The Mill makes room for a monster pizza
Black Mountain Mill & Pizzeria is not exactly hidden, sitting as it does on a hill above Vance Avenue with an unobstructed view of the mountains to the south of town. The large water wheel that turns deliberately on the east side of the building serves as a landmark visible from much of the town.
The inside of the building is home to a small dining room that, with an open kitchen, allows customers to see owner and operator Jerry Neumann, a veteran of the pizza business, tossing dough he creates using local craft beer Pisgah Pale Ale.
"I like Pisgah Pale Ale, and they (Pisgah Brewing Company) are a grassroots success story," he said. The ale "has good color, and it's not too dark. It's light enough, but it has enough body to it where it just works."
The Mill, as it is also known, is a traditional pizzeria. But since opening in late 2012, nothing about it has been typical, much like the owner.
As a teenager, Neumann began making pizza for a family-owned pizzeria in Illinois. After honing his skills in the kitchen, he toured the country as a member of the U.S. Pizza Team.
"I was a member of the team in 2004 and 2005, and from then on things changed," he said. "Within the first year that I was on that team, I was on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Cold Pizza, Martha Stewart's show, 'Good Morning America." And I got to throw dough on the back of a semi truck in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade."
Neumann followed up his career in competitive pizza-making with several themed pizzerias in two different states. While passing through Black Mountain he realized that WNC was the place he wanted to be.
He began remodeling the building immediately, implementing improvements in phases.
"Phase one was to just get open," he said, "and phase two was to build on my outdoor patio, get a beer license and have local beers on tap. And get the water wheel built."
Included in the second phase was to design sections inside that would accommodate one of his restaurant's key attractions - a massive 40-inch pizza.
"Each section is able to seat 25 people for our big 40-inch," Neumann said. "I'm going to give each area a distinct feel."
Neumann has been working to build a tiered system of decks onto the front of the building. As that phase nears completion, he is focusing on more ambitious long-term goals.
"Three or four years from now, this is going to be a destination," he said. "This is going to be a place that people are going to want to be. Just knowing myself and the way that I think, I don't ever see myself running out of ideas."
The Black Mountain Mill & Pizzeria
29 Vance Avenue, suite B
Open 4 p.m. - 10 p.m.