Walking into Miami’s Best Pizza is like being struck with an explosion of the senses. The tradition-rooted mom-and-pop restaurant takes customers on a journey to the past with its classic decor and hand-tossed pizza dough.
This is where junior Danielle Sheerer worked during her freshman year.
“The great thing about Miami’s Best is that the owners aren’t absent, they’re there, putting the cornmeal in the dough, and making the pizza too,” Sheerer said. “So it’s really intrinsically run, and all the people who are higher up are there doing the dirty work.”
Miami’s Best Pizza has been catering to the Coral Gables and University of Miami community for 44 years.
The restaurant was founded by former UM football player “Big” Al Papich in 1970, and then passed on to his son, Raymond Papich, and the then-manager Charles Butler.
However, years of tradition and service could soon come to an end. One of the restaurant’s managers, Thelvius “Thad” Winieckie, confirmed that Miami’s Best will close its doors in November of this year, when the lease ends.
While Winieckie did not further comment on the matter, David Palacios, who has been working at Miami’s Best for 15 years, clarified the situation.
According to Palacios, new owners purchased the property where Miami’s Best is located, and they wanted to raise the rent.
“It’s a little unfortunate the way things came down towards the end,” he said.
Palacios said he did not consider this much of a surprise, as it often happens in the “cut-throat business” of real estate.
Michael Meloni, a sophomore studying urban planning, agreed.
“This can happen a lot of times in real estate, especially if the owner thinks the area is prestigious,” Meloni said. “The only real solution for local businesses would be to keep moving elsewhere.”
The closing of the restaurant puts into perspective the future of independent local businesses in the area.
Miami’s Best actually started off as the first Little Caesar’s in the southeastern United States, but the owner decided to break away from the chain to avoid the standardizing of products and ingredients.
“We like cooking our own ingredients, making our own dough, and as a franchise you want uniformity across the board, so you want everything to be the same,” Palacios said. “We like doing everything ourselves here, and a lot of people really like that and appreciate that.”
The restaurant also had a longstanding relationship with UM, something only few other restaurants in the area have, such as Big Cheese.
Apart from supporting students and faculty members by offering special prices on occasion, restaurants like Miami’s Best and Big Cheese are big advocates for UM athletics.
“That’s something we kind of lose for not being in a college town,” Sheerer said. “In the case of UF [the University of Florida], for example, every business in Gainesville supports the Gators. It’s a whole city supporting them. And I really appreciate that even this one small business supports students and faculty here.”
Although nothing has been decided yet, Winieckie confirmed that the owners are trying to look for a new location to re-open the restaurant.
Palacios said that Miami’s Best is trying to find another location that’s close to the UM campus because the university community makes up a lot of the pizzeria’s business.
“I think with a little bit of prayer and a bit of looking out, we will be able to open our doors and keep serving the community as we have,” he said.