Business Food and Drink Jan '18

MidiCi – A Taste of Naples in St. Petersburg

Midici Pizza
Midici Pizza. Photo by Grand Brand & Co.

“When a ‘guest friend’ comes in and asks, what can I have on my pizza? I tell them, MidiCi! You tell me!” said Dan Disbro, general manager of MidiCi The Neapolitan Pizza Company, a new restaurant in Tyrone Square Mall. Located next to Bonefish Grill, MidiCi is making a splash with its wood-fired pizzas.

Whether it’s half chicken pesto and half truffle prosciutto, or crushed Italian tomato with pesto, garlic and artichoke hearts, MidiCi will make it, with pleasure.

“Create whatever you’re thinking, whatever’s on the tip of your tongue that day,” Disbro said. “Can I have half pesto and half red sauce? Yeah! Well, what if I want chicken on it? You can say anything you want to have and I’m going to go like this (nodding yes). Yeah!” Disbro said. “This is the epitome of what MidiCi is. This is what I love most.”

Whether it’s date night or time for take-out, adding MidiCi to the list of restaurants you frequent is a must. The service is attentive, the prices are affordable and the food is downright fresh. The presentation and taste of the food complements the restaurant’s contemporary ambience—fresh and modern.

A projector illuminates old, black-and-white Italian movies on the wall and loungey music plays softly in the background. A real live olive tree grows right in the middle of the dining room, adorned with twinkling lights to give the illusion of being at an Italian outdoor cafe. A fresh herb garden with live potted basil invites guests to garnish their plates to their liking.

But the real spectacle is the show-stopping, exhibition-style kitchen at the center of the restaurant. They call it “the heart”.

The heart – where all the magic happens

Left to right: Co-franchisee John Eckermann, General Manager Dan Disbro and Co-franchisee Harold Bradshaw
Left to right: Co-franchisee John Eckermann, General Manager Dan Disbro and Co-franchisee Harold Bradshaw. Photo by Grand Brand & Co.

“The center of the restaurant is the heart,” said Harold Bradshaw, MidiCi co-franchisee. “You get to see us make all the pizza, we cook it all in front of you…You’ve got your stretcher who stretches your pizza, your pizzaiolo who makes your pizza and puts all your toppings on it.”

Two Acunto-Napoli brick pizza ovens, shipped over by boat from Naples, Italy, are perhaps the real stars of the show. With some parts of the oven heating up to 900 degrees, the pie is cooked within 90 seconds, keeping the crust soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, while the veggies stay fresh.

But most impressive of all are MidiCi’s over-the-top quality standards. To meet them requires sophisticated equipment and meticulous processes.

Over-the-top standards for quality

Disbro says foodies, master baristas and fellow restaurateurs marvel at their top-of-the-line equipment and high quality standards—including the owners of Mazzaro’s Italian Market, who fast became MidiCi regulars after the restaurant opened its doors last October. He says they rave about the housemade meatballs, and say their espresso machine is the “Tesla” of all machines.

“I’ve been in the restaurant business 20-plus years, and I’m learning all these new things, and I’ll tell you, I thought pizza, you know sauce, cheese, I got this! Uh-uh. This is very serious pizza. This is the culinary pinnacle of pizza,” Disbro said.

Midici St Pete
MidiCi St Pete

From the aforementioned brick ovens to the crimson-shellacked, hand-crank Vittoria meat slicer, which is built by hand in Italy, “It’s definitely some bragging rights,” Disbro said.

And then there’s the dough room.

MidiCi uses a climate-controlled room just to house their dough, which is made in-house fresh daily using only four simple ingredients: sea salt, water, fresh yeast and flour. The dough is batched, balled and served fresh every 24 hours, giving MidiCi pizza that certain craveability factor. Disbro says he’s shown the room to Cordon Bleu-educated pastry chefs who’ve traveled the world, and say they’ve never seen anything like it.
Talk about street cred.

Midici St Pete. Photo by Grand Brand & Co.
MidiCi St Pete. Photo by Grand Brand & Co.

Diners—known as “guest friends” to MidiCi staff (a.k.a. “team friends”)—are a mix of casually dressed families and more formally dressed friends and couples, both young and old. Over shared meat and cheese plates, they chat, sip cocktails and escape the chaos of the mall.

Ready to dig in?

Most items on MidiCi’s menu cost $11.50 or less.

Appetizers include housemade meatballs with fresh mozzarella ($5.75) and burrata with melon and prosciutto ($8.50). Salads include purple kale and ricotta ($7.50), and rock shrimp and avocado ($8.50).

A wide variety of classic Neapolitan and specialty pizzas are on the menu ($6.50 to $13.50). Best sellers include the margherita ($7.50), double pepperoni ($9.50) and the devil’s pizza ($10.50). Staff favorites include the meats ($10.50) and salty aged prosciutto with earthy truffle cream ($13.50). There are more than 30 toppings to choose from and creating your own is strongly encouraged. Housemade gluten-free Neapolitan crust is $1.50 extra. Vegan cheese and vegan sausage are available.

Desserts include Italian gelato and fruit-based sorbetto ($2.95 – $6.95), and signature stand-outs like the Nutella calzone with fresh berries ($5.95) and burrata served iced cold with candied oranges and honey ($4.95).

Nutella calzone with fresh berries.... available only at MidiCi
Nutella calzone with fresh berries…. available only at MidiCi. Photo by Grand Brand & Co.

MidiCi’s full bar serves a wide selection of beer, wine and signature cocktails. For those who like a little heat there’s the devil’s margarita, made with fresh lime juice, rimmed with black salt and garnished with Fresno chili peppers ($7).

“All of our recipes are in house. They’re very simple recipes,” said John Eckermann, MidiCi co-franchisee. Eckermann says their clientele comments that “this is all healthy, it’s cheaper and I’m getting more food…They’re blown away.”

All that, and guests get what they want.

“MidiCi in Italian means ‘tell us what you want,’” Eckermann said. “The whole deal is for us to make fresh fare that you want.”

Visit MidiCi

MidiCi’s lunch special includes any two-topping classic Neapolitan pizza, a Caesar or house salad and any soft drink ($8.95). MidiCi’s happy hour special is two-for-one draft beer and wine by the glass, Sunday through Thursday, 3 p.m.-6 p.m., and 9 p.m. to close.

MidiCi is conveniently located in Tyrone Square Mall next to Bonefish Grill at 2424 Tyrone Blvd. North, St. Petersburg. For more information visit mymidici.com. For take-out, call 727-302-0777. Delivery available via Uber Eats. Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and 11 a.m. until midnight, Friday and Saturday.

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