To most of Bradenton-Sarasota, Village Idiot Pizzeria’s switch from pizza to a smokehouse-market is a big deal. But to chef and owner Joey Yost, it’s simple.
“It’s switching one fire out for another,” the 47-year-old said Wednesday, sitting inside the 6-year-old pizza shop at 11904 Cortez Road W.
Classic rock played over the restaurant’s stereo. It’s Yost’s background noise as he preps fresh pizza dough from imported Italian flour, tomatoes and olive oil.
“It’s like camping,” he said.
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On or close to Dec. 1, Village Idiot Pizzeria will abandon its wood-fired oven in favor of a hard-to-miss turquoise Southern Q smoker, currently parked in the 900-square-foot restaurant’s dining room. The new concept, called Sea Smoke, will allow Yost and his partner Amanda Sprague, 46, to close the restaurant before dinner every night and spend more time with their 8-year-old son Dutton. The Yosts and Sprague also recently welcomed Rubie, a 3-month-old cockalier (a cocker spaniel and King Charles cavalier mix).
The family factor carried the most weight in the decision, but Yost also was getting bored with making pizza.
We always like to push each other and see what we're made of. He's always got great ideas and when you get together with somebody it kind of pushes your boundaries and makes you come up with stuff you normally wouldn't have thought of.
Adam Ellis, owner of Blue Marlin Seafood
Though the first sentence on the back of the VIP menu declares that it’s not a typical pizza shop by any means, “You can only put so many half-cheese and half-pepperoni pizzas in a box,” Yost said.
Sprague agreed and said Yost’s talent in the kitchen is why she’s not worried about losing customers during the concept switch.
“He can do so much more,” Sprague said. “Anything he touches, it’s going to be good. He’s a wizard with food.”
Yost pulled out his “wizard book,” a black-and-white composition notebook filled with scrawled notes and recipes Yost has saved for the day they shut the pizza oven off. VIP will no longer serve pizza after Nov. 26.
In addition to declaring their love for the thin-crust wood-fired pizza at VIP, customers also raved about the comfortable, colorful dining chairs. Yost and Sprague will be selling the chairs for anyone interested.
Much of Village Idiot Pizzeria’s seating will be replaced by a deli counter and case full of quarts of takeaway staples like soups, gumbo, chowder and dirty rice. Yost’s goal is to provide quick, quality lunch food at a fair price. The lunch counter’s blackboard menu will change day to day and he plans to spread the word about each day’s offerings through Sea Smoke’s Twitter account. Yost hopes to keep the lunch menu between $6 and $9.
Yost also plans to “reinvent the TV dinner” that allows for customization. The difference between his to-go meals and TV dinners bought in the store? Quality ingredients and aluminum pans, which require baking instead of microwaving, the latter of which Yost thinks cheapens taste.
Adam Ellis, owner of Blue Marlin Seafood restaurant in Bradenton Beach, is excited to see what comes out of Sea Smoke. And he may adopt the 26-year-old pizza oven that Yost himself built. Ellis and Yost have created many culinary collaborations together.
“He has way more talent under his belt than making pizzas,” Ellis said. “I think everybody is going to be pleasantly surprised on what he pulls off.”
Yost and Sprague are excited for the culinary adventure ahead of them, but reiterated their gratitude for the success they’ve had. They hope to build on that success with Sea Smoke.
“We had no clientele when we started Village Idiot,” Sprague said. “Now we have that behind us and we will gain a new clientele.”