When you walk into Michael’s what strikes you first is the aroma of pizza. Not just pizzas that are coming fresh and hot out of the oven, but the aroma of pizzas that have remained in the air from yesteryear. It’s a smell of nostalgia and memories. You can taste sauce and yeast. [Worth a mention: my editor questioned whether this is a good thing — and in fact it is. Any pizza place that doesn’t smell like pizza isn’t worth your time or money.
Be wary of the posers.] The other thing that strikes me personally is Nobb Hill in San Franciso. There’s a pizza place there called Za Pizza that if my memories serve me well, feels about as a close a doppelganger of a restaurant I’ve ever seen. Both are small, with loyal patrons, great service, and were having fun with different toppings isn’t something they shy away from.
We’ve been to Michael’s in the past, and it’s one of those places that whenever you’re there you say out loud “we should come here more often”. Almost in unison my wife and I said it together, but we really meant it. We agreed that this is our place. The place we’d been searching for years to really call our family pizza place.
Personally, I’m envious of people who live in places like Brooklyn, where great neighborhood pizza places, with rich histories, and committed owners are a dime a dozen. In Iowa, it’s just not as common to find a place that meets that criteria. But we both agreed this might just about as close to that as we’ve seen. Sure there’s Chuck’s, but it’s just not quite our cup of tea.
As a kid, my family would always order potato skins whenever a place would offer them. It’s something that I’ve been able to get Lissah hooked on recently. What a brilliant combination, right? Pizza and potato skins. They’re great — nice and potato-y, something ironically many potato skins lack, as potato skins often times are skin spoons to hold everything but potato — bacon, cheese, chives, and sour cream. Not so with these, albeit some may say they’re heavy on the potato, we feel they’re just right.
The pizza is really the star at Michael’s, as it should be. The crust is perfect, with a perfect crispness on the outside and a nice chewy center. The sauce is wonderfully robust, with a hint of it stolen from the fridge of someone’s loving grandma. But it’s the toppings that are the pièce de résistance, the magnum opus.
We ordered their meatball, which features their “red Sauce, Meatballs, Sauteed peppers, Carmelized onions, Marinated mushroom, Roasted garlic, Mozzarella and Parmesan” (a big shout out to their menu for the regurgitation, which I was in no way prepared, qualified, or capable of recalling…I thank you).
But the meatballs and the caramelized onions are certainly worth an explicit and elicit mention. The meatballs were loved by all — imagine large, homemade meatballs cooked to perfection, then sliced to look somewhat like mini sausage patties. They were delightful… in fact so much so that our girls asked for as many as we could muster, which left very little for my wife and I. And the caramelized onions, what a treat, being nice and sweet provided such a nice balance and just made the experience.
Without further gushing, there you have it. A fantastic, wonderful, worthy-of-a-drive, much closer to home than San Francisco, been in business since 1979, Des Moines original. Damn, I’m hungry now, and they just closed.