By Joye Ardyn Durham and Frances Figart | Photos by Joye Ardyn Durham
Mention you’ve been to Black Mountain, and a typical response from those who know the town is, “Did you have the pizza?” They mean, of course, My Father’s Pizza, nestled under stately trees in the upper alcove across from Seven Sisters Gallery on popular Cherry Street.
How did it get the name? The restaurant’s founder, Larry Robinson, learned to toss a pizza crust from his father, Big Larry Robinson. “This is how Dad does it,” he’d say.
Larry and his wife, Donna, opened the business 27 years ago this month, in June of 1990 in a small storefront nook also on Cherry Street. At first they offered mostly carryout and delivery—only a couple of chairs were available for folks to dine in—but soon word got out about the fresh ingredients and friendly staff. People just couldn’t get enough of the mouthwatering pizza, pasta, Stromboli, subs and salads.
The menu grew and the Robinsons hired some help, including industrious California transplant Micki Cowan, who had just left a corporate job at AT&T and had a two-year-old daughter to support. The team saw an opportunity to create the family-friendly restaurant that would become a tradition for visitors and year-round residents alike. So in 1995 they moved up the street to the current My Father’s Pizza location, quadrupling the seating, increasing the kitchen size ten times and adding a patio complete with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains to facilitate three-season dining.
Success continued and, by 2010, there was nothing about the business that Micki hadn’t done, from waiting tables to fixing the plumbing and working on the roof. She purchased the business (along with a partner who was later bought out), built on all she had learned from the Robinsons and took it to the next level.
With managers Eric Robinson (Larry’s brother) Chloe Riddle and Will Shivers constantly inventing new creations in the kitchen, the restaurant continues to offer customer favorites like My Father’s Supreme Pizza, Chicken Caesar Salad and the Skinny Pig Pizza, made with bacon, Asiago cheese and arugula.
“I know how the food should look and taste, but I’m not a cook,” says Micki, “I’m the numbers person. Eric is a fabulous cook and knows flavoring. No one makes soup like Eric.”
All of the sauces, dough, meatballs, hummus and special house dressing are prized family recipes made fresh daily in-house. The cooks source as many products locally as possible, from produce to beer, and visitors enjoy a choice wine selection. The pesto, Micki’s personal favorite, is concocted with fresh basil from Yellow Root Farm. Vegetables are purchased from local farmers’ markets during the growing season.
“What makes My Father’s Pizza stand out is that you can order a pizza or any other dish today and come back next year and the taste is the same goodness as remembered,” says local repeat customer Lib Mullinnix. “I come here because of the access to gluten-free options, which includes the fabulous pizza crusts, pasta and lactose-free vegan cheese.”
Since purchasing the business, Micki has been grooming her daughter, Chloe, to take over, which she will do in a few years. “She is bubbly, enthusiastic and anxious to run it on her own,” Micki says. “When Chloe is running the kitchen everyone is happy.”
Micki says the greatest part of her job is that she gets to make life-long friends with her customers. Over the years she has enjoyed watching the restaurant become a part of local families’ dining experiences and a backdrop for their memories.
“Our goal is to provide excellent quality and friendly service to our friends, neighbors and visitors to the area,” she says. “Larry taught me the business. He allowed me to learn and I wouldn’t have had this opportunity without him.”
My Father’s Pizza and Pasta is located at 110 Cherry Street in Black Mountain. Learn more by calling 828.669.4944 and at myfatherspizza.com.