Italy does not have pepperoni—an entirely American invention—just calabrese, the famously spicy sausage from the Calabria region of the country. I learned this important fact from Executive Chef Joel Delmond at Pinzimini—the signature restaurant of the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage—when I was there for Craft Your Crust, a special event that runs weekly through September 30. Every Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. sharp, at the bar stools set up in front of pizzaiolo (pizza-maker) Rudy Del Cid’s gas oven, up to 12 people (friends and/or strangers) can assemble to play with some dough and learn the ins and outs of making masterful thin-crust pizzas from Delmond, Del Cid, and sometimes even Pinzimini Chef Shawn Aoki. For $25 per person, guests get not only freshly baked pizza, pizza, and more pizza but two beers from that month’s featured brewery.
On the evening that I took a couple of friends to partake, Delmond and Del Cid started us off with a few appetizers: bruschetta (an antipasto consisting of grilled bread topped with chopped garlic and tomato, olive oil, salt and pepper, and fresh herbs), ahi poke, and fresh flatbread (hot from the even, brushed with olive oil and dusted with cheese and more fresh herbs). Then we donned our aprons, got our clean hands dirty, and pounded, stretched, and twirled our individual pizza dough balls. After conferring with our pizzaiolo, we basically selected our own toppings to create beautiful pizzas, some of which were vegetarian, some sporting calabrese (turns out there’s no pepperoni at Pinzimini either). La Quinta Brewery was the featured brewery in June, and we started with its Poolside Blonde (Pillsner meets West Coast IPA) before segueing to its Indian Canyon IPA (all soft bitterness and citrus, with a dry finish). For dessert, Delmond broke out cones topped with his house-made pistachio gelato.
What a great way to spend two hours on a mid-week evening—with pals or solo. I’m trying to gather up 11 of my nearest and dearest so that we can take over the entire pizza bar in a few Wednesdays. May I suggest you do the same, or just take your favorite guy or gal and make a romantic night out of it? July and September’s featured beer-maker is Coachella Valley Brewery, with La Quinta making a repeat appearance in August. www.westinmissionhills.com