Well, this is simple: Drive right up to the outside counter, scan the menu on the wall, place an order and taste the test of time. That’s the way it is at East Side, a genuinely retro pizza and pasta shack just east of Biscayne Boulevard in Northeast Miami. There’s not much to the place: just the counter, the kitchen in back and a few tables. It might even remind old Miamians of Fun Fair, an outdoor food counter that grilled up burgers a few miles east.
What’s special on the sprawling menu? Ravioli: fat pillows bursting with cheese. Spaghetti: a hill of wide noodles topped with two tennis balls of meat. Eggplant parmigiana: a strata of fried slices buried under mozzarella and marinara. Each of the pasta platters can easily serve two, especially because they come with house salad and garlic rolls.
And, oh, those garlic rolls. Crisp on the outside, spongy on the inside and soaked with so much garlic oil the car needed a breath mint after the food’s ride home. The salad is simple but hits the spot under a cup of Italian dressing. If you’re in the mood for cool food, the tuna panini has that “It’s Italian” style: chunks of dark fish, egg slices, smears of mayo and roma tomatoes. Other panini choices: chicken breast, proscuitto and caprese. Hot subs include eggplant, chicken, meatball, and sausage and peppers.
East Side sells pizza by the pie and slice. Keep it traditional or go for the goat cheese, blue cheese and grilled chicken. The delivery driver kept busy loading boxes into his car. Stromboli and calzone are big enough to share. Unfortunately, our mozzarella and ricotta calzone never made it into the takeout bag, but we did get a mysterious container of raw spinach.
Orders take about 15 minutes, and plastic bags are tied tight to contain all that sauce and garlic.
While waiting, take a seat at a stool flanking the counter and watch the traffic go by, sit at a covered picnic table, or slip inside a tiny dining room where there’s a wall AC unit and a flat-screen TV. That modern TV might be the only big change in years. And that’s just fine with the customers.