By Michael Brewer
It takes a lot of faith in your food to open a restaurant in the Desert in July. It takes a lot of pride to open a small pizzeria at The River at Rancho Mirage, surrounded by large, well-known chain restaurants. After one mouthwatering meal at Michael’s Pizzeria, the confidence that they have in their restaurant is completely justified.
Upon entering, you get a very welcoming and classy feel for the place. It’s a great setting for a romantic dinner, but still family friendly enough that they let kids make their own pizza. The diners next to us were complimenting the waiter on the food before we even got our water.
The waitress took my wine preference and offered up a Sicilian red wine variety called Nero D’Avola. All their wines are Italian, but she was very excited for me to order her favorite as a Sicilian herself. It was exactly what I described I liked and was refreshing to try something new. Not bad wine and service at just $8 for a glass.
We then went exotic with our appetizers and tried the squash blossom and the arancini oxtail. The squash blossom was lightly breaded and fork tender stuffed with warm, creamy ricotta. With the sweetness of the honey, it could’ve doubled as a dessert. The arancini had a crunchy exterior with melt in your mouth oxtail inside.
The Italian managers take pride in their authentic Napoleon style pizza. They are baked at 850 deg. for 90 seconds to get the real kind of pizza they love. I had a simple prosciutto e arugula pie to get a taste of the main ingredients and preparation they admire with a little topping. The crust has a crispy thin crunch with a little softness in the middle, far from the bland cracker thin norm. The cheese easily makes the pizza in a class of its own. It is made fresh daily in house and is proven with its creamy, rich flavor. The soft texture and robust flavor can only have come from their specific preparation. The tomato sauce is light and not overpowering. All of the main ingredients are flavorful on their own but work together magically. They form a mouth-watering entrée that left me insatiable. Now add a little prosciutto and arugula and you’ve made me feel guilty about ever wanting to order delivery pizza.
The basics are excellent, but try plates only they make. The pistacchio e stracciatella topped with mortadella has a new, intense flavor… even without the amazing mozzarella! I loved the spinaci e speck with gorgonzola without knowing what speck was until then! There are so many different specialty pizzas to choose from that a simple review cannot do justice; you must experience Michael’s yourself. They also serve favorite Italian dishes such as lasagna, cannelloni and parmigiana. Perhaps you will try one of their unique offerings like the polipo e patate, which is roasted octopus and potatoes with garlic, olive oil and lemon. We finished the night off with a bold espresso laced tiramisu, which had the perfect texture. Michael’s is a unique, fresh-faced restaurant that I now share the faith that they will be warmly welcomed to the desert.
71-800 Hwy 111, Ste. A122, Rancho Mirage (760) 341-4222
By Michael Brewer