Upon entering Bud & Alley’s Pizza Bar, I was glad to see the familiar face of Chef Phillip McDonald, who recently returned to the Emerald Coast after spending the past year in New York City where he was honing his culinary skills with some of the countries top chefs and restaurants, including a six month stint as sous chef at Reynard in the Wythe Hotel.
McDonald, who has taken the Executive Chef position, is a Florida native who grew up in Destin eating fresh Gulf seafood right off the docks. He draws his menu inspirations from the Gulf of Mexico, regional farms, his customers’ tastes and the five senses, but says, “Pizza is my passion and I am very excited about the opportunity to be part of the Bud & Alley’s family. Dave has been a true pioneer and visionary on the restaurant scene and The Pizza Bar has been serious about making pizza the right way from day one. We plan to elevate everything, from the food, wine list and top shelf specialty cocktails to the dining experience. We are raising the bar at The Pizza Bar!”
Chef McDonald and his culinary crew make 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.
My guest and I were over the moon about Chef McDonald’s Brussel Sprout pizza topped with mozzarella, pancetta, garlic and chili, however, the menu features more than a dozen different “red” and “white” pizza pie offerings. Popular choices include the classic Margherita made with basil and fresh mozzarella, the Roasted Fennel Sausage that is topped with house made sausage and fresh mozzarella, and the White Clam Pie topped with fresh-shucked clams from Alligator Point. I also savored Chef McDonald’s Watermelon Radish Salad so flavorful and seasonal, as well as the hand crafted grass fed beef meatballs smothered in a delectable San Marzano tomato sauce and topped with local honey, basil and chili. Artisan cheese plates, antipasto dishes, bruschetta, homemade soups, and hearty pastas round out his menu.
The Pizza Bar was conceptualized by the cucina’s of Naples, Italy, where owner/founder Dave Rauschkolb of Bud & Alley’s was visiting with his wife Carol, and renowned architect and friend, Leo Casas. They discovered a wonderful cafe 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 Obe Pavilion. “Our menu showcases those rustic dishes. I’m all about keeping the food simple, seasonal and delicious” McDonald explained.
Bringing his fresh perspective to the food by creating an authentic dining experience in a relaxed setting by the Gulf, McDonald’s focus is on the flavors not trends. Dave Rauschkolb says, “ Collaborating with McDonald is natural. We are both low-key local surfers that are passionate about serving the highest quality of food-sourced and I’m thrilled that we are able to work together.”
Before opening his private, personal chef and catering service in 2006, McDonald worked in many of the area’s best restaurants, including Cuvee Beach, Criolla’s, Fish Out Of Water and Onano. Beyond New York, he has also worked in the kitchens of the culinary meccas in New Orleans, San Francisco and Portland.
Over the years, Bud & Alley’s has garnered numerous awards including Florida Trend Magazine’s Golden Spoon Hall of Fame Award, designating the eatery as one of the Top 20 Restaurants in the state. Guests of The Pizza Bar can experience Chef McDonald’s menu family-style in the courtyard, in the restaurant, or on the veranda overlooking the Gulf. The Pizza Bar is open daily from 11 a.m.
For more information on The Pizza Bar at Bud & Alley’s or To-Go orders, call (850) 231-3113 or visit www.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.