by Tristan Head, Wood River Weekly
Interrupting someone in the midst of preparations for a wedding reception is typically ill advised, but with a friendly “Hello,” Dave enthusiastically shared the story of South Valley Pizzeria’s inception. As our conversation unfolded, he poured his heart out, expressing how he “felt like one of the luckiest restaurateurs who dealt with the nicest, most gracious customers and made the 26-year journey a genuine joy.”
Risks, both positive and negative, infiltrate our lives, and as humans we must learn to adapt and persevere. Dave Summers, the man constantly kneading the herb crust, portrayed the journey, which began from the encouragement to play the credit card shuffle in order to obtain funds to purchase what became South Valley Pizzeria.
For nearly three decades, South Valley Pizzeria’s herb crust has won the hearts of Wood River Valley residents. Everything began when Summers relocated to Ketchum to ski bum it in ’79 under the tutelage of Bob at Bob Dog’s Pizza located near the base of Warm Springs. While waiting tables across from Lefty’s, Summers’ dedication exceeded the average worker when he helped Bob relocate the restaurant to the back of Bellevue’s General Store, where they tossed pizza under a carryout-only business model.
The business took a drastic turn when Bruce Willis closed The Mint and Bob called, disclosing the fact that Bob Dog’s would be relocating to Lake Tahoe. Amidst the changes, Bob encouraged Summers to “take the plunge” into debt, and seize the opportunity to take advantage of the credit opportunities waiting in his mailbox. With the stroke of a pen, Summers adopted not only debt, but a future of his own recipe.
When Dave received an email from “PizzaTodd,” he knew he had found the right person to carry on the legacy of South Valley Pizzeria. Todd Rubenstein’s experience as director of operations of Bigwood Bread and managing restaurants on Baldy for Sun Valley prove to make him the ideal candidate to continue success. Their connection was immediate as Summers stated, “He [Rubenstein] asked all the right questions revolving around the numbers,” which has left a lasting impression.
Rather than starting from scratch, Rubenstein opted to preserve the restaurant’s beloved recipes, stating, “The recipes are great. Why start a riot when you can keep the people happy?” He elaborated on areas of growth, specifically bringing his family Caesar dressing recipe and transitioning all salad dressings to being made in-house, reviving wings for football fans, ensuring satisfaction for everyone’s palate with cannolis to finish off a meal. Most importantly, he has applied for his beer and liquor license.
Rubenstein immediately made an impact by supporting the local community by feeding hungry kids who participated in Bellevue Public Library’s summer reading program. He has future plans to “…be a part of the community by joining in parades and other events that benefit the community at large.” He encouraged families to dine in because they are ready to host or cater parties. After all, it has already become a family business with Todd’s son, Nicholas, perfecting his dough toss.
The former Silver Dollar Saloon was recently sold by owner Pete Prekeges to La Cabañita owner Armando Armenta. South Valley Pizzeria will continue to operate out of its original location behind the Silver Dollar for the foreseeable future.