Smoky Mountain Pizza & Pasta is a family restaurant in the best sense of the word.

By that I mean that despite the casual setting, friendly and prompt service, an ample kids' menu and numerous small touches to accommodate the wee ones, there's also lots on the menu for Mom and Dad. On the weekend afternoon that we visited, we saw plenty of groups with kids, but also couples and adults-only groups, proving the mass appeal of this restaurant.

The dining space at Smoky Mountain is spacious, with walls of windows on two sides. A rustic, lodge-style skiing theme dominates the decor, proving just how Americanized pizza and pasta have become.

The menu has a broad scope, as well, with classic pizzas such as the Margherita side by side with pies topped with Thai spicy shrimp, smoked Gouda, chilies and, in the case of the fire pie, five different chilies and peppers.

For kids, there were cute touches such as crayons brought to the table in cans that formerly held tomato paste and a big, two-sided coloring sheet. Kids can order personal-size pizzas, various pastas, chicken nuggets, grilled cheese and even a grilled-chicken salad. One of our daughters had the buttered spaghetti with two big, juicy meatballs on top, while the other had the Smoky O's, a plate of jazzed-up Spaghetti-Os.

Our youngest daughter, a pint-size gourmet, opted for the gratinee au brie, mushroom and leek soup with a creamy broth, topped with a triangle of crisp puff pastry folded over gooey brie cheese. I had a bowl, too, and it was silky, earthy and complex, if just a shade too salty.

My husband had a personal-size Carnivore Combo pizza, a crisp but chewy crust topped with plenty of pepperoni, ham, sausage and ground beef, as well as the usual sauce and cheese. It was not at all greasy, quite a feat considering the ingredients.

I went with the Sonoma chicken pasta, al dente penne noodles topped with flavorful marinated chicken tossed in a light tomato cream sauce with sliced mushrooms, green onions and sun-dried tomatoes, as well as a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. The whole plate was baked for a few minutes before serving, giving the dish added depth.

There's other enticing stuff on the menu: salads and sandwiches, calzones and entrees such as rotisserie chicken glazed with honey, rosemary and sage.

And, of course, there's dessert. My husband had an enormous slab of chocolate cake with chocolate chip-studded chocolate icing — basically, his dream dessert. I'm sure it was made off site, but it tasted nice and fudgy.

The kids each had a mini sundae of one scoop of chocolate, vanilla or strawberry ice cream topped with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and a cherry, while I tried the blackberry creme brulee. I wasn't sure how it would be, but despite a texture that more closely resembled flan, it had a great flavor, lots of sweet and firm blackberries and a crunchy burnt-sugar crust.

Appetizers $1.49-$7.29, salads $2.99-$8.99, lunch specials $7.49-$8.99, sandwiches and focaccia $8.79-$8.99, pizzas $4.75-$24.90, pasta $7.99-$10.99, specialties $8.99-$11.49, kids' meals $4.99, desserts and soda fountain $1.89-$6.99.

Smoky Mountain Pizza & Pasta

Rating: ***

Where: 1850 E. 9400 South, Sandy

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Sunday, noon-9 p.m.

Payment: Major credit cards accepted; no checks

Phone: 523-7070

Wheelchair access: Easy

Also: Takeout and delivery available

Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News. E-mail: