September 06, 2011
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.