Sky High Pie – A Native Son’s Culinary Chautauqua

By Ray Rodriguez

Good Pizza is a simple joy of modern life.

But great Pizza, in a special place, enjoyed with friends, is a transcendent experience, a blissful giggle, a joyful dance in the heavens. The aptly named Sky High Pie provides such a celestial glimpse.

The French word “terroir” is used to express “the influence of place” or “environment” on wine grape varietals, much as Bakers understand the influence of area conditions on Breads. Examples would be Pinot Noir thriving in protected valleys or seaside areas with long, cool growing seasons, or the difficulty in reproducing New York Bagels or French Croissants due to water, humidity and outside the oven temperature conditions. You must both understand and work to the strengths of the land.

Gerald (Jerry) Noonan understands his “terrior”. Growing up in the wild west of neighboring Pioneertown, under the Shadow of “Red Dog Saloon” and “Pappy and Harriet’s”, with the entire Morongo Basin as his playground, was just the beginning of a lifetime journey working in top regional, national and international restaurant kitchens. In 2001 General Mills recognized Noonan’s results with Olive Garden restaurants throughout the Golden State as a “turnaround specialist”, and sent him to study in Italy at the Culinary Institute in Tuscany in an effort to further legitimatize the Olive Garden experience. His understanding of food and specifically Pizza, mushroomed.

“I learned that the old ways are still the best ways. You must use the best and freshest ingredients. We handmake every pizza. In our first year we sold 50,000 pies and each was created to order. We set out to do a true Italian Neapolitan crust, but quickly discovered Sky High Pie – A Native Son’s Culinary Chautauqua By Ray Rodriguez that it didn’t hold up in the center when taken out, so we switched to a sourdough crust, using a starter aged 13 years. Now we have a true Joshua Tree pizza.” Ahh, terrior.

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Though Noonan was the driving force in the two-year effort to open and continues to be after 18 months of spectacular success, he is quick to point out that without the financial support of partner Ivan Arnold, as well as Arnold’s talent for design there would be no Sky High. “Ivan took an incredible leap of faith and I am forever grateful. He did such a great job with the interior we HAD to develop a pizza to match his design.” Noonan further credits his staff, gushing over their skills that continue to improve the already stellar efforts. “Pizzas are better because of what our staff has brought to the program. The crust is better, the meats are better. We are designing layered pizzas and getting just a bit of crisp on the edges of meats which is fantastic.”

A visit to Sky High Pie

In complete transparency please understand that over 50 years ago I declared Pizza my favorite food. As a lifetime restaurateur, including spectacular dining moments at Mr. Jim’s BBQ, The French Laundry, The Addison, Michelin Dining in Europe, and a zillion “street tacos” before they even had a name, nothing
ever really moved me off Pizza for long. Admittedly seared Foie Gras & Sauterne merit a mention, but that is a food and wine combo, whereas Pizza stands proudly on its own merits. I believe many “grownups” feel as I do, even as our maturing metabolisms may reduce our frequency of indulgence.

Walking into Sky High Pie you are gifted with the scent of Fresh Basil growing in pots, Rosemary and Sourdough from the oven. You will order immediately upon entering, so do your homework, there is likely a line of hungry hikers/visitors/families behind you. The three pizza sauces are a traditional Red Tomato sauce, a White Alfredo sauce, and a light Pesto sauce. A stellar Gluten free crust is also available, alongside a delectable variety of meats, cheeses, greens and vegan toppings.

Besides Pizza, family recipe Meatballs, Salads, Soup, are all popular offerings with fresh baked Scones, Cannoli’s and Tiramisu tempting diners from behind the glass.

And if somehow you are only looking to quench your thirst, Noonan’s experience delivers again with a dazzling variety of curated beverages, including tasty non-alcoholic offerings , wine and craft beers. Further, a full liquor license is coming soon providing Sky High Pie with yet another palette for our palates.

A dozen tables make for a lively, boisterous dining area, though try one of the 6 stools that look point blank into the kitchen. You can follow the creative process from order to prep to oven to table and be amazed at the speed and skill of the staff. Outdoor dining is available both front streetside or on an enclosed private back patio.

Sky High Pie shares the block with neighboring JT Coffee Company and Taylor Junction, just outside the Park road Entrance to the National Park. Bring your appetite and friends. If you find yourself on your own, given the delicious vibe and bustling intimacy, you’re likely to make some new ones.

61740 29 Palms Hwy, Joshua Tree, CA Phone: 760 974 1050 Instagram: skyhighpiejt

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