New restaurants always stir up excitement here in Teton Valley, but the enthusiasm that greeted Driggs’ Pizzeria Alpino when it opened in January was something special.
“Best pizza in Teton Valley,” wrote one customer in an online review. “Couldn’t recommend Alpino more!” wrote another. For John Koenig and David and Lauren Hugo, the co-owners of Alpino, the overwhelming response was a validation of their months of hard work to prepare the restaurant.
“The response from Teton Valley was incredible,” says Koenig. “We cannot thank our community enough for their support. We are truly blessed to live in such a wonderful place.”
Customers flocked en masse to try the diverse and delicious menu at Alpino, even tying up the phone lines as people tried to place orders over those first few days. Things have calmed down since then — but not much.
Koenig conceptualized the restaurant more than a year ago, collaborating with the Hugos to create this fusion of authentic Italian fare and Teton Valley vibes. The trio felt there was a dearth of Italian cuisine in the valley and wanted to fill the void not with cheap American knock-offs, but the real deal.
Diners will quickly recognize the care and craft put into each dish on the menu. Inspired by trattorias and pizzerias in the Italian Alps, all the pasta dishes are handmade, prepared fresh and in the traditional style. The speciality pizzas, meanwhile, are cooked on an electric deck oven imported from Sweden using an eclectic array of locally sourced toppings.
The Noble Fir, for instance, uses beef from Victor’s Crowfoot Ranch alongside onions, jalapenos, and a five-cheese blend. The Grand Fir enjoys delectable slices of prosciutto with caramelized onions, mushrooms, roasted butternut squash, dried cherries, and chevre. And, if you are feeling inspired, you can always create your own pie, selecting from a wide variety of veggies and meats. Koenig also highlights the restaurant’s lasagnas, both meat and veggie, which he says are “sure to satiate after a day of playing in the mountains.”
Both the Hugos, who became the managers of Driggs’ Warbirds Cafe in 2018, and Koenig, who spent many years working in hospitality and is a certified sommelier, bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the Alpino venture. But whereas many of their previous ventures have aspired to something a bit more formal, Pizzeria Alpino is meant to be a family-friendly eatery, with a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.
The Alpino team acquired the space for their restaurant last March, moving in at 165 N. Main St. in Driggs. The site — a historic Sears and Roebuck cabin that was delivered to the valley by railcar at the turn of the 20th century — underwent some renovation, particularly in the kitchen area.
But, sadly, COVID-19 has kept people from enjoying the full dine-in experience at Alpino; the restaurant currently does takeout exclusively, operating Wednesday through Sunday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
There is a silver lining, however. The extra time has allowed the Alpino team to gussy up the space. This means that when guests are finally able to sit down indoors for a Noble Fir pizza or a bowl of shrimp pesto linguine, it will be in the fully realized version of the Alpino space.
“We realize that there are a lot of people who want to dine in our restaurant, and trust us, no one in the valley wants us to open our dining room more than we do,” says Koenig. “However, the safety of our staff and community is paramount to us. The Alpino is very cozy inside and social distancing is not possible. Until we reach a point where we feel it is safe for our customers and staff, we will continue to be takeout only.”
In the meantime, Pizzeria Alpino is happy to be serving its cuisine to eager patrons. Each day, more and more of them are declaring Alpino the best pizza in Teton Valley.
Pizzeria Alpino is open for takeout Wednesday through Sunday, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Customers can view the menu at pizzeriaalpino.com. Orders may be placed online or by calling -208-354-8829.