For the uninitiated, Cuban pizza is basically a pan pizza that has a thick crust and an impressive amount of cheese, which melts to create a perfectly crispy cheese halo that circles the pizza like a crown. And like many of the best things in Miami, it’s a transplant.
Cuban pizza does, in fact, have roots back in Cuba, where many family-owned restaurants (called “paladares”) serve it mostly to-go. Over there, people tend to fold their pizza in half like a taco and eat it standing outside or while walking to one of the public wifi spots. In Havana, they prefer a thinner dough that is optimal for folding, but outside the city, the dough can be a bit denser. And in Miami (specifically Hialeah, where most of the places on this guide are located), you tend to see a little of both styles, especially at some of my personal favorites, like Star Chiguas or Polo Norte.
But one thing that’s not up for debate is that you should order a personal pizza—even if the place offers larger pies. For some reason, the personal pizzas always just taste better, and they’ll do the trick whether you’re getting a quick lunch or looking to feed a family of hungry gators. It’s also worth noting that a few of these spots serve food besides pizza, but let’s remember this is strictly a Cuban pizza guide, so this is no judgment on the restaurants as a whole. Here are seven of our favorites.
Located in a little shopping plaza in Hialeah, Star Chiguas is a family-owned spot with just a handful of tables. The pizza here is (pun intended) stellar, especially the crust and toppings. They make their own dough and it comes a bit thinner than most places. Toppings include thinly sliced ham that gets perfectly crispy when baked or chorizo minced so fine it covers every bite. Besides this being our favorite overall pizza, they also have a must-order specialty called the “Estrella.” It’s a Cuban pizza cooked in a star-shaped pan that—aside from bearing a slight resemblance to Patrick from SpongeBob—allows for a maximum crispy-cheese-to-crust ratio.
If this was a guide to the most enchanting restaurant locations in Miami, this place would be at the top of our list. The pizza here is solid and features typical Cuban toppings like ham and pineapple, chorizo, and green bell peppers on fluffy crust surrounded by that trademark lacey crown of crispy browned cheese. They also make batidos and fresh juices. But it’s the setting that is the real draw here. La Real is located on a small farm between Metro Zoo (AKA Zoo Miami) and Monkey Jungle. The pizzeria is actually a food truck and the seating consists of picnic tables under a canopy of mango trees. When you’re done eating, you can shop for potted plants, pick out a new pet guinea hen, and say hello to a goat.
Hialeah offers an exhausting amount of Cuban pizza options, but this tiny spot across the street from Sedano’s makes the crispiest pizza in the city. Hakuna Matata only has a small bar and a booth for anyone waiting on an order. Currently, the inside is closed, but call ahead and you can pick-up through their little ventanita (and maybe have a cafecito break too). The dough here comes equipped with a really impressive crispy cheese rim, giving the edges a crunch that will have you singing “Hakuna Matata” all the way home. Bacon is what you want to get because they fry it up thick and slice it in big chunks. I will forever be disappointed that all bacon pizza doesn’t come in this form.
This spot is located in a strip mall on an industrial-looking street in Hialeah, where Cuban pizzerias are as common as bad sushi in South Beach. But if you have to choose just one Cuban pizza to have in Hialeah, it should be here and it has to be their signature pizzamanina pizza. This is the fanciest Cuban pizza we’ve encountered in Miami: prosciutto, blue cheese, and bacon under a blanket of mozzarella and gouda. The crust is a little thinner than some of the puffed-up pizzas cubanas in town—which means you won’t be too full to also order their guava pizza featuring a smear of guava paste instead of red sauce. If that weren’t enough to make you come here, there’s a busty mannequin in the dining room sitting down to her own box of pizza that you can pose with for photos along with a mini “brinca brinca” (AKA a trampoline) for the kids.
In a residential neighborhood in West Hialeah, you’ll find Pa’ Comer, a pizza shop with bright red walls and very little seating. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for with delicious pizza. The dough here is on the thinner side and it works because a lot of folks choose to fold their pizzas like Cubans on the mainland. If you’re suspicious of folding a whole pizza in half like a taco, you might be pleasantly surprised. The soft dough provides the perfect cushion for all that cheesy goodness, and that extra crispy rim still gives it a satisfying crunch. You’ll need to pre-order from their website and pick it up. Be warned: you’ll probably end up eating half of it on the way home. The fold makes this especially too easy to do.
This Cuban Pizzeria on Red Road just north of Calle Ocho is one of the coziest restaurants in Miami. Its split dining room and yellow walls gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling that’s the perfect accompaniment to one of Miami’s best comfort foods. The chef here (whose name is not Bulila, by the way) loves to poke out from the kitchen and survey the happy diners munching away on fluffy pizzas with a look of contentment. Compliment him, because he deserves it and also will reward you with the twinkly eyes and warm smile of a man who knows his pizzas are great. Our favorite one to order here is topped with empella, which is unsalted pork fatback that gets crispy and golden brown in the oven. It’s a less salty alternative to bacon, which doesn’t overwhelm the cheese and well-seasoned tomato sauce. On top of pizzas, Bulila Chef also specializes in discos voladores, one of our favorite types of Cuban sandwiches.
Like the beat of Celia Cruz’s “Quimbara” beckoning you into spontaneous dance, the pizza-covered windows of Kasalta Pizza are hard to miss from Red Road. This place has a dough that is light and fluffy, with a perfectly crunchy crust. They definitely don’t skimp on toppings either, and the vegetable pizza is stuffed with peppers, black olives, thinly sliced onions, and mushrooms—in case you’ve been feeling guilty about your vegetable intake lately. Inside it’s a bit tight, but they do have a couple of tables.
There are many Polo Nortes across Miami, but there is only one Polo Norte Cuban Restaurant, which is no longer associated with the other locations. This Polo Norte is still in the original space that opened in the early ’90s and has since become a local institution. At some point, as rumors go, there was some sort of drama between this location and the others, which we think could make a great Netflix mini-series. But mostly, they get their fame from Cuban pizza and ice cream. The pizza here has a thicker crust, lots and lots of cheese, and toppings that go under the cheese. It begs the question, is it a topping if it’s not on top? Then again, who cares? I just want some pizza—specifically, their ham pizza. They grind the ham up so it’s extra fine and it covers the entire pie. They also have a great ice cream parlor that features flavors like naranja-piña, mamey, malta, and mantecado, and also has options like copa lolita (two scoops on top of flan) or pico turquino (an ice cream-topped rum cake).
Yes, it is possible to find good Cuban pizza north of Hialeah, especially here at Papa Pizza. The family-owned shop has a devoted following thanks to its friendly service and tasty pizza, which has a soft, thick crust and an extra toasty cheese rim. Pictures of old Havana surround you as you wait for your order in the small space. The service is quick, but if you’re in a rush you can call ahead and pick up. It’s a great option if you’re somewhere closer to Miami Gardens and would rather listen to 10 hours of the Caso Cerrado theme song than spend any amount of time in Hialeah traffic.
The Rodriguez family opened up the original location of Rey’s Pizza in Little Havana in 1985, starting what would soon become a Miami Cuban pizza empire. The original location still delivers on its namesake, since it’s basically a big yellow castle right off West Flagler. The pizza here has a thicker, doughy crust with the toppings, once again, under the cheese. The crust is lacking that crispy cheese rim, but they make up for it by using so much freaking cheese. They’re also open 24/7, so it’s the perfect place for a bite after a long night of dancing at Ball & Chain. Or maybe more of a 1am pizza spot after eight hours of binge-watching The Crown for the third time.