September 06, 2011

Paradise Italian Grill

During a recent review of another restaurant, I mentioned the Des Moines' Ultimate Pizza survey Cityview was doing.  Last week we got around to checking out another of the contestants in that survey, and we found it quite to our liking.  That restaurant is Paradise Italian Grill.

In the interest of fairness, and to avoid any perception of conflict of interest, I should note that my immediate supervisor at work is the wife of one of the co-proprietors of Paradise Italian Grill.  That didn't influence our decision to eat there - we were visiting with my son and looking for a place to eat, and Paradise happened to be nearby - nor has it influenced the review, but facts are facts.

Paradise Italian Grill used to be known as Paradise Pizza, and had been open in West Des Moines for several years before switching owners this summer.  It was closed for renovation for awhile and had its grand reopening this past weekend.  We ate there a couple days before that event.  I wasn't familiar with Paradise Pizza, but when we visited Paradise Italian Grill, we were told that the renovation greatly changed - and improved - the appearance.  Apparently Paradise Pizza was painted in colors that remind one of the flash and emptiness of the 1980s ala Miami Vice, plus for some strange reason its decor included a huge mural of cats.  The turquoise blue and neon pink and cat mural are (thankfully) gone now.  The new decor is more neutral, with some classic bistro-style touches.   The overall feel was comfy.

The transformation from Paradise Pizza to Paradise Italian Grill has expanded the menu to include pasta dishes, sandwiches, salads and a range of appetizers, but since we came because of the Ultimate Pizza challenge, we decided to sample three of the restaurant's signature pizzas.  We'll probably try some of the other menu items some other time. 

The pizzas we got were the Spicy Thai Chicken pizza, a simple, rustic pizza with tomato chunks, fresh basil and Buffalo mozzarella and one of Paradise's crock pizzas.  The crock pizza is an individual pizza, with sauce and toppings layered atop ample amounts of mozzarella, the entire thing covered with dough and cooked in a crock.  The server brings it to the table and turns it over to serve, removing the crock.  The result is something of a bread bowl pizza.  Our own pictures, unfortunately, didn't do it justice so I chose to run the picture below, which was taken from the Paradise Italian Grill website.  My son got the crock pizza with mushrooms and black olives, and he said it was delicious.  It certainly looked wonderful. 

The simple, rustic pizza was also quite nice.  The fresh basil and mozzarella tasted great, and the crust was really nice...crunchy yet still having a bit of chew to it.  The Thai pizza was, quite frankly, wonderful, and it truly was spicy (though not overly so).  The peanuts on top, accenting the Thai peanut sauce used in place of a red pizza sauce, was a great touch.

Overall, we were quite pleased with the pizzas we got at Paradise.  While not our favorite pizza (that would be Fong's), it was good enough to rate more or less a tie with our second-favorite local pizza, Bordenaro's.  We'll probably eat at Bordanero's more often than either Paradise or Fong's, but that's mostly a matter of location and convenience.   Bordy's has the others beat in that regard simply because it's on the route we take home after work.   We don't eat out in West Des Moines that often, and when we do, it's usually somewhare further west, but when we're in the Valley Junction area and in a mood for pizza, Paradise will be our go-to choice.  Even if we don't have anything else going on in the Valley Junction area, I'm pretty sure we'll go out of our way to eat at Paradise Itailan Grill again sooner rather than later.   The pizza was really good, and we're looking forward to trying out some of their other offerings.

Paradise Itallian Grill is located at 2025 Grand Avenue in West Des Moines, Iowa.  They're open weekdays 11 an to 10 pm and weekends 10 am until ... well, I'm not sure, as the hours listed at the website are "weekends 10 am to close."  2 AM, perhaps, since they have a bar?

In any case,  Paradise Italian Grill is on Facebook.


  1. Anonymous10:25 AM CDT

    Thank you for the blog post and I too love food. When I attended Iowa State in Ames, my wife and I went to the Lucillan's restaurant on many occasions. The owners of Lucillan's also owned Paradise pizza for many years prior to it being sold. When we moved to the greater Des Moines area after graduating we were ecstatic to find Paradise Pizza because we loved their food so much. Last night we visited the restaurant and have seen the new changes for the first time.

    I say all of that to give credibility to what I'm about to write.

    You state in your post that the new owners added pasta to their menu but that is inaccurate as they've always served pasta dishes. In fact, my favorite recipe there has always been their Cajun Pasta.

    I do like the new remodel. It does look cleaner. I didn't mind the mural before and it kept the kids busy while we waited. They didn't only have cats on there, but again, I'm really indifferent about the painting either way.

    That said, the new owners can remodel all they want to make the restaurant look better; however, even a pretty restaurant looks ugly when the customer service is lousy.

    First, we never did get bread served at our table until after our meal was served and after we asked for it. Because we didn't get our bread, we thought that was just another change by new management. We were even more disappointed to find out that the wait staff just dropped the ball. I'm glad they at least gave us paper so our children could color while we waited.

    Second, after I received my Cajun Pasta, I was quite disappointed. I only had two pieces of shrimp in the dish. I spent a total of $50 on the entire bill and they can only spare two pieces of shrimp? Likewise, it had no crab meat in it like it did before and that is what really adds to the flavor of the meal. Restaurants typically have a 300% mark up on their food, this one can certainly add five more pieces of shrimp and crab meat-even if it is imitation crab.

    Third, the plate size was too small. The previous owners started serving everything in smaller proportions so I can't necessarily blame new management, however, again I must mention: 300% markup.

    Fourth, we felt like we were a burden to our server. Like I said, we didn't get our bread. I didn't get a refill on my pop and I needed one to finish my last bites. The server took more time cleaning the table behind us than trying to help us so we had to ask for our check. I typically give 20% tip but I couldn't do it last night. I gave 10% and I'm apprehensive about trying the place again.

  2. Thanks for your comments. It really does stink to get an indifferent server.

    I can't comment to the portion sizes being too small on the pasta, since on our visit all three of us got pizzas, which were very generously sized. I'll keep this in mind should we return.