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Friday, December 19, 2014

Restaurant Review: Da Vinci delivers a pizza fine art

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By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Da Vinci’s Alberti is a “Premium Masterpiece” pizza that includes fontina and mozzarella cheeses with roasted garlic, kalamata olives and fresh tomatoes and parsley on an olive oil base

culture@dailylobo.com
@UncaMo

Da Vinci’s Gourmet Pizza sits in a converted gas station at the corner of Indian School and Girard. It may look small, but this joint delivers great big taste.

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Da Vinci’s Alberti is a “Premium Masterpiece” pizza that includes fontina and mozzarella cheeses with roasted garlic, kalamata olives and fresh tomatoes and parsley on an olive oil base.

By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

John Mickey Jr., who moved his restaurant from the NE Heights four months ago, said he has seen business rise by 50 percent since the relocation, and the delivery side of his business is still growing.

It’s no wonder. Mickey (who, in the interest of full disclosure, I have known for several years) treats pizza-making as an art.

He opened the original store in the Mountain Run shopping center in 2005, and says he was pretty much the only pizzeria in the area. Over the next eight years several other pizza places opened up, including three Dion’s restaurants and a few national chains.

While he had a loyal clientele, he decided it was time to switch to a market that was not so saturated and found the new location near UNM.

“Almost my whole crew came with me to this store,” he said. “It was great to be able to open the new place with an experienced crew.”

That experience shows in the quality of the product. Da Vinci’s offers hand-tossed pizzas that range from simple pies to what are called “Premium Masterpieces”: tasty, upscale pizzas topped with gourmet ingredients — not your typical pizza pie.

“I look at pizza like an open-face sandwich,” Mickey said.

A product of that mind-set is one of his most popular pizzas among regulars: the Green Chile Bacon Cheeseburger pizza. This specialty pie comes topped with ground beef, bacon, green chile and onions atop cheddar cheese and a special sauce that includes ketchup and mustard. Once out of the oven, it is crowned with fresh lettuce and tomatoes.

Other extraordinary pies include the Michelangelo, which has balsamic vinegar-marinated chicken, artichoke hearts, imported peppers, mozzarella, ricotta and fresh parsley, all over an olive oil sauce.

For customers in a hurry, Da Vinci’s keeps a selection of four pizzas available by the slice. The selection rotates from day to day, but usually includes plain cheese, pepperoni, a combo pie and a “Masterpiece” or “Premium Masterpiece” option.

I tried several of the day’s pizza-by-the-slice offerings and was impressed. The Alberti “Premium Masterpiece” pizza was delicious and had a fresh taste, thanks to the parsley and tomatoes added after it came out of the case. While filling, the pizza did not seem heavy at all. The pepperoni slice was hot, gooey and tasty, while the ham and pineapple had a nice balance of fruit and meat.

The pizzas on the menu are divided by tier, are available in 12-, 14-, 16- and 18-inch sizes and are priced according to the toppings. “Masterpiece” pizzas run a few more dollars than the standard pepperoni, and the “Premium Masterpiece” pies are a bit more still.

In order to be competitive, Mickey set the prices for his basic pies at the same price as his local competitors’.

“People are willing to pay a little more for the premium pizzas,” he said, “but I can still compete with the other guys on the basic pizzas.”

In addition to pizza, Da Vinci’s offers a nice selection of salads, from a simple tossed salad to gourmet salads with premium ingredient mixes.

The calzone we tried was a great specimen of the dish. The crust was browned and shiny and nearly bursting with delicious ingredients. Calzones are available with or without meat and are served with a side of savory pizza sauce.

Unlike most pizzerias, Da Vinci’s is open for breakfast and offers a selection of coffee and espresso drinks as well as some innovative dishes: breakfast calzones and pizzas, available after 6 a.m. every day.

The breakfast calzone is much like a breakfast burrito, comprised of eggs, potatoes, cheddar cheese and a choice of red or green chile. It is also available in a low-fat egg white version with spinach instead of meat.

Breakfast pizzas come with Canadian bacon, eggs, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses and choice of meat and chile.

Gluten-free versions of all pizzas are available in the 12-inch size. While Da Vinci’s has separate paddles, ovens and cutters for the gluten-free pies, the restaurant is not a gluten-free environment.

All of the menu items, including the tasty-sounding desserts, are available for delivery in the University area.

Da Vinci’s Gourmet Pizza
2904 Indian School Rd. NE
Sun. through Thurs. 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.,
Fri. and Sat. 6 a.m. to midnight.
Visit the website at dvgp.com
or call (505) 275-2722.