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Friday, April 11, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dining Deals

Pizza joint is comfy escape from usual Broadway scene

Special to The Seattle Times

Michael's Pizza


526 Broadway, Seattle, 206-568-5197

Pizza

Recommended

$$

Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, noon-10 p.m. Saturdays.

Wine and beer, limited well drinks / credit cards: MC, V / no smoking / no obstacles to access.

For a restaurant critic, a restaurant on Broadway meriting recommendation is as rare and as wondrous a find as the birdwatcher's proverbial blue-footed booby. Mind you, this one's a good bit south of the babbling Broadway scene, in that socioeconomic convergence zone at Broadway and James where doctors and dowagers and students and slackers all eye one another suspiciously. Perhaps its removal from the droves of mediocre joints to the north is the saving grace of Michael's Pizza: It didn't get the memo.

Indeed, there's something refreshingly iconoclastic about this place. It's a raw vermilion shaft of a room, twice as high as it is across, adorned with all the right alternative décor, with eight long tables, two busy turntables (for the live DJs four nights a week) and a highly respectable speaker system.

Make no mistake: Michael's ain't paradise. Parking, save in one of the four 30-minute reserved spots in the adjacent lot, can be tough. Servers may be silly and blustering. The day I visited, one young employee dramatically announced she was out of virtually everything I wanted, which seemed, intriguingly, to make her angry. You finally order something they do have, and it takes forever — way longer than the 22 minutes you have left in your parking space.

But when you get your pizza — or your meatball sub or your salad or your lasagna — and settle in with a microbrew (perhaps on the green couch by the window), the soul of the place begins to work on you, and you realize how refreshing it is to be at a restaurant that knows exactly what it is.

The food may be up and down — in my experience, stick with the pizza — but the atmosphere is as sure-handed as it gets.

Check please

Michael's house salad (large): Other than being larger than the "small," this "large" does not exactly live up to its billing. It's serviceable: romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and a little cup of dressing. Ho-hum, but whaddya want for $3.50?

Garlic bread with mozzarella: Delish, slathered with garlic butter and all gooey'd up with half an inch of melted cheese. A $3 order brings four good-sized planks of the bread, making this a fine complement to one of Michael's four more interesting salads.

Sandra's lasagna: Dully seasoned with undistinguished pasta and unintegrated ingredients, this lasagna's a pass. Also available in the pasta department are spaghetti and ravioli.

Chicken pesto pizza: The best thing about Michael's pizza is the crust, dense and tangy-sweet, like a firm piece of Hawaiian sweet bread. This one featured roma tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, fresh basil, pesto and (too little) roasted chicken on top; a fine mix, in spite of lackluster pesto.

Siciliana pizza: Too many bullying toppings — olives, fresh spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and Italian sausage — made for some interesting collisions on the palate, so I was glad that the olives that day were black instead of the usual Kalamatas. (Spinach leaves, both flavor- and texture-wise, were ill-advised here.) Still, big bursts of flavor are nothing to complain about, especially on such a distinctive crust.

Itemized bill, meal for two

Michael's house salad (large) $3.50

Garlic bread with mozzarella $2.95

Sandra's lasagna $7.95

Chicken pesto pizza (half of an 18-inch pizza) $9.97

Siciliana pizza (the other half) $9.87

Tax $3.01

Total $37.25

Kathryn Robinson: KathAnRob@aol.com

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