Night & Day: Action on the Avenue Happens in a Harry

Harry's at Night

Harry’s got that glow.

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Alfresco! Lunch today, fueling up for a busy South Beach Wine & Food Festival Weekend

A full house. Old school hip hop is in the air. Beanies and leather jackets everywhere.  The fun kids are hanging out and sharing a meal and a laugh.  There’s electricity in the air and flowing through the neon PIZZA beacon outside.  This is Harry’s Pizzeria at night, and it’s a party.

Chef de Cuisine Daniel Ramirez (“Danny”) and Sous Chef Chris Cantu (“Cantu”) tag-team on the tickets, the incessant orders coming through the Micros terminal: pizzas with names like Pesto, Bacon and Short Rib… The beat goes on.  This rapidity can’t impede accuracy. The chefs at the wood oven both cook and expedite 10 varieties of house pizzas, in addition to the daily special pie, and chicken wings. It takes about 3-5 minutes to cook each pizza depending on how much wood is Harry’s smoking’ hot oven — and how hot it’s running, somewhere between 7-800° F.  As multiple pizzas cook at once, I wondered, where is the timer? Danny and Cantu laughed in unison. They don’t need a timer. They can effectively monitor cooking times in their heads.

This isn’t your average pizza joint. They “man” the dough of six pizzas at once. I call it a workout! There is also only one ticket machine, and Chris shouts it out. Their flow is choreographed due to skill but also their trust  and co-dependency. There is no written rule; they know the dance and silently take the next step. It’s beautiful to watch.

Meanwhile, behind the counter, servers and managers alike, balance the requests of in-house diners with that of to go orders calling in. They know the menu well, off the top of their heads. Despite all the commotion, they find the time to keep smiling. Christine, a server, apparently has a resting smiling face. Ever heard of it? I seized the opportunity to put in a sizeable to-go order of my own: everything please!

Let’s get back to the pizzas. Although Harry’s is not known for its plain mozzarella or pepperoni pizza, if you want just that, Harry’s makes it happen. When it comes to special orders of any kind, chef Danny’s motto is “if we have it, we make it!” Whether it’s adding shrimp to your pesto pizza or mozzarella to your oyster mushroom pizza, Harry’s genuinely complies.

Meanwhile, the cool kids at the bar sip on beer flights, such as the Cigar City Maduro brown ale- a perfect pairing with the MGFD bacon- while watching some hoops on the big screen. Harry’s at night is the basement playroom you have always wanted, except with way better food. By 8:23pm, there is a wait for indoor tables as valentines, gal-entines, bro-lentines and fam-lentines alike are having too much fun. But the wait is a mere ten minutes, and soon the next group is ready to join the party.

Although this is Miami, no bouncers and no red ropes exist here. But saucy wings do! The wood oven roasted wings are cooked in an agrodolce sauce: slightly sweet, slightly spicy and extremely delicious. The best part is when they are doused in sauce from a squeeze bottle on the deck, one upping even the most sizzled cast iron fajita platter.  Don’t forget to dip into the rosemary crema for a refreshing balance, or to lick your fingers. We won’t judge.

The kitchen supports the wood oven with appetizers, special entrees, salads and desserts, and that evening, Miller and Moses held down the fort. During my watch, I couldn’t help but enjoy the homemade ricotta and caponata with focaccia, while salivating over the chicken Milanese and the buttermilk panna cotta, topped with a strawberry compote.

Let’s not forget Hedy’s treats. You probably all know about the oozing chocolate chunk cookie, but what about the Zeppole? These Italian style donuts are made from pizza dough, fried up and coated with powdered sugar, with honey whipped ricotta on the side. Mind blown!

It’s a little family in here, executing good food at a laid-back neighborhood joint, while keeping the pep in their step. As 10 pm rolled around, I expected the place the be winding down, but not really, it was still poppin’. It’s the genuine food you love, without taking it too seriously.

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