We were in Missoula one night on our way from Waterton Parks to Yellowstone. We were staying in downtown Missoula, exhausted and needed a good not-overly-expensive meal that didn't include macaroni and cheese, hamburgers or elk chili (not that there's anything wrong with elk chili, but at this point I was seriously considering going back to being a vegetarian for a while. We found Ciao Mambo listed in a book about Montana and thought we'd try it. We were not disappointed! Montana has some great restaurants, and I have to say this is one of the best ones we ate at on our trip. They had a really good spaghetti bolognese (different than what I was used to back in Chicago-but really tasty and you could tell the ingredients were fresh). The kids split a pizza (which is always "iffy", again, being from Chicago), and it was really good-they ate the whole thing. The pinot noir was excellent, and the portions were so big my husband and I were able to split the pasta and a salad and had more than enough to eat. Oh, and fabulous garlic "toast" was provided before the meal. Excellent.
The best part? They gave the kids pizza dough to play with while we waited for our food. Yes they are older (they're both nine) but it is still rare that my husband and I can actually have a conversation where one of them isn't interrupting, asking "how come?" and always putting their two cents in. Love them to death but after two weeks driving across the country, it gets to you. But once they got their pizza dough, they were so busy making artistic sculptures that we were able to actually talk while sipping our wine. Uninterrupted. The people at Ciao Mamo are brilliant. (And, if they got sick of the pizza dough, they could color/draw on their kids menus or the paper table cloth. The restaurant then will tape their creation to the ceiling, so half of their ceiling is covered with kids' drawings.) Brilliant.
They were really busy (even on a Monday night), but we were seated right away. Service was quick, the server was really nice and efficient, our food was hot and delicious, and we have absolutely no complaints. I liked the decor-it was Montana with a "collegiate" vibe (University of Montana is in Missoula, and all the servers looked like college girls (either that or women in Montana just age really well), so maybe that had something to do with it.) Totally recommend this restaurant-would definitely eat here again if we're back in Missoula!
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