Interview: Cory Dragone
Humbly bringing to you, the 3rd edition for Bozeman Magazine’s New Twist on the Traditional Dining Section; our intention is to provide inspiration, fun, excitement and share passion of food as we enter into the month of February.
Having recently moved from Florida to Bozeman, I continue to fall in Love with Bozeman, Montana. It’s a beautiful, playful, growing adventure of a small city/ big town. A humbled, big eyed and bushy tailed new team member of the Bozeman magazine, I am grateful, and happy to share this month’s piece for the 2015 February edition. A restaurant with more than just great food, excellent wine and fabulous people, this hot spot has flavour, culinary expertise and good old fashion tradition, one even grandpa would be proud of! Join me for a close look at the restaurant as I sit back and relax with Chef Cory as he shares with me the history and world of Blacksmith Italian.
RO: How did you end up in Bozeman?
CD: Originally from Rochester NY, I moved around a lot. Moved to Portland, Oregon in 2011. Dad (Steve) was in Oakland, California and we were looking for a restaurant for few years and Bozeman was where we found it. We found a great spot, which at the time was Lemongrass. (Chef Cory, and co-owner Steve (his dad) moved to Bozeman in September 2013, within five short weeks, opened their doors- ready for action.)
RO: Why did you choose Italian Food?
CD: “We chose Italian because it’s great food, full of flavor & fills the belly =) It felt right.” With Italian blood Cory, and his Dad (Steve) knew Italian was the way to go. “Dad is half Italian, and my mom’s family is Italian so it made sense. My grandfather Stephano was a Blacksmith all his life, and in Rochester it’s a very popular Italian community. During the times of the Ellis Island migration the buzz was all about the culture, and we wanted to provide a cozy and candlelight style environment. One that came natural. We looked all over: New Mexico, New York, California, Utah, all over! When we found Bozeman, we knew, this was it!”
RO: What do you like best about being a Chef?
CD: “Well, I was a Sous Chef for a few years, then Head Chef for a few restaurants. I worked in restaurants since I was 15 years old. I worked in 2009 and 2010 at Yellowstone Park in Lake Hotel. It’s nice to come to work and do something you like! I like that I get to be creative, taste good food and have fun! Making people happy and seeing the immediate gratification feels good too. Seeing people waving as they leave and saying Thank You- that makes me happy- making people happy!” Chef Cory states all with a softness, only a proud, passionate Chef, can get away with.
RO: What do you feel, if anything, has changed about you as a Chef over the years? Expanded/ Shifted, etc?
CD: Italian food has become my expertise, I love sourcing natural local food. I want to provide good food for the people! Working with locals who reach out to support us is awesome. We often get suppliers calling us to offer their services they have reserved quantities, simply because they hear about our food, and understand we want to serve quality. All of our Pasta is homemade from Montana Semolina & Duram flours.
Fun fact- Montana supplies this flour to Italy for pasta making =) I love interviewing and learning! Wow:)
RO: Are there any trends you see relevant in the industry that you feel guests can enjoy more of if they knew about? (in other words) what should/could guests expect to look for to create better experience for themselves and staff of favorite restaurants?
CD: “Open kitchens have become popular offering a look into the kitchen and the heart of the restaurant. Community tables are very popular in Portland. Making friends- building community.”
(Chef Cory continues to share with me a sweet story about community tables and the value it brings to community, similar to the environment Blacksmith Italian offers. Cozy, comfortable feeling.)
RO: What do you want guests to experience when they come to this restaurant?
CD: We provide homemade food with good, natural ingredients. We’ve spent a lot of time preparing Italian food and because of that can offer great wines that pair well with our food. Everyone that works here loves what they do, and we all enjoy having guests come thru the door, that’s why we’re here. Feeling comfortable and making everyone feel welcome is important to us. You can be sitting next to a couple dressed to the nines as easily as someone who just came in after long day on the slopes. (Great place for celebrating Anniversary, 1st date, college night, hiking, etc.)
RO: Do you believe Italian Food is something everyone has potential talent for or no? What advice would you give someone who wants to learn?
CD: “I worked at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, California” (Greystone), states Chef Cory. “I learned the importance of cross training, and I believe anyone can learn if they have passion. It happened here in our restaurant, we had a guy apply as a dishwasher, and within a short time, he received several promotions, making his way up to night time dinner cook.” (I am happy to report that Blacksmith is run by a staff of 13 people total which includes- 7 Front Of House, and 6 Back Of House- Impressive for a Successful Place like Blacksmith Italian.)
RO: What’s most important for you to share with the readers & why?
CD: “We put a lot of love into the food & service here. If you haven’t tried it yet, we expect it to be a very enjoyable experience for you! We provide a friendly, comfortable, cozy environment.” (Offering Special- Mondays $10 Bowl of Spaghetti & Meatballs with a beer.)
Bonus Question: What do you like best about Bozeman?
CD: The people who are from Bozeman are very welcoming and everyone else who’s not from Bozeman walks around with a smile on their face because they moved here purposefully. It’s a lovely place to live, and we are very happy to be here.