Tasty Tuesday: Michael’s New York Style Pizza keeps up success after 20 years in the Highlands

Family and authentic tastes keep Michael’s at the top of its game two decades later

CLIFTON FORGE, Va. – Over the winter, a friend of mine invited me to visit him in Covington. He told me there was a spot in town that had authentic New York-style pizza. That’s all I needed to hear. Michael’s New York Style Pizza has been in Covington for 20 years and in Clifton Forge for two years.

Co-owner, Bonnie Keyser, tells us that at first, some said, “It’ll never last a year, so anyway…we proved her wrong I guess.”

Her husband, Michael Keyser, said his journey to Italian food started young.

“Believe it or not, I started at Pizza Hut when I was 18 years old.”

He then went to work for Italian joints up north and says, “I [kind of] kept all the knowledge that I learned and used that when I opened my own place.”

His love for the food and family is what makes up the menu, starting with his father-in-law, who helped Michael’s get off the ground.

In his honor, the Italian-style cheesesteak is named after Elroy. “It has everything but onions. And then my wife of course and my son. And now, we’ve got a couple of things named after the grandkids.”

Michael’s Special pizza is dressed with a homemade red sauce and tons of meats and veggies. Bonnie’s Blonde is a white pizza with spinach, tomato, onion, basil, garlic and oregano.

Bonnie’s influence goes far beyond the menu. She was an art major and teacher, so she took her love for that right onto the pizza box.

She explains, “I did a silhouette of the New York City skyline, and then I put the Hudson River with that. I branched it out in a circle into the Jackson River, and then put the Humpback Bridge on it. Serving a slice of New York City right here in Covington, Virginia and Clifton Forge, Virginia.”

Their son, Jim, takes on the banter across the counter as he slings pizza pie after pizza pie on a day-to-day basis. It’s that family element that keeps Michael’s going strong after all these years.

As the shop’s namesake beautifully says, “If you don’t have family with you, you’re not going to make it.”

This is more than just a pizza joint, though. The menu goes from top to bottom with 18 different sandwiches, turnovers, homemade pastas and breads, cannolis, etc. Then there’s the brownies. Bonnie tells us that just one has 1,000 calories!

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About the Author:

Meteorologist Chris Michaels is an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcaster, forecasting weather conditions in southwest Virginia on WSLS 10 News from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. weekdays on Virginia Today.