SLADE, Ky. – Miguel’s Pizza has become a staple in the Red River Gorge. Climbers and visitors have been visiting the family pizzeria for nearly 40 years.
Dario Ventura has known the restaurant all his life.
“It started in 1983, I guess when I was born it was an abandoned store like an old gift shop in Johnstown,” Ventura said.
Ventura’s parents then reinvented the abandoned store.
“It was still a bit of a run-down building, but they opened an ice cream shop here in the mid-80s, I guess. And it was very successful for five or six years. You know we had lines of ‘waiting at the door,’ Ventura said.
A few years later, the Ventura family swapped their ice cream for pizza, better known as Miguel’s.
“Keep it simple, no preservatives, none of it like fresh, simple food,” Ventura says.
A family restaurant, Ventura says everything has been done by hand from day one.
“It was a lot easier when we didn’t have a lot of customers because it was usually just my dad cooking whatever and making a sauce and everything was from scratch. In fact, originally made here,” Ventura said.
Miguel’s Pizza has become known to many in the climbing community. A restaurant, Matt Durham, a local climber, said was a home away from home.
“It’s known in the climbing community, it’s really known around the world. People from all over the country go to Miguel’s, but I mean within the community it’s definitely a go-to,” Durham said.
Using a recipe that hasn’t changed for 37 years, Ventura says it’s community members like Durham who have made Miguel successful.
“On a Saturday night, I’d say 75% of the cars in that parking lot are from different states or even Canada or Mexico. So it’s like one of those things you get to bring really wide people around the world here,” Ventura said.
Miguel’s Pizza is more than just a restaurant. They also have a campsite behind the restaurant with showers and hope to continue to expand throughout the community.