Support Local: Paulie Gee’s Miami
April 18, 2017
Truthfully, I cannot think of any subject in this world, more so in the realm of food that is more divisive than pizza. Or, to be more specific, whether New York-style pizza or Chicago-style has the best take on the savory pie. It’s a contentious topic that takes away from the act of just enjoying a slice. And yet, as the debate draws on, Miami’s presence, or lack thereof grows tiresome. As if, somehow South Floridians don’t know how to make wonders out of dough.
It’s hard to see where Miami stacks up against heavy hitters like New York and Chicago with their renowned styles. But, lately, that’s starting to change thanks in part to Paulie Gee’s Miami, the South Florida outpost of the popular New York pizzeria founded by Paulie Giannone.
I talked with Jason Weisberg, owner of the Miami pizza joint on South Florida’s budding pizza scene and crafting their signature take on a classic.
What do you do and why?
I’m an exit-Wall Street person turned into a purveyor of pizza because I’m a pizza geek. I find pizza to be more satisfying than when I was working on Wall Street. I still dabble in it but I made the transition two and a half years ago.
What is your backstory with Paulie Gee’s in Brooklyn?
I worked there for a year and a half unpaid after my Wall Street job when I decided to open up shop down here.
With the location here in Miami still in its infancy, how has the reception been so far?
It’s pretty good but pizza is very subjective, and some people don’t like the style of pizza we serve. A lot of people in Florida have a specific taste and that’s a part of the subjectivity. It’s not for everyone. The reason why we selected the location that we did was because we wanted to be a part of the rebuilding of the neighborhood. Not so much of the tourist-centric areas.
Miami and Florida, in general, don’t have a pizza scene like New York or Chicago. Why do you think that it is?
I think that Florida does have a very big pizza scene; it’s definitely growing. I think for so long the pizza game here was very stale but I think there are a lot of people out there putting out a really great product that didn’t exist here before. Pizza went through kind of a renaissance in New York and all over the country, and Miami is participating in that.
Would you say that you guys are changing the pizza scene down here?
I don’t think that we are. We’re providing something different with high-end toppings and artisan dough. We’re offering something other than the plain cheese pie with commercial grade toppings. Now that being said, I love something like that once in a while if it’s good. It’s a classic. A good cheese slice is great but it’s tough to come by. There’s a lot of mediocrity in New York. It’s the exceptional ones that make it fun to search for it.
Will Miami find itself a contender to revival New York?
You never know. There are plenty of good places that produce a really good product. Whether they are local or elsewhere. I think for the consumer, food is only getting better here. And we like to think we’re a part of it.
You guys push the boundaries as to what a pizza is expected to look like, like the Octopus Garden or the Nutella pizza. Why do you guys do that?
Because that’s what it’s about. It’s about trying different things that are against the norm. That’s one of the differentiators of Paulie Gee’s. There are plenty of people putting common toppings on pies. One of the things that putting octopus on pies does, for example, is that it exposes those who can’t go out in Miami and order a fancy dish of octopus. Some of the places that do it really well here aren’t cheap, whereas, having it prepared right [and] on a pizza lets people get the same delicacies that come with eating octopus but without the price. We geared for people looking for unique flavor combinations.
On the pineapple belonging on pizza debate, what side are you on?
We serve pineapple on a pizza but we pickle it to take some of the sweetness out. But for me personally, I don’t like my pizza sweet.
Then what are your favorite toppings?
It would have to be BBQ brisket, Soppressata, or spinach.
Why is it important to support local businesses?
Local businesses are outlets for creativity, without them we’re forced to become monotonous really quick. Local businesses give local people jobs and local business is about creating community on a micro-level. It makes Miami home. Everyone wants to have their neighborhood be nicer and we want to be part of not gentrifying a neighborhood but reclaiming a neighborhood. That’s why we’re not on the beach. We’re here.
Check out Paulie Gee’s Miami at pauliegee.com
This is a piece in our series spotlighting small businesses part of our Support Local initiative.