Smoky Mountain Pizza & Pasta
1850 E. 9400 South, Sandy ; 801-523-7070
Eclectic selection of menu items at a good value.
Cuisine: American, Eclectic
Hours: M-S, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Su, noon-9 p.m.
Liquor: Beer & Wine
Recommended Dishes: Pastas, pizza, spinach-artichoke dip, chocolate cake
June 13, 2003
Versatile Smoky Mountain Climbs to Culinary Success
By Nancy Hobbs
With plenty of pizza and pasta diners around town, it is always interesting to see what variations on that theme come with new arrivals. Smoky Mountain Pizza and Pasta, with its origins in Boise, is the latest newcomer to pique interest. The eatery made a big splash when it opened last January, exceeding all expectations. The novelty has worn off a bit, but Smoky Mountain continues to draw a steady clientele for lunch, dinner and takeout seven days a week, according to manager Dustin Maas.
Although six months of prosperity may be too soon to declare success, Smoky Mountain has a lot going for it: wide variety in its menu, good value and most important, food that tastes fresh and good.
Maas, who started working for Smoky Mountain in Idaho and relished the opportunity to open Utah's first outlet, said the restaurant initially focused on basic pizza and then pasta -- hence its name. But as new items have been added to the menu, such as the popular teriyaki chicken fettuccine with broccoli, carrots and mushrooms in a slightly sweet and creamy sauce, and "ragin' cajun" linguine with spicy andouille sausage and sweet peppers (both $9.75), the place is admittedly "hard to peg as Italian."
But it doesn't try to be. From the décor, with its 1930s to '50s-era photos of fishing, horseback riding and skiing, red-checkered cloths and wood-slat walls, to a menu that starts with Southwestern spring rolls and ends with tiramisu, it's hard to find a focus or simple concept.
Call it eclectic, or perhaps adaptable.
On an initial visit, we went with our server's recommendation to start with a warm cream cheese-based spinach and artichoke dip, which she described as "very, very, very good." It was, indeed, tasty, served with several slices of toasted baguette ($6). The bread ran out long before the generous amount of dip, and though I am sure our server would have supplied more bread, we tried to save room for our forthcoming entrées.
We also sampled Smoky's wings ($6), slathered in a zesty but not hot barbecue sauce (we were told the other option -- hot & spicy -- is aptly named). The wings were meaty and tender, not overcooked as is easy to do. They came served with a bowl of deliciously rich and chunky blue cheese dressing, along with a few celery sticks that were better for dipping than the chicken. (An appetizer of carrots, celery and other assorted veggies with that same dip would be terrific.)
Whether you are in the mood for a hot sandwich, focaccia sandwich, pasta or pizza -- build your own or choose one of their creations -- or even rotisserie chicken or grilled sausage and mashed potatoes, the decision can be hard to make.
The several pasta dishes we tried were consistently good, although more bland ("Americanized") than might be found at a traditional trattoria. But given the audience Smoky Mountain seems to be vying for -- families, young dating couples or teen groups -- that is likely a plus. It was, in fact, a group of teen girls who dined with me on a return visit, and all gave their meals -- individual pizzas and sandwiches served with fries or a nice side salad, either Caesar or house -- a hearty thumbs up.
Everyone at the table likewise enjoyed dessert. The Grand Chocolate Cake certainly lives up to its name, being grand in size and flavor, served with a generous portion of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Also delectable is the apple crisp, with tender apples capped by a crunchy cinnamon-spiced topping, adorned with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Both were $5.
Kids have tough decisions to make from their own menu, too. Individual pizza, cheese tortellini, cheese sandwich or chicken nuggets? Any of those, plus a couple more choices, come with a drink -- a Shirley Temple or Roy Rogers -- for $3.99.
Smoky Mountain serves beer and wine, including a couple of Moab brews on tap. And though the wine list is short, with only a couple of California varieties to choose from, the markup is modest, with a glass costing less than $4.
A significant percentage of Smoky Mountain's business is takeout orders, with anything on the menu available. The restaurant also has a cute fleet of PT Cruisers decorated with the Smoky Mountain logo on the ready to deliver orders for a minimal charge within about a one-mile radius.