The more things change, the more they stay the same — at least at Frankie’s Pizza, Miami’s oldest pizza shop.
Frank and Doreen Pasquarella came from Ohio and opened Original Frankie’s Famous Pizza in South Miami in 1955. Two years later, they moved their pizza shop to a small grocery store located on Bird Road, flanked by farms, dirt roads and the Everglades.
Nearly 55 years later, the scenery around Frankie’s Pizza has changed dramatically, but thanks to Frankie’s daughters Renee and Roxanne Pasquarella — who were born in Miami, raised in their dad’s pizza shop and now run the family business — the recipe for success has remained the same: Make the “world’s finest Italian pizza” and treat everyone like family.
“Frankie’s Pizza has been in a time capsule. Our pizza has always been square, like our name, Pasquarella,” Roxanne pointed out. “And just like my dad did, we still place a free, hot slice of pizza on top of every box so our customers can enjoy it on the way home. Frankie was such a visionary.”
To honor Pasquarella and his vision, the section of Bird Road in front of the pizza shop was named “Frank Pasquarella Way” in 2010, a fitting tribute to a man who often said, “It’s my way or the highway.” Another tribute to Pasquarella is the 45-minute documentary made about him, titled “Following Frank: Saucy Intonation’s of Miami’s Pizza King.” The documentary along with vintage Frankie’s T-shirts, caps and baby onsies are sold in the shop and online.
Just like Frankie did, pizzas always are made to order and made from scratch. The sisters revealed that each day the dough is handmade, the tomatoes are ground, the sauce is cooked for three hours and the fresh cheese is grated.
“It’s labor intensive and more expensive to produce pizzas this way, but our customers would say that it’s well worth it,” Renee said.
For those who grew up eating Frankie’s pizza but have migrated, Frankie’s satisfies its faraway fans by shipping its famous half-baked pizzas all over the U.S. Half-baked pizzas are frozen, packed and shipped, and can be baked in the oven or cooked on the grill. Locals grab half-baked pizzas to keep in their freezers so they can enjoy a piping hot Frankie’s pizza at any time.
“Our customers send half-baked pizzas to their kids in college and order them for family reunions, birthdays, anniversaries and football games,” Roxanne said. “It’s all about nostalgia and good family memories.”
Speaking of family, Roxanne’s son Christopher is a third generation Frankie’s family member serving fourth generation Frankie’s Fanatics. Frankie’s recently lost “family member,” Jerry Dovin, who had worked at the pizza shop for 28 years. He passed away in August after battling skin cancer for two years.
“He was a Vietnam vet and our Irish brother,” Roxanne said. “He is greatly missed.”
Frankie’s Pizza has been ranked as one of the top pizzerias in the city and has won numerous awards over the years. As the sisters say, a Frankie’s pizza is best piping hot, right out of the oven. Whether you visit Frankie’s and pick up a pizza that’s right out of their oven or grab a half-baked and finish it off in yours, bring cash because just like in the good old days, cash is king and your plastic is no good.
Frankie’s Pizza, located at 9118 Bird Rd., is open every day except Monday. To place an order for pickup, call 305-221-0221. For more information, visit www.frankiespizzaonline.com or become a Frankie’s Fanatic on Facebook.