs-Sat; appetizers $7-$16, entrees $14-$20, pizzas $10-$16, desserts $3-$8
FYI: Full bar; corkage $15 (maximum two bottles per table). Metered street parking, valet $15. Lunch special
$15; three-course dinner special $29 beginning Friday. AX, DS, MC, VS
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