Tina Zywicki's mother often tells customers at the family's new restaurant that they serve entertainment along with the food.
Keeping with the Dinty Moore tradition, the family often is joking around in the back, having fun and enjoying their time together, Tina Zywicki said. Dinty Moore, the original owner of the restaurant, was known for his policy of joking with customers.
The Zywickis are leasing to buy Dinty Moore's Pizza, which has been a staple of the Oak Creek dining scene for years. Although Tina is the one in charge, everyone in the family helps out: her husband, Paul, has found his niche making pizza, and the couple's daughter waitresses while their two boys help in the kitchen.
"We wanted to keep it a very family-oriented restaurant," Zywicki said.
Dinty Moore's Pizza is one of several restaurants to change hands recently. Big Tuna's reportedly has a new owner, as does Pisa's, which is now the Black Mountain Tavern. New businesses have sprouted up, and some of the longtime restaurants, such as the Colorado Bar, are changing their looks.
The Zywickis have been running Dinty Moore's Pizza restaurant for a few months. Tina has kept the traditional pizza and Mexican fare while adding her own specialties, such as Reubens and Phillies, and the occasional cookies and brownies.
She also has kept the Dinty Moore name, changing it slightly to Dinty Moore's Family Restaurant.
"It's just that it's always been that, and it just seemed like the right thing to do," Zywicki said. She considered other family names, but "nothing sounded right, except for Dinty Moore's."
The restaurant's family focus is obvious when diners walk through the doors, as photos of the Zywickis line the walls and items, such as the family's NASCAR memorabilia collection, give customers an idea of who they are.
Zywicki always has loved to cook, taking after her father, the cook in the family. Just as he could seemingly throw things together without even looking at a recipe, Zywicki loves to ad lib in the kitchen and create specialties of her own.
She began working in a Yampa restaurant, first as a waitress who never thought she would cook, then as a cook who swore she would never do the books, and then as a manager.
"It kind of seems like whatever I say I'm not going to do, I do," Zywicki said.
Zywicki considered taking over the restaurant last fall, but said she talked herself out of it because she worried it would require a lot of work. A few months ago, with the encouragement of her family, she decided to give it a shot.
"The kids all said go for it, they wanted me to do it, and my husband wanted me to do it," Zywicki said.
A few blocks away is the new Black Mountain Tavern, which has been serving meals for about a month. Along with changing the Pisa's name, owners Doug Diamond and Dan Bubenheim have changed the menu.
The restaurant aims to offer "large portions at affordable prices," and features Italian fare with a southwestern twist. Despite the Italian theme, the restaurant "is not anything like Pisa's," Diamond said.
Oak Creek was the perfect spot for the two friends to pursue their 6-year-old dream of having a restaurant, Diamond said, especially with South Routt's population looking as if could boom.
"We felt like it was the right time for South Routt, and the right time for us," Diamond said.
Diamond has been in the restaurant business since he was 14 years old, working his way up and learning the ropes of how to run a restaurant. Bubenheim has worked as a chef for almost 20 years, after studying the profession.
South Routt has "embraced" the new owners, Diamond said, making for a "wonderful, wonderful experience."
The small town's numerous restaurants don't create a sense of competition, but rather of community, he said.
"What we want people in Steamboat to know is this is an alternative," Diamond said about the various restaurants that Oak Creek offers.
Dinty Moore's Family Restaurant is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday through Tuesday, with a break from 3 to 5 p.m. on the weekdays. The Black Mountain Tavern is open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203
or e-mail email@example.com