Black Magic Pizza

Written By Scott Joseph On August 31, 2023

Black Magic Pizza exterior

The About Us section of Black Magic Pizza’s website reads, “At Black Magic Pizza our mission is to provide quality hand tossed New-Neapolitan pizzas in a unique space that is accepting to all.” 

The space is certainly different – it’s in the corner of Whiskey Lou’s Lounge in the Milk District –  though the “Stop! Do not enter” sign on the door refutes the claim of acceptance. But that door is only for employees. Customers are welcome at walkup window. However, shortly before 5:30 p.m. on a recent Sunday, anyone show stepped up there was greeted by another sign: Completely Sold Out! (It closes at 6 p.m. on Sundays, so it wasn’t as if they ran out of food too early.)

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John & John’s

Written By Scott Joseph On October 13, 2022

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SoDo seems to be becoming Orlando’s pizza district. It was already home to Brick & Fire and Cornerstone on the eastern edge of the district. In the last year or so we’ve seen the opening of Buttercrust, Frenchy’s Wood-Fired and SoDough Square, which opened just a few months ago.

If you stood in front of SoDough you could throw a ball of mozzarella down Michigan Street and hit the newest pie maker, John & John’s.

The Johns of the name are Markaj and Cavallini (only they know which is the first John and which is the second). They are also the owners of Cavo’s Bar & Kitchen in Thornton Park. John & John’s – subtitled A Pizza Shop – took over the space that was formerly Mediterranean Blue.

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SoDough Square

Written By Scott Joseph On June 16, 2022

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Pizza comes in regional varieties that make opening a restaurant specializing in it a fraught proposition in places like Florida, which has no claim to a variety of its own. Barbecue has the same issue. I can think of only one other food item that has more versions, but so far no one has tried to open a potato salad restaurant.

With pizza, you have New York style, New Haven style (not to be confused with New England style), California and Chicago’s deep-dish, which someone recently described as essentially a casserole. St. Louis, Colorado, Rhode Island and the Ohio Valley all have their variations. Even the place I grew up, the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa on the Mississippi River, has its own distinct style, both in the ingredients that comprise the crust and toppings and in its signature way of cutting the pie in strips instead of wedges.

In Central Florida, the New York style dominates, and many Florida transplants have adopted it in lieu of their hometown styles. But now Detroiters can have a taste of home courtesy of SoDough Square.

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Ziggie’s Pizza

Written By Scott Joseph On December 21, 2021

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Ziggie’s Pizza has replaced Perla’s Pizza. Actually, it’s less a replacement than it is a transformation. Christian Ziegler took over the business when he and pizza partner Mike Collantes dissolved the business, but it continues mostly the same.

Well, there’s one big difference: it no longer offers the pizza with bananas on it.

But it does offer some interesting and non-run-of-the-mill pies, such as the Ziggie’s Stardust, which has as its base a pistachio pesto instead of the red sauce that most mills have the run of, so to speak.

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Corner Pizza Bar

Written By Scott Joseph On November 9, 2021

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OK, this is going to get a little confusing, so stay with me.

There’s a new business occupying the space in downtown Orlando that most recently was the food hall Market On Magnolia and before that Frank ’n Steins, which opened in 2011. Taking a cue from its location at the intersection of Magnolia Avenue and Church Street, the new place is called The Corner Pizza Bar. It is owned by Diana and Alejandro Ranalli, who also own a restaurant called Italian House on Crystal Lake Drive just north of Curry Ford Road in a former Pizza Hut hut.

The Ranallis bought Italian House in 2019 after selling Ragazzi’s on Edgewater Drive in College Park. What’s confusing to me – and I’ll admit to facile befuddlement these days – is that the website for the Italian House states that it has been “serving Orlando since 1989.”

But in May of 2001, I reviewed a restaurant with the same address as Italian House called Cherazi’s. It may still have been a Pizza Hut before Cherazi’s because I mentioned in the review that I had once walked in while it was a PH and found it so unkempt and unclean-looking that I turned around and left. And in between Cherazi’s and Italian House, the restaurant was known as Italian Pie and Pasta House.

(Property records, by the way, would suggest the hut was constructed in 1971.)

So what does all this mean? I was hoping you could tell me. At the very least, you can take the “serving since…” with a grain of salt, or in this case sale.

But I left you waiting on the corner, so let’s go back there.

