April 19, 2009 in Idaho Voices

It’s a jungle in there – with pizza

Post Falls restaurant offers arcade games, space for private parties, too
Jacob Livingston
Kathy Plonka photo

Brittany Gentile, 21, battles 13-year-old Cody Gebel in a game of Target Terror on Tuesday at Jungle Pizza in Post Falls.
(Full-size photo)

If you go

What: Jungle Pizza

Where: 503 E. Seltice Way, Post Falls

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Contact: (208) 773-1500

Jungle Pizza is the kind of place a kid can be a kid, and grown-ups can join the fun without breaking the bank.

Located in the former home of the Post Falls Auction Center and Benjamin Franklin store on Seltice Way, the new restaurant is much more than just a pizza joint, though the Wood Stone oven-baked pies are some of the best in town, said owner T.J. Culhane.

“I’ve actually wanted to start something like this for years,” said Culhane, who co-owns another small business in town, the Pit Stop tavern, about the December opening of Jungle Pizza. “There’s nothing in this town for kids. You see them riding around on bikes but they don’t really have a place to hang out.”

Now, though, he’s hoping that’ll change.

The interior of the 10,000-square-foot eatery and entertainment hub has been transformed, with hand-painted jungle murals covering some of the walls, booths and tables filling out much of the floor space and life-size gorilla and leopard models greeting customers.

Across from the main seating area, an assortment of video and arcade games, candy machines, miniature basketball hoops, air hockey and Skee-ball stands line several sides of the room. With seating for more than 350, the spacious layout has tables away from the action as well as in the play areas, a walled-off room with a stage that’s available at no charge for private parties, and a prize booth in the back where customers can trade in their winnings.

And the best part is, most games cost just a quarter to play.

“We’re trying to make it affordable, so most of our games are only 25 cents,” said manager Kelly Martinelli, adding that parents can rent the private room and receive several dollars off large pizzas. Being low-cost and family-friendly, Martinelli said, “was the whole reason for this, actually.”

Rounding out the menu selection, Jungle Pizza offers calzones, chicken wings, Stromboli and a salad bar, with beer and wine also available. Prices range from just over $10 for a one-topping 12-inch pizza to about $20 for a three-topping 16-inch pie. One of the more popular items has been the weekday lunch special combo: a two-topping personal pizza and bottomless soda for $3.50.

While its open atmosphere, where parents can keep an eye on children, and low-priced entertainment are unique to the eatery, a big part of the pizzeria’s future success will rest on its food, Culhane said. And he believes the secret to making a great pie is on display behind the glass-partitioned kitchen: the new Wood Stone oven capable of holding several pizzas at a time. They make take a little longer to cook, the owner said, “but it has a very good product when it comes out.”

On a recent Saturday afternoon, the busiest day at the eatery with as many as 70 pizzas made on average, a handful of kids were celebrating a birthday and playing games in the private room. Meanwhile, some of their parents gathered around a machine, pumping quarters – and digital munitions rounds – into a hunting video game.

“I like it. It’s not too busy and not really crowded with people,” said Luke Tatman, taking a quick break from the game. “And the games are cheap.”

At another table, Shannon Holzer prepared for her son’s 10th birthday party. “We love it,” she said, adding that they came from Coeur d’Alene just to try the place out. “It’s not so noisy; you can hear yourself think in here. I like that it’s wide open and you can see everything. You’re not going to lose a kid.”

Eleven-year-old Jamie Forrest tried his hand at Skee-Ball before the party began. “It’s pretty cool,” he offered. “I’ve never been to a place where you can eat pizza and then go right to the arcade games.”

For the owner and manager of Jungle Pizza, even though they opened in the midst of a tumbling economy and December’s record-setting snowfall, they said the business is off to a good start, especially the weekends.

“I would say it’s been great,” Martinelli offered. “Like T.J. said before, it’s great to have something like this in town for kids.”

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