Chewing the Fat
John Mickey, chef/owner of the new Da Vinci's Gourmet Pizza, talks about food, family and pizza in the digital age. The Alibi eats it up.
By Laura Marrich
So, Da Vinci's is tucked away up in the far Northeast Heights, right?
Yeah, we're way up here in the Shops at Mountain Run. We do lunch and dinner for carry out and delivery only.
Why did you decide to do that?
Partly because the space up here wasn't that large, and I didn't want to take up much more room [with a dining area]. And we're trying to keep it simple, to focus on one thing and do it right. Also, I wanted to focus on the Far Heights, High Desert, North Albuquerque Acres—basically where there are not a lot of delivery options.
That's pretty considerate of you.
Well, it's where I grew up.
That's right—I actually went to high school with two of your siblings.
There are quite a few Mickeys around here. Seven, in fact.
So are the other ones helping out any?
Liz is helping out part time, filling in gaps, and Pat drives or delivers for me when I need help. They have actually been a big help in getting this whole thing going.
How did you get the idea for this place?
Well actually, I have been wanting to do a pizza place for quite a while. Originally, about seven years ago was when I really wanted to own my own place. So I moved to Seattle and worked up there, and I kind of put this together in my head.
You were working at other pizza places in Seattle?
I've been working in pizza for about 15 years.
So I started looking around back home and at the demographics of the product that I wanted to serve. I wanted to do the gourmet, and I thought," Albuquerque has it, but nobody delivers it." This is one of the areas I felt was the best to start it up with.
So what's gourmet pizza?
To me, it's mainly about the toppings. The whole pizza itself has a New York-style hand-tossed crust, but for toppings we've got the goat cheese and the Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto and ricotta.
The ricotta was one of my favorites of yours that I tried—on the Bramante.
The one with the pesto and the red and gold peppers?
Yeah, it was so good.
Well, we've got 43 different toppings, so we can do something that's little bit different. And I have a whole bunch of ideas for lots of other things.
Thai chicken pizza. Maybe a seafood Alfredo or a wild mushroom pizza; something along those lines. I'm just getting a start and going from there.
So where did the name "Da Vinci's" come from?
To be honest, I don't remember. Over the years we just kept throwing around names. That's just kind of the one that stuck with me and I built the theme around it.
You mean the whole "masterpiece pizzas" thing.
Yeah, that was kind of what I was thinking. We came up with the names of renaissance artists and I was able to build a theme around it. I just thought it was kind of a fun idea.
Sure. Actually, I was really surprised by the rosemary-roasted potatoes on your Botticelli pizza.
Yeah, a place I worked at served a very similar pizza. That's when we learned the two are actually pretty good. We started talking about it—in Italy, they actually do a lot of pizzas with potatoes.
Funny, because you don't really see that here in the States.
People are checking it out just because of that. I got this one guy who does a pizza with potatoes, roasted garlic, peppers and basil. He's here regularly.
So you guys already have a strong repeat customer base?
Yeah, we've only been open two months and we've got people who are on their 10th, 12th order. People are loving it. A guy out of Dallas reviewed us on his website, 6things.com. We're also mentioned on egullet.com and on one other Internet food forum.
I guess it's because people get take-out pizza and eat it in front of the computer.
Yeah, probably. I've actually had two or three customers come in and say, "Hey, I saw that you were on egullet!"
Da Vinci's Gourmet Pizza is located at 5809 Juan Tabo NE. Call your next order in at 275-2722.
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