Food For Thought
Good books, good friends, and comfort food. The perfect winter evening.
Photography: Paulette Phlipot
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A slow smile spreads across Richard “Rico” Albright’s face when quizzed on the notion of bringing food to a gathering of book lovers. “Well, people love pizza,” he laughs.
“And it’s quick to prepare, easy to take somewhere, easy to eat. Perfect, right?”
Rico should know: Pizza is his claim to local fame. He arrived here in the seventies, “basically to ski,” and brought with him skills learned at his dad’s California pizzeria. The idea was to work construction until the snow fell (back in the days when construction had “a season”) and ski all winter. Rico was given an indicator of his future in the Wood River Valley early on. “I used to make pizzas for my friends,” he recalls, “and they kept encouraging me to open my own place.”
After five years of construction work and constant prodding from friends, Rico struck a deal with Brad Roos, the owner of Whiskey Jacques on Main Street. There, Rico cranked out his popular pizza and salads for nearly a decade, happily living the life so many people come here seeking—skiing during the day, working at night. Another stint of construction work detoured him for a few years, but he felt that something was missing. Following a nagging desire to be the proprietor of his own restaurant, Rico opened the first pizzeria bearing his name, on Sixth and Washington, in 1997. A year later, he moved the business to its current location on Main Street. “It’s a lot more fun when it’s busy. And it’s a lot easier to be busy on Main Street,” he laughs.
“I like the overall concept of restaurants, creating the idea of the place and making it all work. Of course, food is an important component, but it’s the people—the customers and my really great crew—and the experience of working and relating in the restaurant that I really enjoy. ”
“I couldn’t do this without my staff. I’m really lucky to have a good crew here, the best management up front, and the best guys in the kitchen. Chef Joe Woodside came here after cooking school in Pittsburgh to work with Sun Valley. We’ve got him in our kitchen now, and he’s really great at experimenting with combinations for sauté dishes and for pizza.”
Laughing, Rico also admits that making pizza isn’t rocket science: “Anybody can make a pizza. The key is combining the toppings creatively.” And he concedes that he isn’t a precise-recipe kind of guy. His pick for a winter gathering of friends starts out with a timesaving option: “Stop by the restaurant and buy a pre-made crust from us if you don’t have time to mix one up at home.”
Rico gazes off into the distance, muses about how colorful the pizza should be, what flavors would be best for a winter night, and begins . . .
Book Club Pizza from Rico’s
“Preheat a pizza stone in the oven to 450 F. Roll out the dough—make it a thin crust—and place it on a pizza screen. Then spread a mixture of red marinara sauce and green pesto sauce on the dough, and add spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, goat cheese, and pine nuts. Put it in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the top is nice and bubbly. Cut it into squares for easy serving.
“That’s it. Easy, right? And perfect for a group.”