My favorite Orlando pizza is from the chain MidiCi. I may crawl under my computer desk and lash myself as punishment. The shame!
I'm a New Yorker. A food snob. The mother of two pizza-hungry young men. And a long-time restaurant critic. I've gobbled up triangular slices and round pies across the United States and several Italian cities -- not to mention countries east and south of ours. Here in Orlando, the pizza picture has long been pathetic -- just mediocre pie and after mediocre pie. 2016 (or so) saw an infusion of much better efforts, with a few places putting out very decent takes on this staple. Among them are Antica Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar, Pizza Bruno, Maestro Cucina Napoletana, The Pie Orlando and Slate, which isn't even a pizza place but makes a nice contender.
So I almost passed when a publicist invited me to a media dinner at MidiCi. Driving to the first area unit -- and the second in the entire budding chain, despite the long list of "locations" on the corporate website -- I kept saying to my husband and fellow pizza lover, "I don't know why I'm even going. It's a chain. It's gonna suck."
It didn't suck! That's an understatement. Maybe it's because MidiCi is brand new and hasn't had a mess of franchisees muck up the formula. Perhaps it's because the execs were in the house and the eager new employees were following all the rules. But I think it's because MidiCi makes a really good product.
Assuming the company literature is honest, and based on flavor I'd say it is, quality ingredients really do go into the menu items. As an example, the Neapolitan-style pies are made with only flour -- ahem, make that "non-GMO double zero flour," says the website, plus "pure water, sea salt and live yeast." Keeping with the yup-we-use-good-stuff theme, MidiCi tops its pizzas with, again from the website, "crushed non-GMO Italian peeled tomatoes, “white gold” buffalo mozzarella, fresh whole mozzarella and organic [and] non-GMO Italian extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil." It helps that the pizza is baked in a wood-fired oven.
The Kissimmee store has a few stations, each with bins of toppings. Guests can order a pre-set pizza or create their own. Several appetizers and salads round out the menu, along with flavored sodas (basically seltzer with add-your-own flavored syrups) and dessert. A certified cicerone curates a beer menu with draught, canned and bottled options for each unit and a corporate sommelier chose nice wines. I ordered the least expensive wine just to be polite (Cloudfall pinot noir), since I was the restaurant's guest, and it was a simple glass of joy.
A handful of area franchisees have purchased three- and five-restaurant packages, and other franchisees are opening units elsewhere in the United States. Do I think MidiCi will be a national chain serving up incredible pies in hundreds of units in 10 years? No. I've been covering the restaurant market for 35 years and have never seen a rapidly growing franchise complete its mission with quality. For now, though, I may even haul my Toyota back to Kissimmee, and I eagerly await planned units closer to home.