Not long ago, driven by cravings for pizza at breakfast, what I was sure would become a new favorite happened when I walked into 1803 Pizza Kitchen for a Sunday brunch.
This is where my dining companion and I discovered The Morning Pizza ($15), a crunchy beauty filled with garlic cream, mozzarella, provolone, bacon, beautifully liquid fried eggs, and the bright look of green onions that do double duty once you put these Cream colored slide on your face.
In fact, I couldn’t wait to speak with Angelica Luzardo, who with her husband Nestor owns the cute little pizzeria that’s been tossing pies in Orlando’s Audubon Park Garden area since March 2018. I’ve done so through my Zoom twins (where Luzardo was in her house) in her native Maracaibo, Venezuela) and family friend, servant, and translator Kelly Rodriguez (where Luzardo communicates best in her mother tongue).
Laughter, of course, is a universal language – and we both did a lot of it when I told her how much we loved morning pizza… and she told me they no longer serve brunch.
“This was our second attempt at lunch, but it was a complete failure!” Luzardo informed me because the three of us chuckled. “We made a whole new menu. I loved everything about it. We even made brioche at home. But people just came to lunch and ordered a pepperoni pizza.”
They told me, for some reason, that seems to be all anyone would want on a Sunday afternoon.
Nothing against pepperoni, but man, these people lose.
The good news, however, is that customer satisfaction is the foundation of 1803, according to Luzardo.
“You can still have pizza if you want to,” Rodriguez told me. “We always have everything to achieve.”
It’s no surprise to catch a glimpse of their extensive menu, something Luzardo and her team have tried to cut back on more than once, “but everything in it is already sold out,” she tells me.
The Prosciutto and Watercress Pie ($18) is another good pie—salty, greasy, bitter, and slightly sweet from this balsamic reduction, served on a crust that Luzardo describes as a New York/California hybrid. She’s a general pro nature she didn’t have just a couple of years ago. Nor Nestor. Neither of them had an iota of experience in the restaurant before jumping in with both feet.
“We came here like many other Venezuelans, looking for a better future, better opportunities,” Luzardo says. “We wanted to create a business – so we found a chef and were willing to do whatever he wanted to make…and invest in him basically as a person.”
The menu – salads, pasta, pizza – was his dream, but after a while, he wanted to move on. Luzardo used his three-week notice to get a crash course in cooking.
“I am a very visual learner; I took a video of everything he did and watched it over and over and practiced it.”
And when COVID-19 struck in the wake of the chef’s departure, Luzardo’s business was not affected in the same way as the others. flourished.
“We already had a good delivery system as other restaurants were struggling to catch up,” she notes. “Before COVID, I took a long time to make pizza, but during this slow time I was able to practice, master, and increase efficiency. Now I can make dough, pizza, desserts, everything.”
An avid cook left aside largely by the demands of running a company, Luzardo’s new role has reawakened her passion. And those sweets proved so successful that it became a business within the company.
Not many places have zeppole on the menu, so this San Gennaro veteran had to test the waters. And while I wouldn’t mind at all if they tossed them in a paper bag for nostalgia, they were actually better than the last bag I grabbed on the corner of Spring & Mulberry Street.
1803 Small, Fresh, Beautifully Sweetened Dough Balls ($6) look great and adorable piled high on a plate.
Zeppole is the kind of thing you eat straight out of the pan, but items like dulce de leche-topped brownie bombon ($7), tres leches ($8), or Oreo triple cheesecake ($9) are fun things many choose to take home.
“We’re starting to introduce more and get more inclusive because there are people who can’t eat gluten or sugar or want vegan options, so we’ve added vegan cheesecakes and sugar-free brownies.”
All desserts can be pre-ordered in 9″, full size as well, and serve 9-15 people depending on how you cut them.
Luzardo offers bi-weekly specials as well. Sometimes they cling, as with the Ferrero Rocher mousse ($9).
“Customers missed it so much, we put it on the list.”
Luzardos serves most American customers, 80 percent, Luzardo estimates, “but just a year ago, I’d say it was 90. Now, we have more Venezuelan customers.”
Partly through friends and word of mouth, Rodriguez says, “but also a lot of drivers [third-party delivery services] Venezuelan. They come, they hear us talking, they pick up the tone and then tell the others. One day I will see a driver come to take the food and then I will see him come to dinner. It happens a lot.”
I might point them to Sunshine’s offering on the menu ($18). In honor of Luzardos, it’s a tomato sauce-based pie with mozzarella, ricotta, bacon, fresh parsley, and bright yellow sweet corn for the bright, scorching Maracaibo sun.
It’s exhilarating, too. Much like the 1803, who will happily serve you pepperoni if that’s your craving, though I might urge you to venture a bit further into the extensive and colorful menu.
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