Cugino’s Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant
Cugino’s is the perfect spot to enjoy the classic Italian dishes everyone loves after a long day of playing in the snow and sun. The menu is packed with favorites like bruschetta, steamed mussels, antipasto, muffaletta, chicken piccata, fettuccine chicken alfredo, spaghetti and meatballs, margherita pizza, calzones, strombolis, and much more. A classic Italian dessert, tiramisu, is available for an after-dinner treat to round out each hearty meal. A great place for your whole family, Cugino’s (located at 409 W Main Street in Belgrade) offers a relaxing environment that will remind you of your favorite Italian restaurants elsewhere. I sat down with the general manager, Elise Gonzalez, to talk about the food and the story behind the restaurant.
Cugino’s story began in 1981, when good friends John Salvia and Robert “Angie” Angelaccio opened Sal’s Pizzeria near the corner of Ninth and Oak streets in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The space was small, with enough room for a tiny kitchen, four seats and a countertop. Sal’s Pizzeria found a strong following and became a staple in Steamboat. In 1984, Salvia moved to Arizona and sold his part of the business to Angie’s cousin, Henry Arcolesse. The switch in ownership brought many changes; the name eventually became “Cugino’s,” which means “cousin’s” in Italian. It was always a locals’ place to eat. Originally, they just served pizza and spaghetti, but it continued to grow. Steamboat residents and visitors flocked to the restaurant. Those who showed up late for dinner usually found themselves waiting in a long line. An iconic symbol of that time in Steamboat Springs, Cugino’s was a gathering place; anybody who was anybody was there for lunch, or stopped by for dinner. In 2002, Carlos and Elise Gonzalez moved their family to Steamboat Springs. Carlos was introduced to Cugino’s by Elise one night when they went out for dinner. From the moment they walked into the little restaurant on Oak Street, they were immediate fans. In 2007, Carlos was hired as the General Manager of Cugino’s, which closed in spring, 2019. Carlos and Elise collected all they could from the restaurant, knowing that someday they would recreate this once-popular establishment.
Today, Cugino’s has been revived in up-and-coming Belgrade.
Taylor Owens: What would you like people to experience when they walk through Cugino’s doors?
Elise Gonzalez: Comfortable, number one. The food here is meant to be more on a home level and not too upscale. You know, just something you would cook or make at home. To feel like you’re at home. A place where you don’t feel like you need to dress up or anything. Yeah, comfortable.
TO: What menu items do regulars keep coming back for?
EG: The number one thing is the tiramisu, honestly. Everybody loves the tiramisu here. Everything in here is homemade. It’s all made with ingredients that are just like what you would have and make at home. Nothing weird gets added. We have a couple of things, like our cannoli shells, that aren’t made in-store, but the filling and everything else that goes in is all made here. Spaghetti and meatballs are always a favorite. People love that, and the meatballs are made here. I get a lot of people who say; ‘This is our favorite pizza,’ because it’s different from anything else they’ve had. And that’s made here. The dough is made in-store and our breads are made in-store. We try to keep it to where you’re eating as healthy as you can and not getting a lot of preservatives and things in your food, you know? I think there’s a good balance on the menu. I don’t think there’s anything that gets ordered more than anything else, honestly, and that’s kind of what we’re shooting for here. If a dish was not getting sold, it would probably be taken off the menu.
TO: What is your personal favorite menu item?
EG: Oh, my goodness. You know, I don’t have one. I love lemon. So maybe something good in that direction. We have some really lemony menu items here. I like the spicy chicken linguine. The shrimp scampi is good. So I kind of deviate in that direction because I’m not like the cream sauce type of person, but the cream sauce items are wonderful too. We make our own alfredo, and all our own cream sauces. Everything is made here.
TO: What would you say makes you unique in the local food scene?
EG: Belgrade doesn’t have a lot, you know, so I guess everybody’s unique here. There’s just not a lot here. There’s not a lot of Italian in the area. That alone would make us unique. The fact that we do take the effort to make things homemade. A lot of other restaurants kind of go the easier direction, doing things that are more semi-homemade. We don’t do that.
TO: What do you personally enjoy about being part of the greater Bozeman community?
EG: I love the area. The people are friendly. People are really open-minded here. They like to try new things. I like the people. You know, the area is a bonus and all, but I really like the people. I have met a lot of friendly people here. And, like I said, they’re interesting and they’re diverse. So we have a diverse community.
TO: Do you get a lot of people who come here after a big day spent outside and then wanting to eat a big bowl of pasta?
EG: We do. We get everybody, you know? We get everybody, and it’s a good blend. We get a lot of airport traffic just because we’re near the airport. So we get a lot of people from out of town. We also have a local clientele. We’ve got people who come in with their ski boots on, so the floor is friendly to that. And from originally being in Steamboat [which is also] a ski community, yeah, you have to be friendly to all.
TO: Is there anything coming up at Cugino’s that you would like readers to know about?
EG: We are developing a new lunch menu. A lot of our customers have asked if we could do that. So we are developing that and hoping to have that out by early spring. Smaller portions, and something different than what is on the dinner menu. People have been wanting soup. That’s been a big one, so we are adding that on. We’re going to be expanding the menu just a little bit, with some new items. The regulars, we have a lot of them, and they love it. They come back and they’re like; ‘Give us some more. We want to try more.’ We have a couple of items we’re developing right now. We are also having a special menu for Valentine’s Day dinner.