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  11 December 2017  |  Vol: 4 facebooktwitterrss  
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Beverly Ridge - Ferraro's and The Garage

The wood-fired pizza oven at Ferraro's Fine Italian in Bozeman.

Ferraro’s Fine Italian Restaurant and The Garage are two local eateries about which Bozemanites seem to have serious misconceptions. Popular consensus is that The Garage is a beer-and-burger joint fit for the blue-collar diner, while Ferraro’s is a pricey Italian establishment catering to the upper crust.  After dining at both, I have to lament, oh Bozeman, how could you be so wrong?

Recently, I visited The Garage with two companions on a hopping weekend night. Once through the entryway (in shambles due to what appears to be a rather serious accident) the hostess chose not to greet customers, but instead ignored us in favor of squealing and climbing all over an apparent suitor. Need I say that this is less than ideal?  Next we waited for a seat - usually a good sign. But when there are multiple empty tables in plain view, waiting is more than disconcerting - it points to serious service issues (as if the squealing weren’t already a hint). After finally being seated, a server came to take our drink order, but didn’t bring a wine list, couldn’t tell us what the house beer selection was, and without taking our order, left us to sit for over 10 minutes waiting for someone, anyone, to wait on us.

During our spell in limbo, I noticed a few things about The Garage. First, it’s filthy. Disgustingly so. There is grime in every corner of the place, the toekicks and baseboard are black with the stuff, and the urinal The sign for The Garage, a restaurant in Bozeman.mounted on the dining room wall stands like an achievement award for the slovenly. Second, there isn’t a burger on the menu for less than eight bucks, ten if you upgrade to bison. (To put this in perspective, a bison burger at Ted’s costs twelve bucks - I’d pay the extra two dollars just for a clean floor.) Third, the service isn’t all that great. Granted, the servers are nice, congenial even, but there were serious lapses throughout our visit. Oh, you guys want utensils?  After finally managing to order both drinks and dinner, our food came out promptly, but wasn’t anything to write home about. My BLT was dry (The Garage has the gall to charge extra for mayo) while the pulled pork we ordered was a notch over mediocre. Note: cold fries should be a capital offense. Overall, the most memorable part of the experience at The Garage wasn’t the food (as it should be), but the sloppy venue and questionable service. In defense of the cheerful staff, however, all indications point to absent or woefully inept management. 

Ferraro’s, on the other hand, conveys the air of an upscale restaurant with excellent service. After dining there on a recent night with a few companions, I’m very inclined to agree. For one, the service is impeccable. We were promptly greeted and seated in the wide and cushy lounge, where the effect is placid.  After perusing the extensive and reasonably priced wine list, we followed a recommendation on a bottle of Italian wine to share over dinner. Prior to our visit, I’d be hard pressed to find a server in Bozeman that knows how to properly serve a bottle of wine - label turned toward the person whose glass is being filled, perfect placement of a perfectly folded towel around the neck - it’s a rarely mastered art. There was also a manager at the restaurant (on a Tuesday night!), something I haven’t seen in years.

The food is impressive. The salad arrived with a heaping ramequin of blue cheese, and it may be personal preference speaking, but I love blue cheese. For the main course we had two wood-fired pizzas topped with fontina, pineapple, pancetta, and fresh mozzarella setting these handcrafted pizzas apart from the greasy mass offerings with generic cheese and pepperoni. In addition to the pies, our server had recommended the cannelloni, which arrived well seasoned, healthy in portion size, and moist with a tasty marinara sauce. The final touch? At the end of our meal, our server Sarah wrote down the label information for the wine and made sure to tell us to order it by the name of the vineyard, not just the varietal. Her professionalism will not be soon forgotten.

The surprising similarity between the Garage and Ferraro’s was the size of the bill. For the same price as three marginal sangies and a pitcher of beer at the Garage, we had two wood-fired pizzas, a generous helping of cannelloni, and an excellent bottle of wine at Ferraro’s. Also included at Ferraro’s was a clean dining room and excellent service (no nickel-and-dime additions to the bill, either). Mind you, we had a coupon offering two-for-one on the pizzas, but Ferraro’s has excellent deals all week, ranging from $16.95 for a New York Strip with endless salad and pasta on Tuesday nights to $5 martinis on Fridays.

The Garage likes to foster an image of being the place where Bozeman’s working class comes to chow down, but the prices on the menu disagree. Ferraro’s on the other hand offers excellent weeknight deals that people in Bozeman can actually afford and get a respectable meal to boot. Put your money where your mouth is and go get a taste of Italy, Montana style. -BM

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