A stroll around 19th and Collins Avenue in South Beach may catch an aroma of rich Italian food that bears resemblance to the appetizing smell coming from Grandma’s kitchen. World Pie opened its doors in September and has built up a strong local following in merely a month. The first World Pie establishment was constructed in the Hamptons. Aside from serving pies to the Billy Joels and Seinfelds of the north, they also have become a favorite to all the local New Yorkers. New York native and World Pie regular, Antonio Misuraca, says, “that World Pie is the only place around to get food the quality of something you’d find at a higher-end Italian marketplace in Brooklyn – where everything is homemade and made fresh.”
Talking with owner Ralph Pagano puts further emphasis on World Pie’s New York appeal. He brought World Pie to Miami to offer, “a local joint, for the people, where everything is all about food and fun.” One of the many mottos of World Pie is “Peace, Love and Soul.” Pagano works to spread and express this peace, love, and soul through his attitude and, of course, through the food. He knowingly admits that, “the ‘Peace, Love and Soul’ motto may have come from back in the day, when Don Cornelius used the words to end each episode of Soul Train.” The restaurant’s name, “hit me like a ton of bricks,” says Pagano, “it ain’t just pizza and it ain’t just Italian food.” “If you come here on a Saturday night and you want pancakes and I can do it, I will. I’m not saying to come in here and order pancakes on a Saturday night though – but you get the idea.” World Pie has made a career out of saying “yes.”
The atmosphere in this shrine of good food is reminiscent of home in its ideal form. Pagano wished to create a “cool Italian saloon.” Watching sports at World Pie is quite essential – and with the NFL hookup on Direct TV, they can turn on anything you want. However, they advise readers/new visitors to never ask an employee to change the television that is permanently set to the NYC teams. Every weekend there is something eventful going on at World Pie. On Fridays, they plan to eventually have reggae bands perform, pig roasts, and a crazy happy hour. Saturdays and Sundays are kept simple -few men would complain about a lazy day of football and brunch.
Last Saturday, World Pie threw a Grand Opening party, entitled, “The Big Gamble.” It was an event that went all out for the whole shebang. A five-piece band, Las Vegas showgirls, craps, roulette, and blackjack started the evening off. The place was “cha chinging” with excitement for much of the evening. Proceeds from the evening’s gambling were donated to The Bay Pointe Schools, a local charity. Numerous winners walked away with fine bottles of wine won in the Orient-themed auction give -away at the end of the night. Pagano insists that everything at World Pie should be done “all or nothing.” His future sights are set on a Kentucky Derby party, a Florida Derby party, and a several other parties that are bubbling in the planning stages. For Christmas, Pagano says, “we are going to dress it up like it’s an NYC place, transported to the balmy weather of South Florida.” There isn’t a hint of sarcasm in his face when he tells me to expect to see snow.
The menu at World Pie is kept in a state of constant change, with amazing daily specials that are displayed on chalkboards hovering over the open view of the kitchen. Their pizza is cooked in a wood-burning oven to create a delightful thin, crispy crust that, before now in Miami, was found only in heart of NYC. Their famous pizza, Mr. Tang, is scrumptious – covered with Asian duck, scallion, cilantro, hoisin sauce, and goat cheese. A small pizza will run you anywhere between $9 for the classic, $13 for the Taj Mahal and $15 to $19 for the large.
Pagano practically sells the following scenario, “Let’s say you come in here, it’s you and me, and you’re the big eater. So you start off with a dozen oysters, followed by a 20 oz sirloin steak, you want a glass of nice champagne, then maybe a plate of Tagliatelle Carbonara, single barrel bourbon, and some tiramisu for desert. Then I decide that I just want a small Caesar salad, some seared tuna, a glass of Pinot Grigio, and a bowl of berries and cream. You’ve got two different ballparks here and they come together at World Pie.” Pagano, and chef John O’Connell, who brings some worldly flavor to the table, prepare the food – both are graduates of the Culinary Institute of America. O’Connell has spent time in St. Maarten, St. Bartz, and Hong Kong – where he learned the secrets to great sushi, also served at World Pie.
A top wine shelf is offered at the bar, with a list to tempt any palate. 25 wines by the glass are offered, ranging in price from $6 to $9, and champagnes by the glass from $8 to 16$. There is a sense of friendliness, even in the menu, that helps out those who may have trouble choosing with a section called “Vini che ti danno un calico in culo (kick ass wines).” Wines are stylishly listed, not by their color, but by taste. This way you can choose anywhere from “bold and beautiful” to “hot stuff.”
World Pie is open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On the weekends food is available until 4 a.m. Delivery is also an option. Don’t be surprised, on occasion, to meet Pagano as your deliveryman. Aside from “being a Libra, liking long walks on the beach, soul music, and wearing a size 10 shoe,” Pagano does everything he can do to make World Pie fun for himself and the customer. Going in to World Pie, if you expect the world, it will be given to you – and if you can’t eat it all – doggie bags are in plentiful supply.
Rachael Henrichsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org