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  • Tara Crutchfield

Bistro Pizza

Arabellas has been a Winter Haven fine dining fixture for a decade, and Ave Bar is the perfect place for a craft cocktail downtown. But where do passionate pizza fans get their pie? Bistro, of course. Bistro Pizza, the sister restaurant to Arabellas and Ave Bar, is a repeat Best of Haven winner in the pizza category. The Neapolitan-style pizza makes for the perfect slice.

“I love making pizza. It was my first job out of high school,” said Bistro co-owner Nikolas Chan. He started at a little pizza shop in Texas. Ray Sykes, a fellow owner, partnered initially with Chan’s father, Yan. Sykes doesn’t hail from a restaurateur background but started bartending at an early age. He moved to Orlando for college and started working at Landry’s Seafood House, where he met the General Manager, Yan Chan.

Nikolas Chan got into the business after seeing his father’s success. “Growing up, I used to go see him at the restaurant at Landry’s, and seeing the way he interacted with people and seeing the lifestyle he was able to accomplish because of the hard work he put in really attracted me to the industry,” Chan said.

Bistro’s gas brick oven pizzas are hand-tossed and made with only the freshest ingredients. What makes a good pie? The cheese and the sauce, according to Chan. Bistro uses a simple homemade tomato sauce and tops their pizza with Bacio cheese – a combination of mozzarella trademarked as having a “Kiss of Buffalo Milk.”

In addition to best sellers like the cheese and supreme pizzas, this Central Avenue pizzeria offers unique varieties like the Pizza Rustica with mozzarella and ricotta cheese, ham, bacon, garlic, and olive oil, and classics like the Pizza Italia with mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Or, you can create your own – and they mean it. One gentleman even ordered a shrimp alfredo pizza.

Bistro also features a full menu of calzones, strombolis, antipasti, baked pasta, oven-baked subs, and salads. (Pro tip: Chan says not to sleep on the salads. They are generously portioned and made with the freshest produce.) The creative pizza connoisseurs also do a ‘Pizza of the Day’ with out-of-the-box flavors like Philly Cheesesteak and Cuban. If you’re gluten-free, don’t worry; they have a cauliflower crust to die for.

Everything at Bistro is made from scratch (including the ranch dressing – if you’re a pizza dipper), and you can taste the difference. First-timers are encouraged to try the garlic knots with house-made marinara. As for the pizza? Opt for a rustica or supreme. “Another allure that we have that other pizza places don’t, is we offer a white pizza,” said Arabella’s General Manager, Jeffrey Tuttle.

Guests can pair their pizza with a cocktail from Ave Bar, a local craft brew, or wine from their extensive wine list. Tuttle worked with the original owners of Arabellas when they had Antonio’s. After leaving for a while, he returned and worked his way up from server to GM. “I love this industry. I’ve always enjoyed the culinary side of it and being able to provide people with memories and experiences,” Tuttle said. He enjoys making birthdays and anniversaries extra special. “It feels like you’re giving something to somebody.”

“We enjoy all of our customers,” said Sykes. “The locals are what built this business. That’s my favorite part of the business is meeting the locals. Sometimes, you’ll see people here four to five times a week.”

PIZZA PRO TIP: The best way to reheat a Bistro Pizza is to add it to a pan with a bit of water on the stovetop and place a lid over it. The steam will bring it back to life! Don’t use too much water, though. No one likes a soggy bottom.


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