Renton's Smoking Monkey Pizza wants to toss only the best
By TRACEY COMPTON
Renton Reporter Staff writer
April 12, 2012 · Updated 4:10 PM
One of Renton’s newest restaurants, Smoking Monkey Pizza, aspires to have the best pizza in the state.
Judging by the customer line that sometimes wraps outside the door, the pizzeria may be on to something.
Smoking Monkey Pizza has been open for about two months and is gaining attention.
“It’s important that everybody understand that we’re looking to make the best pizza we can,” said Dave Graves.
He co-owns the restaurant with Gene Sens, who also owns or is part owner of the Red House Beer & Wine Shoppe, Blossom Vegetarian and Papaya at The Landing.
Their friendship goes way back to when Graves sold wine to Sens’s early restaurants.
Graves calls himself a foodie, with just an overwhelming interest in food.
He and his wife Wendy have a habit of driving past a building and fantasizing about what theme would work there.
This time in his partnership with Sens it just happened that Graves wanted to create a pizzeria.
With the Smoking Monkey menu, Graves brings regional Italian pizza delights to Renton.
He has traveled to Italy several times, most recently to Sicily about four years ago.
The menu also features favorites created by Graves, Sens and Gustavo Frias, the pizzaiolo or pizza chef.
Frias studied pizza-making in Covilha, Portugal, with an Italian pizzaiolo for two and a half years. He is one of Smoking Monkey’s five employees.
For Frias the most satisfying compliment is hearing the sounds people make when they eat his pizza.
“For me, this is what I look for,” he said. “I look for the quality (with which) I can make somebody happy.”
Quality is the reason why Frias was hired as head pizzaiolo at Smoking Monkey, according to Graves. Quality ingredients are also what sets the restaurant apart from others, Graves said.
He demands high-quality products and skills in the kitchen.
“We’re not necessarily going to be the cheapest, I understand that,” Graves said. “And that means maybe we’ll loose some customers; but we’re going to be something special down here in Renton.”
Graves was attracted to the city because he had seen other high-quality restaurants thrive in Renton.
He was also drawn to the city because Sens, his business partner, is active in improving the city.
So where did Graves come up with the name Smoking Monkey Pizza?
Graves had a group of friends who met regularly at each other’s house for dinner.
One friend told the story of an unusual attraction in his hometown when he was growing up. It was a monkey in a cage that would smoke on-demand when a machine was fed money.
The Smoking Monkey Dinner Club became the name of Grave’s dinner party and now the name of his restaurant.
SMOKING MONKEY PIZZA
WHERE: 613 S. Third St., Renton
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m., Monday - Friday; 4 p.m. - 9 p.m., Saturday
Contact Renton Reporter Staff writer Tracey Compton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-255-3484, ext. 5052.