It’s a frigid Friday night in Shaker Heights and you’re hungry.
So, you and your plus one head over to the nearby Van Aken District and grab
a table at Genuine Pizza, where you’re soon warmed by the fire roaring in the
restaurant’s brick oven. You order a craft beer and a pizza – perhaps the seasonal special – while your plus one
52 WINTER 2018 | WWW.SHAKER.LIFE
opts for the polenta fries followed by the pan-seared skirt steak and a glass of wine.
Sounds heavenly, right? It’s what Shaker residents have to look forward
to when chef Michael Schwartz officially opens Genuine Pizza in the Van Aken
District this summer.
Schwartz may be new to Cleveland, but in fact, he’s a big deal. He’ll be the third
James Beard Award-winning chef to open a restaurant in Northeast Ohio, joining
fellow honorees Jonathon Sawyer – who will also have a restaurant in the Van Aken
District – and Michael Symon.
Harry’s Pizzeria – which is what Genuine Pizza was called before Schwartz
changed the name in late 2017 – has been heralded as a top 25 pizzeria in the United
States by Food & Wine magazine. Reviews of the restaurant gush with comments
like: “The pizzas there are made with the most delicious dough and topped with
amazing cheeses and ingredients like fig, arugula, prosciutto, spinach, and slow
roasted pork” or “The pizza here is on point! I’ve tried two-thirds of the menu so far
and I’m overly satisfied! I absolutely love the kale and pesto pizzas!”
And the list of kudos goes on for Schwartz, who has made his home in Miami for
almost 25 years. Today, he owns several restaurants in the city, including his flagship
restaurant – the one that clinched him the James Beard Award – the much-lauded
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink.
Schwartz grew up in Philadelphia and at age 15 got a job in a local restaurant,
Dilullo’s. “It was really a special place,” recalls Schwartz. “It was this amazing
northern Italian restaurant with amazing people who were passionate about what
they did. That’s what stuck with me and what hooked me.”
Schwartz slowly worked his way up. “I was a sponge. I was there early and I
stayed late and I did the work.” In 1986, he moved to Santa Monica, and landed a
job at Chinois, the restaurant owned by famed chef Wolfgang Puck. Then it was off
to New York City, where he was recruited by a former chef at Dilullo’s to be a sous
chef at Andiamo. Two years later, he was head chef at a restaurant in Vail, where he
stayed for three years. Then Miami beckoned.
“At the time, my business partner and I both felt it would be a good idea to check
out Miami,” says Schwartz. “This was the ‘90s, when the area was really catching on.”
Today, the Miami metro area is the fourth largest urban area in the United States.
Miami itself has seen its population boom by almost 15 percent in the past decade.
Over the next several years, Schwartz and his partner opened seven restaurants
around Miami, including the acclaimed Nemo in South Beach. But by the mid-2000s,
Schwartz was ready to go it alone. The result: Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink,
which he opened in Miami’s Design District in 2007. These days, the Design District
is among the hippest neighborhoods in the city, but when Michael’s Genuine opened
its doors, the area’s renaissance was still a few years away.