After family and friends, the three things that give me the most pleasure in life are food, wine and music and, on a Sunday, wonderful Sunday, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, there’s no place I’d rather be for all three than Mi Vida. To be more specific, those three great pleasures of life at Mi Vida are a pizza, a bottle of Italian wine and a band led by Kike Cornejo.
I’m used to guitarist extraordinaire and vocalist Kike as the leader of the house band at Santo’s Crudeteca on Friday and Saturday nights, recreating classic rock from the sixties, seventies and beyond. The music Kike likes best is the music I like best. People and bands like Van Morrison, Bob Segar, Pink Floyd, Men At Work, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Stones. At Mi Vida, on Wednesdays and Sundays, Kike takes it down a notch…but only a notch…with added material from Sting, The Eagles, Jackson Browne and Chris Isaak. It feels like prison when I’m glued to my chair and can’t make a fool of myself dancing to his slick picking.
If music be the food of love, there’s no better side dish than pizza. I’ve probably averaged at least one pizza a week since the first day I saw the word pizzeria (in Cincinnati, Ohio, incidentally) 61 years ago. In those early days, I measured pizza by the quality and, even more so, quantity of the toppings. These days, I’m a crusty old guy in more ways than one.
Now one of the most frequent emails I get is “Hey, Don Day, where can I find the best pizza in town?” I generally shy away from superlatives but I would never hesitate to say that Mi Vida is one of my favorites and what takes it up to that level is a superb crust.
Wander down to the back of Mi Vida and you’ll see a brick oven. And not one of those ovens that burn gas but an oven that burns wood, the very best kind of oven to produce the very best kind of pizza.
Generally speaking, the hotter, the better when it comes to pizza ovens, and Greta Ortega, chef/owner of Mi Vida, told me the temperature averages “around 350 to 400℃ (650 to 750F) and it takes just three minutes to cook a pizza.”
Greta wasn’t shy when she also told me, “I’m sure this is the best pizza in town. It’s because of the dough. We have a great flour and the process to make the dough is unique. We use a slow fermentation process which allows for good elasticity.”
The result is a thin crust with puffy areas around the edge, an almost but not quite charred bottom, and no yeasty taste.
The toppings too are exceptional. The quantity of expensive ingredients such as imported prosciutto is generous. The mushrooms are not simple whites but creminis. The olive oil (yes I’m one of those who sprinkles oil on my pizza) is as good as any I’ve had in San Miguel.
Mi Vida has slimmed their wine list down recently but it still has the best representation of Italians in town.
My choice to accompany pizza is a Nero d’Avola from Sicily and, with wines for $600 becoming obsolete in so many San Miguel restaurants, the price of Tenuta Ibidini still sits under that bar.
I also like the price of Mi Vida’s pizza. They average around $200 which is quite reasonable when you realize that they’re big enough to share. Sharing a pizza also saves room for another highlight on the Mi Vida menu. I would rate Greta Ortega as one the very best patissières in San Miguel so I find it impossible to leave without something sweet.
Again, it’s good to share and there’s no better choice than the sampler platter. Highlights of the current one include Greta’s pistachio semifreddo, tiramisu, and alhambra, a chocolate cake with almonds.
I’ve always felt that Mi Vida doesn’t get a fair shake. I think it’s one of the very best restaurants in San Miguel de Allende but, obviously, not a lot of other people do. Last Saturday night, at about 9:00 pm, when I came out of a crowded Nomada across the street, there were five, maybe six, people in Mi Vida.
The restaurant’s lack of success has always mystified me. Mi Vida seems to have so much going for it. Fine traditional Italian food with an imaginative dash of Mexican cuisine. A comprehensive and interesting wine selection. Pleasant and efficient service. Cozy yet classy ambience. A convenient location. Occasional live music. Just about everything except a lot of occupied seats.
I’m not sure it’s enough to put a lot more rear ends on those seats but Mi Vida has added something that’s been missing from the restaurant in the past, a superb front of house. Alessandro Ghiotto hails from Piedmont and brings to the restaurant food and wine knowledge, efficiency, charm, confidence, organization and, seeing I don’t know the Italian…or Spanish…equivalent, what I would call savoir faire. Alessandro glides through the room like a figure skater, moving from front door to tables being inquisitive but never intrusive. It’s not just food or music that attract people to a restaurant, often it’s a person, a personality, and Alessandro Ghiotto may be one of those magnets.
Alessandro was there to warmly greet me at Mi Vida the day after I was at Nomada. There were a few more people. Maybe fifteen in total including the four in our party. Which still left the place looking very, very empty. Which is a shame. Because I think, without Mi Vida, Sunday just wouldn’t be the same.
Mi Vida is located at Hernandez Macias #97 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. They are open every day but Tuesday from 1:00 to 11:00 pm. Pizza and live music are featured only on Sundays and Wednesdays.