The Pizza Bar serves up fresh creative pies at its new rapido window by Susan Benton
As temperatures become warmer, travelers are beckoned to one of America’s premier hideaways, well known for family fun, beautiful beaches and delicious cuisine — Seaside.
In time for spring break, Dave Rauschkolb, the forward thinking restaurateur and owner of the now 30-year-old Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant, as well as The Taco Bar and The Pizza Bar, which fall under the Bud & Alley’s Restaurant Group brand family umbrella, added a rapido window (meaning quick or rapid in Italian) to The Pizza Bar, making it easier for those wanting to enjoy great food without the wait.
The Pizza Bar was conceptualized by the cucina’s of Naples, Italy, where Rauschkolb was visiting with his wife, Carol, and renowned architect and friend, Leo Casas. They discovered a wonderful café on the island of Ischia off the coast of Naples overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, had an a-ha moment and brought the inspiration home to Seaside, opening The Pizza Bar in 2008 next to the Coleman Pavilion.
In 2014, Rauschkolb’s quest for perfection led him to hire longtime local chef Phil McDonald who had just returned to South Walton after honing his culinary skills with some of the best restaurants in New York. It is an exceptional collaboration, as McDonald and Rauschkolb have elevated the cuisine and creative preparations offered.
The pizza is still the top priority, with the staff making fresh batches of pizza dough, mozzarella cheese and pasta by hand daily. Each 11-inch Neapolitan-style pizza pie is created to order and topped with local produce, along with imported meats and cheeses for the most authentic taste.
The pizza is hand shaped and baked in a wood-fired brick oven, stoked with southern oak at temperatures nearing 950 degrees, creating a thin crust that is cooked and served in minutes. “Our menu showcases those rustic dishes. I’m all about keeping the food simple, seasonal and delicious,” McDonald says.
In the pale green board and batten building, Cathi Harpster greets customers though the fire red Dutch door, and sells perfectly charred wood-fired pies as they exit the newly installed second pizza oven. She says, “This job was tailored for me. I really love being in charge of the rapido window and meeting all of the people that walk up to order. The Margherita & Felino Salami with fresh mozzarella and basil is very popular.”
General manager Jay Etheridge agrees with Harpster on the popular pizza choice, but adds that the Jalapeno & Pepperoni is making waves. “Topping the pizza with our in house pickled jalapenos really makes a difference. The rapido window has also shown success, in that we can provide even better service to our seated patrons that are ordering off the full menu,” says Etheridge.
A tin roof shaded common area just steps away allows hungry diners to enjoy their carry out in Seaside splendor, or they can kick off their flip-flops and savor a slice by the surf.
A menu of refreshing drinks is available, from tall tumblers of iced cold sweet tea, to imported waters, domestic and craft beer, as well as a fine wine list of perfectly chilled reds and whites.
Where wind bent magnolias meet raggedy palmettos, enjoy a taste of
Italy in old Florida style at The Pizza Bar located on 30A. For more
information on The Pizza Bar at Bud & Alley’s or to-go orders, call
(850) 231-3113 or visit budandalleys.com.
Susan Benton is the owner of 30AEATS.com where she shares her passion for food and travel, and her commitment to promoting local farmers, fishermen, chefs, artisans and restaurants along the Gulf Coast. Look for her cookbook release in 2016.
Visit Bud & Alley's Pizza Bar online.