By Renae Counter, Explorebigsky.com Editorial Assistant

BIG SKY – Through tall windows with spectacular views of Lone Mountain, Montana’s evening sun drenched the newly opened Ousel and Spur Pizza Co.’s dining area. Cups of fresh espresso sat next to glasses of red, white and pink wine, and platters of fresh asparagus, antipasti, salad and pasta quickly filled the table.

This is Big Sky’s newest restaurant, Ousel and Spur Pizza Co. But don’t let the name fool you: This isn’t your average take-out joint.

The pizza crust is hand-tossed and made with wild yeast, the sauces are homemade, the vegetables come from Montana gardens, and the mozzarella is rolled fresh from curd in the kitchen.

Over wine, Italian dishes with a Big Sky flair, and espressos, owners Jennifer Kettleridge and Josh Kone told me about their longtime love of food, and about this new venture.

Kone and Kettleridge began planning Ousel and Spur back in February, they said. The idea was to rebrand the old Trailhead Pizza Co., which previously occupied the building. With the help of the building’s owner, John Romney, Kettleridge and Kone added a level of sophistication to the establishment.

“We want to be able to serve dishes that fill the gap of everyday food,” Kettleridge said. “This type of dining was lacking in Big Sky.”

Originally from Seattle, Kettleridge has lived in Big Sky for 11 years. Previously she worked as a wedding coordinator at Moonlight Basin and at the Big Sky bistro, By Word of Mouth. Her restaurant roots carry back to Seattle, where she worked at a nine-course, five-diamond restaurant, The Herbfarm.

Kone’s Big Sky roots date back to the ‘70s, when his grandparents settled in the area. Kone was manager and bartender at By Word Of Mouth for several years, and has also worked at Peaks and Carabineer. His love for good pizza springs from time spent working at Rusted Son Pizza in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The two said they wanted to steer away from a take-out pizza parlor and instead create a welcoming atmosphere where costumers want to dine-in. The interior boasts a light, modern look with Montana accents. Dark chairs neatly contrast light-colored walls, and rich, brown reclaimed timber from an old barn in Absarokee fences the room.

As we talked, water pitchers set on each table captured and reflected the evening sun. Outside, a young family of four bicyclists cruised past the windows, dismounted and added their bikes to the collection already lined up on the rack. The family walked inside, and the mother, Erica Jenny, complimented the new mirror adoring the wall behind our table. Jenny designed the restaurant’s interior.

“She’s a visionary,” Kettleridge said, describing Jenny’s design work. “She was able to capture exactly what we wanted the place to look and feel like.”

To complete the light, hip feel of the restaurant, Kone and Kettleridge opted to serve Rockford Coffee, espresso-style. The Americano they served was dark and smooth, a perfect beige layer of crèma adorning the top.

“I’m from Seattle, we have to serve good coffee,” Kettleridge said.

The restaurant also offers a full selection of Italian wines, reasonably priced.

“You won’t find a $100 bottle of wine in here,” Kettleridge said. “Italian wines are fresh, made to be drunk young with food.”

Unfamiliar with Italian wines, I found the extensive list perplexing. But our waiter Chaz suggested a red wine to match my entrée. Dynamic and flavorful, it was exactly what I would have ordered, if I’d known how.

“Here, the food is equal parts as good as the service,” Kone said.

In Italy, there’s a saying that if you eat good food with good friends, you’ll never grow old. While enjoying the delicate flavors of fresh basil ricotta on homemade flatbread, and truffled wild mushrooms in a bed of macaroni with prosciutto and dandelion greens, I couldn’t help but believe the Italian proverb.

“We want people to come here and enjoy themselves. Eat pizza. Drink wine,” Kone said.

Along with three salads and three pastas, Ousel and Spur has five house pizzas and an option to build your own. Pizzas can be made gluten free and all dishes have a vegetarian option. Both the lunch and dinner menus will expand as the summer progresses.

A family establishment, children are welcome at Ousel and Spur. The “Bambinos” menu includes cheese or pepperoni pizza, mac and cheese, and spaghetti with meatballs. While waiting for dinner, children can stay entertained with Wikki Stix, a soft bendable wax that comes in an array of colors.

Ousel and Spur Pizza Co. is located on the corner of Lone Mountain Trail and Ousel Falls Road, next to Lone Peak Cinema. The restaurant is open daily from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. for lunch and 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. for dinner.

For lunch and dinner menus, visit ouselandspurpizza.com.