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Brad’s Underground

Written By Scott Joseph On September 28, 2021

Brads pizza

For me, pizza has always been a spur-of-the-moment food. It’s what you order when you’re too tired to cook or don’t want all the trappings that come with going out to a full-service restaurant. Most of the pizzas I’ve consumed in a nonprofessional setting have been last-minute orders.

But Brad’s Underground has introduced pizza by appointment only. Want one of Brad’s pies for your dinner tonight? Maybe the day after tomorrow. (Maybe.) And you say you’d like it for dinner? That’s fine, you may eat it whenever you like, but you may have to pick it up at 2 o’clock.

The ability to schedule a pizza is something of an improvement over Brad’s previous business model, which as near as I could tell involved hopeful customers sending him a message via his Instagram page and waiting, sometimes Godot-like, for a response. For some it would take weeks to receive an invitation to place an order; others never did hear back, leaving them to post lamentations on various social media platforms wondering what poor life choices they must have made to render them so karmically unblessed. At least that’s how I read it.

My take? Brad Czerkies – whose nickname is apparently, and perhaps ironically, Flash – is something of a marketing genius. Because the surest way to make people want something is to tell them they can’t have it.

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Buttercrust Pizza

Written By Scott Joseph On August 10, 2021

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I could see where some purists might take umbrage with Buttercrust Pizza’s name. Not the Buttercrust part – that’s a perfect description of the taste.

It’s the word Pizza some might object to. That’s because Buttercrust’s does not fit the usual mold. And that includes the shape of the mold. I can see the point of the pizza snobs who won’t have anything but a New York style thin crust wedge you have to fold the fit in your mouth. I get it. But they should get over it and try Buttercrust because whatever you call it it pretty darned delicious.

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Perla’s Pizza

Written By Scott Joseph On May 25, 2021

Blame Wolfgang Puck.

It was Puck who in the eighties changed the notion of what a pizza could be, getting creative and moving beyond the basic trinity toppings – sausage, pepperoni and mushroom – and heavy sauce and cheese.

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Perhaps you can’t draw a straight line from Spago to Perla’s Pizza but a connection could definitely be argued. How else would you explain a pizza with bananas on it?

Perla’s is the project of Mike Collantes of Taglish, the Filipino-American food stall inside the Lotte Market on West Colonial Drive. Perla’s, in the Mills 50 district in an almost-shared space with the Thirsty Topher, does just pizzas (and one salad), offering a small collection of curated pies, most of them more mundane than the one called It’s Bananas.

That isn’t exactly the phrase I uttered when I first heard that Perla’s would offer a pizza with bananas. At the time I speculated that Collantes was just trying to tick off people who thought pineapple on a pizza was sacrilege. To that point, Perla’s also offers a selection called Everybody Hates Pineapple.

I include myself with everybody on that notion, even though Perla’s use of pineapple jam paired with pickled jalapenos sounded a tad intriguing. Just a tad.

But I really couldn’t ignore the bananas staring at me from the menu.

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Vinzo’s Italian Grill & Pizzeria

Written By Scott Joseph On April 8, 2021

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Right about this time a year ago, I had plans to host a reception and plaque presentation ceremony for the winners of the 2019 Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants.

That, of course, never happened. And with closings, openings, readjusting of schedules and everything else that occurred with local restaurants, the plaques sat waiting for an opportunity to be delivered to the recipients.

So I’ve been making the delivery rounds lately. And last week I dropped off the platinum award for Best Pizza to Vinzo’s Italian Grill & Pizzeria in Casselberry. And since I hadn’t been before, I decided to stop in for a quick lunch to see why the readers voted it their favorite.

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Capone’s Coal Fired Pizza

Written By Scott Joseph On November 4, 2020

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The thing I like most about a coal-fired pizza is the crust. Not the thickness or the crispiness of the circumferential edge, though those are certainly important factors.

But what I really like about the crust of a coal-fired pizza is its blackened bottom, a fine bit of ashiness that gives the dough a delightful earthiness.

The crust was perfect on the pizza I sampled recently at Capone’s Coal Fired Pizza at the Promenade at Sunset Walk. It’s a second location for a Ft. Myers restaurant and a welcome addition to the entertainment complex.

My dinner companion and I dined recently at one of the well-spaced tables on the patio outside the restaurant. Inside, the decor is reminiscent of Prohibition-era Chicago, with red brick walls, tin-like ceiling and gilded light fixtures.

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