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Making it in Big Sky: Michaelangelo’s Ristorante Italiano

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Emily and Michael Annandono have both been in the restaurant business for most of their adult lives. They run Michaelangelo’s Ristorante Italiano together and the restaurant's five year anniversary is coming up on March 2. PHOTO BY GREEN DOOR PHOTOGRAPHY

By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Siblings Emily and Michael Annandono have both worked in restaurants since they were 15. In 2006, they became the owners of a restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio’s Little Italy neighborhood called Michaelangelo’s Ristorante. On March 2, 2016, they opened a restaurant of that same name in Big Sky, Montana. 

Michael originally discovered Big Sky when he ventured out west to stay with his business partner and hit the slopes. Five years ago, they opened Michaelangelo’s in Big Sky and asked Emily if she would come out west to be the general manager.

Michaelangelo’s is an authentic Italian restaurant offering up a variety of dishes from northern Italy. Head chef and owner Michael will also occasionally branch out and create his own dishes. He trained in the Piedmont region of Italy and has collected many accolades to his name.

The fifth anniversary of the restaurant’s tenure in Big Sky is approaching but with the coronavirus pandemic still gripping the country, Emily explained they will hold off on a party. She said they will celebrate when the pandemic is over.

Although there won’t be an anniversary bash, Michaelangelo’s is still open for business seven days a week. Explore Big Sky talked with Emily to get the scoop on Michaelangelo’s menu and a peek behind-the-scenes of running a restaurant.

Explore Big Sky: What makes your restaurant special?

Emily Annandono: “Well, my brother actually trained in Italy to be a chef. He trained under the master chef in Piedmont. And our food’s really authentic to northern Italy. That’s not something you get all the time.”

EBS: What is your favorite item on the menu?

EA: “My favorite is probably the Pappardelle Alla Bolognese.”

EBS: Has it been difficult adapting your operations during COIVD-19?

EA: “It’s been hard. It’s changing a lot, once we get used to something, it changes again so that’s been difficult. We’ve been very blessed here because our staff is amazing. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have my staff here. We’re just trying to roll with it, whatever new regulations come out, we are trying to keep everyone safe, my staff, my customers, everybody. Any new thing they throw at us we’re just adding it in. It’s kind of reinventing the wheel, sanitation has always been a big priority, but this is taking it to the next level. Whatever they throw at us we’re just adapting to it. We’re lucky because we have this huge restaurant. So, for us to be able to spread everybody out and have everything six feet apart—we can still get enough people in here, which is nice, and make everyone feel very comfortable here.”

EBS: What is your favorite part of working at Michelangelo’s?

EA: “It’s been really fun doing this with my brother. We hadn’t worked together since 2007 on this level and it’s been really fun to work with him and do this with him. My other favorite part is my staff. All of them have become really good friends of mine. We have a good time no matter what’s going on.”

EBS: Do you have a favorite memory from your time working in Big Sky?

EA: “My favorite memory was actually our grand opening party. I moved here … about six months before we opened, and I was here for all of the construction. We did the grand opening party the first week we were open. We invited all these people, and we had a big open house, and it was just so fun to see it all come together. After being here for six months with construction and everything else it’s probably my favorite thing, all of a sudden it was happening.”

EBS: Do you have any notable regulars?

EA: “I have a family that comes in, more recently they’ve been staying here longer because they’re second homeowners, and they come in every Saturday. I don’t even have to ask what they want to drink or anything I just bring it over. You know, and they usually order about the same thing when they come in.”

EBS: How do you decide what goes on your menu?

EA: “Some of the items are very traditional Northern Italian dishes, or just Italian dishes. We have some dishes from a little further south. Some dishes are just creations that my brother has made. We have both of those, it’s pretty much up to Michael, he creates the menus.”

EBS: What is the best business advice that you have ever received?

EA: “The best advice I ever got is to always be fair and honest to both staff and customers, and as far as staff goes, never expect anyone to do any job that you wouldn’t do yourself.”

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