Scene’s Featured Restaurant: Smoky Mountain
Cheerful, Casual Restaurant Celebrated 24 Years
Smoky Mountain Pizzeria Grill began as a casual pizza restaurant in Ketchum in 1992 and continues its strong Idaho tradition with more than 20 years now in the Treasure Valley.
It starts when you walk into the rustic, mountain lodge atmosphere. You are immediately greeted with the cheerful personality and aromas of a restaurant that has earned its reputation over the years as much more than just a place to grab a bite to eat.
Along with those who stop in for lunch or dinner, you’ll find people celebrating birthdays or anniversaries, you’ll see kids creating their own pizza right at the table, banquet rooms are busy with a variety of activities and, in the summertime, the patio is filled with good times and the smell of good food.
While lots of places now feature patios and sidewalk seating, Smoky Mountain Pizzeria Grill was one of the first restaurants in the area to make patios an essential part of the dining experience. It goes back to the rustic sophistication of that Idaho outdoorsy feel, while still bringing in a sense of contemporary cuisine and menu items that build on those traditions.
“High heels and high chairs are equally welcome,” said Smoky Mountain President Dan Todd, who runs the business started by his father and brother almost a quarter century ago. The restaurant’s name changed from Smoky Mountain “Pizza and Pasta” about 10 years ago to “Pizzeria Grill” to ensure that the smokiness of its origins would not go unnoticed. (Anyone who has ever visited the Sun Valley area during fire season will understand the “Smoky Mountain” moniker.
For example, the popular Hearts On Fire Grilled Chicken Salad features sliced romaine lettuce charred on the grill for a hint of campfire flavor and topped with a marinated chicken breast, balsamic drizzle, bleu cheese, toasted pine nuts and applewood smoked bacon.
“You’re not going to find things like this at your average pizza restaurant,” Todd said. And where else will you find Brie Kisses on the appetizer menu? Brie cheese in puff pastry served with a boysenberry-jalapeno jam. The sandwich menu now features the new Ciao’licious Ciabatta Sandwiches with choices like Smoked Turkey Club and Turkey Apple Brie on toasted ciabatta rolls. You might also want to check out the Grilled Salmon Pasta off the Sautéed Pastas menu, or the Chipotle Shrimp and Penne off the Baked Pastas menu. “I love the nuances of what we do,” Todd said. “We strive for layers of flavor in our dishes.”
Those menu temptations sit alongside all the traditional casual dining items you expect to find, like burgers, shoestring or garlic Parmesan fries, linguine, lasagna and meatballs. Any good restaurant knows how to stay true to its roots, while also bringing in fresh and exciting foods to keep the menu as lively as its atmosphere. But let’s talk about those Smoky Mountain pizzas. (And, of course, calzones.)
“We absolutely obsess about the quality of our ingredients, like the local cheeses that are made in partnership with our Idaho dairy farmers,” Todd said. “We make fresh dough ever day, and we have a Parmesan-baked crust that is uniquely crave-able.”
Dough choices include the original hand-tossed, or you can go for the thin & crisp or gluten-free. Choose a traditional tomato sauce or go with basil pesto or creamy garlic. Pick a traditional combination-style pizza or check out the Primavera that has broccoli, zucchini, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes and red and green peppers.
Another good choice is the house special — the Smokehouse Pizza. You’ll find an olive oil glaze on the dough with smoked gouda, caramelized red onions, Italian sausage, smoked tomatoes and a blend of yummy cheeses. “We smoke those tomatoes here in house,” he said. That sure makes it one of the tempting toppings from a list of more than 30 choices.
Kids have the option of making their own pizza at their table, which is then served in a Frisbee-like flying disc. Smoky Mountain Pizzeria Grill has been such a popular feature in communities over the years that Todd sees many parents who came as a kid and are now bringing their own kids to experience the fun of pizza and patio
“We want to create a family experience instead of people standing in line,” he said. “But it’s also about our great staff that treats everyone as friends and family. That sets us apart.” Despite the many compliments about the ever-cheerful and helpful service staff, it still comes back to how good the food is every day at Smoky Mountain Pizzeria Grill.
“We get a lot of that,” Todd said.