NEW TAVERNIER PIZZA SHOP IS OLD SCHOOL

Joe and Leslie McDevitt stand in front of the colorful mural inside their new Tavernier restaurant, Krust Pizza and Pies. KELLIE FARRELL BUTLER/Keys Weekly

The doors to Tavernier’s newest pizzeria open to customers at noon, but the food preparation begins much, much earlier, usually at 6:30 in the morning. And that’s just the beginning of the process.

“It takes me three days to make the dough,” said chef and owner Joe McDevitt. “I do a three-day cold ferment. I believe by doing that the dough gets flavor, it starts to build character.”

McDevitt and his Brazilian-born wife, Leslie, opened their restaurant, fittingly called Krust Pizza and Pies, on Sept. 1, at the former Cafe Moka at Mile Marker 91.8. 

It’s more than just a livelihood for the married couple of 18 years; it’s a labor of love, a passion and a throwback to simpler times.

“We wanted to do a place like the old school way. I’m the owner. I’m cooking your pizza. She’s the owner. She’s making all of the desserts. We have no employees,” said Joe of their decision to create a true family dining experience.

“I think everybody really liked that we use fresh ingredients, we use organic flour. So when you taste the pizza you can tell it’s really a different kind of pizza; it’s not like your average pizza. It’s really special,” added Leslie.

Joe McDevitt is half Sicilian and half Irish and was born and raised in Philadelphia. Pizza is in his DNA. For two decades he worked as a chef at a private club in Miami. On his day off, Joe and Leslie started what they called “Pizza Mondays” from their Miami home. They advertised their pizzas on Instagram at @ilovekrust. Instantly they knew they were on to something. “Next thing you know we were starting to sell out in 10 minutes,” said Joe.

For the last few years the McDevitts dreamed of opening their own restaurant. Friends from Key Largo suggested they look here in the Keys. That’s when the property next to the historic Tavernier Hotel, the former site of Cafe Moka, became available. 

“I said I think this area could use a high quality pizza and pie shop and I said this is it,” recalled Joe.

Friend and artist Kevin Fletcher of Miami hand-painted the beautiful, bright and colorful mural inside the restaurant. “He did a masterpiece,” said Joe.

The pizzas are not your ordinary variety. For starters, they are square. The crust is thicker and there are gourmet options, like pepperoni with hot honey drizzle. The 5-star reviews from customers have been rolling in. 

“BEST Pizza in town…A must try next time you are in town. Don’t be fooled by the look…it is NOT heavy at all…the KRUST is crispy, fluffy, moist and delicious,” wrote one customer.

“It was SO good. Very different from any other pizza in town. Had a great burrata salad too! Desserts are delicious. We tried the banana pudding and the Nutella pie. Will be back for sure!!” wrote another customer.

Joe and Leslie commute everyday from their home in Miami to their new restaurant in Tavernier. Their twin daughters have two more years of high school, so a move to the Keys is not in the cards right now. “We don’t want to uproot them right now and say okay, we’re moving,” said Leslie.

Visit @ilovekrust on Instagram for more information.

Kellie Butler Farrell is a journalist who calls Islamorada home. Kellie spent two decades in television news and also taught journalism at Barry University in Miami and Zayed University in Abu Dhabi, UAE. She loves being outside, whether spending time on the water or zipping down the Old Highway on her electric bike, Kellie is always soaking up the island lifestyle. Kellie and her husband own an electric bike rental company, Keys Ebikes.