If everybody is writing about When in Rome (and rightly so, because they deserve every bit of honor they are getting), why add my voice to the pack? Well, because this is partly a food blog and I can't avoid writing about my favorite restaurant in the Flathead: The place that creates pure happiness for me. The place that makes me feel for an evening like I've been dropped into the heart of Europe. And...mark it down...I loved it before it was this popular.
Our first trip to When in Rome occurred when we came to visit the church where my husband now works in Montana. We were knee-deep in the heart of an unexciting-food micro-town of North Dakota, where eating out meant getting a pizza from the local Cenex, complete with ingredients that barely resembled food and tasted like they had been sitting in engine oil for years. Gross.
So, you can understand how enchanted we were when we stepped into When in Rome (then called Sun Mountain) and found that we could get a soda and two huge slices of artisan-quality pizza with fine ingredients for $5 for lunch (now the special is $6, but it's still a great deal). The idea that we could live in a place where we could get outstanding food like this was astounding, starved as we were for the real thing (There were many great home cooks in North Dakota, but most restaurants were unimpressive and uninspiring at best.)
Now that we have moved to Montana, we have visited lots of area restaurants, but we keep coming back to When in Rome. You can get a beautiful large pizza for $15-25 for take-out, but we almost always eat in the restaurant. Yes, it's more expensive, when you consider tip and drinks and the inevitable appetizer that calls our name, but it's worth it for the ambiance and the joy that eating in a place where the owners (Engjell Vrapi and Kaleigh Brook, a married couple) put such passion into everything that they do.
It's a pleasure to sit and watch them in the kitchen, putting such detail and beauty into their food. It's a joy to talk to their talented servers who love the food they serve and who present it without pretension. It's the rare thing when great food people can welcome you in to what they do, instead of making you feel "outside the club." When in Rome achieves hospitality and artistry at the same time. A couple on a date, a seasoned retired couple, or a family with small children are equally at home. The dining room is small and intimate, decorated with many lovely touches that suggest Europe. Rick Steves always plays on the flat-screen TV, making you feel as if you're looking out the window to the beauties of Europe. Tables are adorned with simple cut flowers. Vrapi directs his kitchen with joy and fine organization, donning a white chef's coat.
When in Rome has a menu of Mediterranean dishes (mostly pasta), always an interesting special, and some inventive salads. We love it all, but we especially love the pizza.
When we visited last night, we had the spanakopita, a dish that I enjoy but rarely get too excited about. But this time, from my first bite, I was in bliss. The delicate layers of phyllo melted in my mouth, buttery and crisp. There was a delicious tzatziki dipping sauce that only enhanced the cheesy, buttery taste. I was in heaven.
|Pepperoni/"Best Pizza Ever"|
When in Rome, baby. When in Rome.