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Michael’s Pizza Café: Tradition, Community & Pizza!

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The tradition of Michael’s Pizza Café dates back to 1978. Located at 2300 West Alpine Avenue in Stockton, California, Michael’s Pizza is a staple in the neighborhood and surrounding community. With a commitment to customer service and quality, Michael’s Pizza continues to be a favorite with Stockton locals. It was founded by Michael Calder after he worked for an Italian family that owned Melo’s Pizza in Pleasant Hill; he wanted to start something on his own and Stockton was the place to do it. Michael’s Pizza Café is currently owned and operated by sole proprietor Gina Calder, who purchased the business in 2009. Gina had worked with Michael since 1989 and had opened adjacent Gina’s Café in 2001. Gina has continued the tradition of fresh, quality ingredients and a commitment to her local community.

Our visit to Michael’s Pizza and Gina’s Café was a wonderful experience filled with great food and even better company. Gina met us with a smile and introduced us to some of her staff. She walked us through the renovations that are currently under way and showed us where the full bar, a new addition, will be located. “I am so excited for this renovation; we are planning craft cocktails and wine dinners for the future,” commented Gina. She is no stranger to hosting wine dinners and pairings, as she owned and operated a French Bistro, Bistro Central Parc, in San Francisco for five years. Gina will be bringing some of her customer favorites to Michael’s for these special events. 

While we waited eagerly for the pizza tasting, we were treated to coffee and lattes from Gina’s Café. My latte was the perfect balance of espresso finished with a light foam, beautifully crafted with a heart shape floating on top. We enjoyed a light and flavorful waffle that surprised my taste buds when I took the first bite—bacon! Yes, I said bacon. There were strips of bacon baked into the waffle, making this a perfect breakfast treat. The breakfast sandwich was finished off with an over-easy egg and fresh tomato. I had to stop myself from enjoying more of it because I knew the pizzas were on their way. 

Three beautiful-looking pizzas arrived to the table and Gina shared how they make the dough and sauce in house. The toppings are cut fresh every day and it was apparent when I took my first bite. The Michael’s Combo was topped with pepperoni, linguica, Canadian bacon, salami, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions and sausage. Every piece was mounded high with the toppings and the fresh flavors complemented the house-made sauce perfectly. The Chicken Gourmet was next and was topped with chicken, mushrooms, spinach, red and green onions over a creamy garlic sauce that lightly covered the pizza dough. The fresh, cold tomatoes were the final touch on the Chicken Gourmet and paired perfectly with the hint of garlic coming through the sauce. 

The last pizza was the pizza of the month, The Collaboration. Every month Gina and her staff develop a special pizza of the month, typically coordinating with the season. “Our customers love the pizza of the month! It’s such a fun way to try new flavor combinations and bring seasonal ingredients into the mix,” shared Gina. The Collaboration was my favorite of the day. Instead of a red sauce or creamy garlic sauce, the dough is brushed with olive oil, then topped with cheese, red, orange and yellow sweet peppers, green onions, bacon and chicken. When the pizza comes out of the oven, it is topped with fresh-chopped cilantro and drizzled lightly with a tangy barbecue sauce and ranch dressing. The Collaboration was delicious and I will wait anxiously for Gina to bring this one back! 

While we enjoyed our pizza tasting, we watched Gina hustle through the restaurant, working with contractors on the renovations, answering questions from her staff and greeting customers with a smile on her face. I asked her how she balances it all and she responded with a smile, “I feel so lucky to have the staff and management team that I have here. I count my blessings every day. I could not do this without them.” Gina employs 40 people and three of them have been with her for over ten years. We ended our conversation discussing the challenges of running a restaurant in 2020 and Gina shared how she has pivoted her business to accommodate the challenges. “We used to begin delivering at 4:00 p.m. and during the closures, we made the change to start at 11:00 a.m. I wanted to make sure my team stayed employed and it was also important for me to support my community,” she emphasized. They even expanded their delivery routes to include Manteca, Morada, Linden and Weston Ranch. “Take care of the community that takes care of you,” Gina shared as we ended our visit.

Hand rolled, hand tossed, made with local ingredients and baked to perfection, Michael’s Pizza serves up flavors that won’t disappoint. For more information or to place an order, visit michaelspizzacafe.com.