When Joshua Shurtleff took over as the new owner of SmackDaddy Pizza, he wasn’t sure about keeping the restaurant’s name. He decided to embrace the bold title and create a menu full of daring pizzas.
Shurtleff purchased the takeout-and-delivery pizza joint at 829 Main St. unit 4 in February. Since he signed the papers on a Sunday, and immediately opened the next day, Feb. 15, Shurtleff has been rolling out the new menu and website as he works.
He debated changing the restaurant’s name. After asking friends and family what they thought about SmackDaddy Pizza, Shurtleff received both very negative and positive opinions. Either way, the reactions were strong, Shurtleff said.
“It's a very unique name, it grabs people's attention. And I decided to go with that boldness and just try and have the pizza and the menu and the quality and the brand, live up to the name and keep it,” Shurtleff said.
Shurtleff added six new specialty pizzas to the existing menu. Among them are combinations that rebel against traditional toppings, including the “Big Boy Cheeseburger” with a ketchup-mustard sauce underneath, cheddar jack cheese, hamburger meat, red onion, tomatoes and pickles. “The Southern Belle” is a take on southern cooking with a ranch dressing sauce, mozzarella, fried chicken and pickles. He added new recipes to the appetizer list including the four different kinds of garlic knots.
“There are pizzas that are designed to make people feel like ‘Wow, you know, this is different,’” Shurtleff said.
But Shurtleff still has some traditional pizzas and menu items from the original SmackDaddy. However, he changed ingredients to up the quality. Among the changes, according to Shurtleff, are the vegetables are cut fresh daily, the cheese is different, the sauce is now a traditional Italian style and they use extra virgin olive oil in their cooking. Every pizza’s foundation now uses Shurtleff’s sourdough pizza crust recipe.
Pizzas from the original menu have changed names, including the “Meat Daddy” which is now called “Carnivore.”
He added that long-time fans of SmackDaddy have mostly had positive feedback on the changes. Shurtleff has enjoyed getting to know the regulars, and said he still honors their old orders.
Shurtleff draws on his background in restaurants for the new menu changes. Before SmackDaddy, Shurtleff started his career in the food industry washing dishes at age 14. He went on to work as an artisan baker and has loved working with food most of his life. After college, Shurtleff worked in food manufacturing but he knew he wanted to get back to working face-to-face with customers.
“That went pretty well for a while. But it didn't really satisfy the same passion for food,” he said. “ It's not the same immediacy, like cooking food with your hands and giving it to the customer when you're running a big plant and making equipment.”
But another factor in taking over SmackDaddy was being a dad. Shurtleff said that his job in food manufacturing required him to travel and be away from his family. Now that his three kids are older — ages 12, 16 and 20 — he said it’s the perfect time to get back into restaurants. All three of his children work with him at SmackDaddy.
“I get to spend more time with them so work time isn't just totally away from the family,” Shurtleff said. “And they get to learn new things and they get to witness me pursuing my dream, which is really cool.”