Written by: Liz Balmaseda at the Palm Beach Post
The unique, star-shaped pizza has earned a cult following. Last year, it was hailed by Food and Wine as “Best Pizza” in Florida.
The story behind Alfredo Keri’s favorite pizzeria in Miami might have been enough to entice him from his Pompano neighborhood 40 miles away, as one enterprising immigrant showing admiration for another.
After all, it was quite a story: the southern Italian chef who founded Mister O1 Pizza named the place for the O-1 category of U.S. visa he was granted for his “extraordinary ability” and distinction in the art of making pizza.
But it wasn’t chef Renato Viola’s visa story that prompted Keri to not only drive miles south to Miami Beach just to have pizza but also to open a franchise location in Boca Raton on March 1.
It was Viola’s pizza.
Its crust, made with dough that begins with finely ground, double-zero Italian flour, is thin and delicate. Its dough is rested for at least 72 hours. Its standard-pie toppings are a mix of traditional and creative. And then there are Viola’s signature star-shaped “Extraordinary Pizza” pies, boasting pockets of ricotta within each star point.
Hailed by Food and Wine magazine as the “Best Pizza” in Florida last year, Mister O1’s pies just might be the most Instagrammable in the state.
“I was a huge fan. I lived in Broward and used to drive all the way to Miami to have that pizza,” says Keri, a marketing executive and business developer who hails from Venezuela. “I know people in Boca Raton who would drive two times a week to eat at Mister O1.”
Keri, who now lives in Boca Raton, went from Mister O1 super-fan to operating partner for the new Boca Raton location. He is one in a group of Boca-based partners hoping to expand what has become Miami’s most famous pizza brand.
“We saw a huge following in Boca for Mister O1 and felt it was a great opportunity for us to start the concept here,” says Keri, who reports that nights have been busy at the new pizzeria in what he calls its “ramping up” phase.