I’m from Brooklyn, which means I have lost count of the number of pizza slices and pastrami sandwiches that I have eaten over the course of my life. But never until Tuesday had I eaten a pastrami pizza.
Not just any pastrami pizza, but pizza using pulled pastrami from famed Katz’s Delicatessen of New York. On rye crust created by James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz. With toppings that included a thin layer of mustard cream that acted as sauce, Gruyere cheese, scallions and a scattering of Sabrett sauerkraut.
I went to Genuine Pizza at the Aventura Mall, part of Schwartz’s growing boutique pizza empire, wanting to hate it. I am a traditionalist who believes certain classics should not be messed with and certain combinations amount to culinary heresy.
But when I picked up a hot slice, folded it over and stuffed it in my mouth (hey I’m from Brooklyn; forks and knives are for poseurs), my heart melted. As did my skepticism.
It was good. Very good. Wowza good.
I am glad Schwartz’s four South Florida pizzerias are only offering this pizza ($18) as a limited-time special for a second straight year, a two-week run through Sept. 30. Otherwise, my heart might not simply melt, but explode altogether. (More Lipitor, please!)
Schwartz’s pastrami pizza was born when Katz’s launched nationwide shipping of its most famous product and invited prominent chefs to New York to develop recipes that occasionally could be showcased in their restaurants. The pastrami on rye pizza debuted in 2017, and Schwartz liked it so much that he brought it back this September for an encore. Katz’s shipped 250 pounds of pastrami to Schwartz for the promotion at his two Genuine Pizzas (Aventura and Atlanta) and his three Harry’s Pizzerias in Miami (named for his son).
Schwartz’s concept is a play on the Rachel sandwich, the Reuben variant that uses pastrami on grilled rye with melted Swiss and sauerkraut. I’ve never been thrilled with Reubens (which use corned beef) or Rachels, because I find them too salty and busy.
But the Katz-Schwartz pastrami-pizza marriage works. The meat, which is brined, rubbed and smoked at Katz’s in New York before being finished at Schwartz’s commissary in Miami, is pulled and shredded from a cold hunk (not sliced, as was done last year) and baked into the pie. After 90 seconds in a 650-degree gas oven, the pastrami was neither too salty nor spicy when surrounded by its supporting cast.
The Gruyere gave a pleasurable gooeyness and earthiness, the mustard cream gave a slight, luscious bite, and the scallions kissed the top with crunchiness. I was most concerned about an overly acidic punch from the sauerkraut, but the oven rounded the cabbage into mellow sweetness. The rye crust had a deeper, richer taste than traditional crust but it was subtle and baked to a light, crispy consistency. Pizzamaker Blair Anderson says the crust contains caraway, but no seeds were evident and it didn’t have the strong (and to some people off-putting) flavor of caraway-seeded rye bread.
I ate a slice. And another. And then, another.
Like I said, I wanted to hate it. But sometimes, innovation trumps tradition. Well done, Genuine Pizza.
The pastrami-on-rye pizza featuring Katz’s pastrami costs $18 and will be available through Sept. 30 at Genuine Pizza, 19565 Biscayne Blvd., Aventura Mall, 786-472-9170 or GenuinePizza.com. It also will be offered at Schwartz’s three Miami pizzerias (still known as Harry’s), located in the Design District (3918 N. Miami Ave., 786-275-4963); Coconut Grove (2996 McFarlane Road, 786-655-0121); and Dadeland (8975 SW 72nd Place, 786-540-5970).