The search for simplicity best summarizes how Kim and Russ Sikorsky run Columbia Falls’ North Fork Pizza, which celebrated five years earlier this year. While the pizza place on Nucleus Avenue only opened in 2016, the Sikorskys have much deeper roots in the Flathead Valley’s pie-slinging and culinary scenes: Prior to throwing down roots in Columbia Falls, they founded and ran Whitefish’s Jersey Boys Pizzeria.
Kim and Russ are originally from the East Coast and met in Colorado in the early 2000s, where they were both trying to find the perfect ski bum life. Restaurants provided that answer.
“We were just looking for a way to ski all day and work all night,” Kim says.
Russ started a pizza place with a friend in Summit County, Colorado, also called Jersey Boys. While Russ hadn’t run a restaurant before, he was a native of New Jersey, which provided a foundation of institutional knowledge to run a pizza place in the Rocky Mountains.
After a few years, the couple started longing for a new beginning and set their sights on Northwest Montana. They spent their first year working at a restaurant in West Glacier — an experience that allowed them to get familiar with the area’s culinary scene — before opening up Jersey Boys in Whitefish. The pizzeria quickly became a local favorite.
But running a popular restaurant is a time-consuming endeavor that doesn’t leave a lot of time for skiing. In 2015, they sold the business and took a break. The couple tried a few different things over the next year, but their new life didn’t feel quite right.
“There’s something that just sort of sucks you back in,” Kim says.
In late 2015, the couple started looking for property to open up another pizza shop, this time in Columbia Falls. A year after they sold Jersey Boys, North Fork Pizza opened in downtown Columbia Falls.
This time around, they set a few rules for themselves, based on lessons that they had learned from the previous two shops. For one, they were only going to be open six days a week and only for dinner. Second, they were going to keep the menu simple. No cold subs, no out-of-control menu, only the basics: pizza, salads, appetizers and a few deviations like pasta, strombolis and calzones. Simple was the name of the game.
Because their old recipes had been sold with Jersey Boys in Whitefish, the couple set out to come up with a new formula for sauce and dough. Once again, simplicity was the order of the day. For sauce, they concocted a simple Neapolitan-style red that only requires a few ingredients. For dough, they took advantage of their newfound storage space and slower pace to give their doughs more time to rise. Due to the previous restaurant’s size, space was always at a premium, but in Columbia Falls, they have the ability to let large amounts of dough wait a few days to produce a perfect crust, one that’s both crispy and chewy.
That perfect crust and simple sauce are perhaps best displayed on the North Fork Pizza, a Margherita-style pie with tomato sauce, sliced fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and roasted garlic olive oil. It’s a simple pizza that packs a big flavor.
Kim and Russ say one of the best parts of opening a restaurant in downtown Columbia Falls has been watching the community grow. When they first set up shop, there was no crosswalk out in front, but now there’s one, constructed in part because of the pizza place’s popularity. Despite the growing demand, Kim and Russ have no plans to expand hours or open up on Mondays. After all, simplicity is the name of the game.
Description: The North Fork Pizza is a Margherita-style pie with tomato sauce, sliced fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and roasted garlic olive oil.
Price: $14 to $22 (depending on size)
Location: 605 Nucleus Ave, Columbia Falls