KEMMERER — Climbing the Andes while on vacation at age 45, Tracy Carotta had an epiphany. The sociologist didn’t really like his job as a law enforcement officer anymore.
What he really liked was what he experienced long, long ago helping his parents make pizzas at the Frontier Bar, when he was just a teenager.
“I had good memories making pizza,” Carotta told Cowboy State Daily. “I love doing it. And everything in my last occupation, I was looking to get out of. I hated the job.”
Remembering how much he’d liked making pizzas led him to take different steps in life 21 years ago. He started a new journey, one he’s still on.
Carotta is the owner of Scroungy Moose Pizza at 179 Highway 233 in Kemmerer, a business that was using a take-out model long before COVID-19 ever came along and forced many businesses to adopt this strategy.
The Scroungy Moose is a local staple that offers delicious pizzas that are just a bit on the wild side.
Nothing Basic Here
There’s the Scroungy Cousteau, for example, that combines oysters and artichokes on a bed of pesto sauce. A customer suggested that one.
Then there’s the Scroungy Bandido with green chili sauce and cheese, grilled chicken and jalapeños.
Customers can get standard pizzas, too. There’s the Meaty Moose, which is a basic meat lovers pizza, and the Aloha Scroungy, which is Canadian bacon, pineapple and mushrooms.
There’s also the Frontier Bar pizza in honor of his parents. It’s their recipe from the bar where he learned to love making pizzas in the first place. That bar used to be right next door to Scroungy Moose Pizza.
Some of the pizzas even draw from Carotta’s travels, like the Portuguese-style pizza adapted from a pie he enjoyed on the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.
“I ordered a cheese pizza and it didn’t have any sauce,” Carotta said. “I said, ‘Where’s the sauce?’ And they go, ‘This is our Rio Queijo, we don’t put sauce on it.’”
Coming Up Scroungy
Creating all the different recipes and then naming them has been fun, Carotta said, and it’s something he still enjoys doing.
The name of his restaurant also was fun. He just put two things together that came from the heart.
Moose is a popular animal in southwestern Wyoming and something Kemmerer is famous for, Carotta said.
“Scroungy came from my dog,” he said. “What does Max do? He scrounges. My dog scrounges. So, Scroungy Moose.”
The moose theme gives the business a fun edge, and it’s something Carotta has really taken and run with.
There are statues of moose on the walls, along with photographs of Carotta’s many mountain-climbing excursions in Wyoming, Colorado and other places.
There’s also a diorama under the front counter filled with a cute little snowy town and miniature scroungy moose visitors.
Below the diorama, there are goofy moose figurines in various funny poses.
“It just goes with the restaurant name,” Carotta said, smiling.
“I think any decision you make in life has to quantitate with do you enjoy doing it,” Carotta said. “That’s the denominator, the denominating factor as my dad once told me. He always said, you know, half the battle in life is to get up every morning and go to work that you enjoy doing.
“A lot of people go through a whole lifetime not having that chance or ability to do that.”
47,000 Pizzas And Counting
Inside, the Scroungy Moose Pizza joint is warm and smoky, especially in the winter.
Carotta doesn’t seem to mind the smoke from his brick ovens, though. He’s patiently waiting for that first call of the night when he will make his first pizza.
“I like brick oven pizzas, that’s just my preference,” he said. “It comes out a little crispy on the bottom.”
Carotta’s stillness is deceptive though. As soon as he gets a call, he’s nonstop motion in the kitchen. He knows that the pizzas will take about 20 minutes to bake, so he has to move fast.
He’s got to get his dough stretched out just so and the toppings on just right and in the hot, waiting ovens right away.
“I’ve cooked every pizza that’s come through here,” Carotta said. “I’ve sold around 47,000 pizzas. It’s over $1 million in sales.”
He’s had some setbacks over the years and learned a few marketing lessons along the way. When Carotta first started the business, he thought Scroungy Moose Pizza would be busiest in winter. Nope.
“There’s some snow machining in the winter,” he said. “But this is a seasonal tourist destination, the No. 1 draw being fossils. There’s a lot of fossil trading in Kemmerer. We get some hunting and fishing, that draws a lot of guides in for that.”
People tell Carotta his pizza is great, but he is humble and sees it as still a work in progress. He’d like a thinner crust — the company that used to make the dough for his pizza went under during COVID.
And, if he had the money, he’d expand his business to offer sit-down space.
But he knows nothing in life is perfect, and he’s still on a good journey, making good pizza and good memories along the way.
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.