Thursday, January 01, 2009

Mmmmm… Pizza!

SML restaurants offer abundant options for pie lovers

            When people move to Smith Mountain Lake, they’re often happy to leave behind many aspects of their former lives such as heavy traffic, long lines and high prices. But there’s one thing most aren’t willing to give up – a good pizza. Fortunately, SML offers a number of restaurants that can satisfy the craving.

            The newest pizza place at the lake is Downtown Pizzeria, which opened in August 2008 at Celebration Square in Downtown Moneta. It is owned by Gil and Karen Smith who also own Fallon’s Restaurant, Freckles Ice Cream Parlor, Hawk’s Country Store & Deli and Casa D’Amici Italian Restaurant.

            "We’ve come here every other week since it opened," said Ted Ouimette while sharing a half Hawaiian/half mushroom and meatball pizza with his wife, Sharon, and son, Ted.

Sharon Ouimette said Downtown Pizzeria fits into their schedule, which includes choir practice at a nearby church, “and it’s a good-sized portion for the price."

            The restaurant, which is decorated with pennants from various colleges and universities, touts its daily-made dough, toppings and sauce. Four pizza sizes are available. Along with the usual toppings and specialty pizzas (Meat Lover, Veggie Lover, White Pie), there are some distinct varieties available, including Buffalo Chicken (topped with breaded chicken, hot sauce and blue cheese), Downtown Pie (a white pizza with bacon, broccoli, eggplant and tomatoes) and Lasagna Pizza (meat, sausage, ricotta, garlic and extra sauce).

            Downtown Pizzeria’s menu also features six non-pizza entrees, including Chicken Parmesan dinner served over pasta or the sandwich version served on a foot-long roll. Four salads and several sides — wings, fries, poppers, onion rings — are also available. Daily lunch and dinner specials are posted at each table.


Lago Pizza

            Another relative newcomer to the lake pizza scene is Lago Pizza, which opened about a year ago on the Bedford side. Conveniently located in the new ShopRite shopping center, Lago has seating indoors and on the sidewalk in the warmer months.

            Though pizza is the main attraction, also available are burgers, wraps, cheese steaks, sandwiches, wings, pasta and lasagna. A popular daily lunchtime special is two slices of pizza and a drink.

            "Personally, I think Lago has the best pizza at the lake, and I’m pretty particular," said frequent customer Alice Weddle. "I also like the fact that the pizza — the dough, the sauce, everything — is consistently good. It never changes."


Michael’s Pizza &  Pasta

            Near Hales Ford Bridge but also in Bedford County is Michael’s Pizza and Pasta, opened four years ago. The atmosphere in this family owned restaurant is quaint and rustic with a fireplace and peaceful Italian music playing in the background. It attracts a crowd that enjoys Italian food and an intimate atmosphere.

            In addition to all types of pizza (including a multi-grain crust on request), there are appetizers and numerous Italian specialties available at Michael’s, which can also accommodate special dietary requests in pizza and meals. In the summer, the restaurant offers a pizza buffet at lunchtime.

            Owner Michael Ralph said his restaurant also caters for family reunions, showers, group meetings, reunions and events such as sports banquets at the restaurant or off site.


Pizza Pub

            Opened in 1998, the Pizza Pub at Bridgewater Plaza is the lake’s oldest pizzeria. It also holds the distinction of being the only one accessible by boat.

            You can dine in, where a bar with TV is available, or out on the covered patio. In addition to pizza (choose from 16 toppings) the restaurant offers wraps, sandwiches, Italian subs, pork barbeque, salad and appetizers.

            Takeout is available if you wish to bring a feast back to your boat.


Joe’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant

            In business for about two years, Joe’s Pizza and Italian Restaurant offers a selection of made-to-order pizzas in two crust styles — thin or square-shaped, thick Sicilian type — and a large selection of Italian dishes. In addition, the restaurant features an extensive buffet with slices of different pizzas, salads and numerous Italian appetizers and meal items. The buffet is offered Tuesday through Sunday for lunch (11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and dinner (5-9 p.m.). On Sundays, a breakfast buffet runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

            "We sampled everything on the lunch buffet, and it was good," said Jean Roberts of Penhook, part of a four-generation group that dined recently at Joe’s. Added Roberts’ daughter, Michelle Ridgeway of Vinton, "The prices are extremely reasonable, too."

            Decorative murals on the walls will transport you to sunny Italy, if only during your meal at Joe’s, which is owned and operated by Joe and Maria Altadonna.

New York Pizza

            The Westlake area’s Food Lion Shopping Center is the home of New York Pizza. Owner Lorenzo Altadonna, nephew of the Altadonnas, who own Joe’s Pizza, has been dishing up hot pies for about seven years. He emphasizes the quality of his ingredients: dough and sauce made fresh every day, cheese that is grated at the restaurant, and all fresh vegetables. Of course everything is made to order, but Altadonna cites his Supreme (with six toppings and extra cheese) and the Margarita pizza (with fresh garlic and fresh oregano) as the most popular choices for his New York-style (thin crust) pizza.

            "I like his pizza best," said Olivia Simpson, who described herself as a regular at New York Pizza. "We [parents Ken and Ramona and brother Ken] always go there. The calzones are good, too."

            New York Pizza also offers stromboli, salads, fries and appetizers such as wings and poppers.


La Trattoria Italian Restaurant

            The only made-from-scratch pizza on the south side of the lake can be found at La Trattoria Italian Restaurant on U.S. 40 in Union Hall. Though the restaurant has only been open under the present ownership for about a year and a half, owner Lynette Jones has been making pizza and Italian food on and off for 17 years.

            "I learned from the best," she said of her experience working for three of Joe Altadonna’s lake restaurants over the years.

"We came to the lake from New Jersey, and I’ll tell you this is really great New York-style pizza," said Mary Di Angelo of North Brunswick, N.J. "It’s not like some big chain pizza. It’s authentic. You can taste the difference."


Also worth mentioning…

            Though not strictly a pizza restaurant, the only place offering home delivery of pizza at SML is Hot Shots Family Fun Center, which has been in business for 18 months. Owners Jeff and Rhonda Schott said their 10-mile delivery area includes Bernard’s Landing, the Hardy Road area past CJ’s Store, the Burnt Chimney area, and down Diamond Hill Road. Though the facility includes a separate room just for dining, Hot Shots is more of a mini sports bar with TVs, pool tables and an arcade for kids to complement the outdoor miniature golf course and bumper boats.

            "Hot Shots has the perfect combination for the entire family," said Terri Fochtman of Moneta, who frequents the establishment with her husband, Charlie, and son, Will. "I chit-chat with friends while Charlie watches football and plays pool. I always have to drag him out of there. We think it’s the best ‘pizza place’ in town. Plus, there’s other food to choose from, like the quesadillas, which I love."