Even though many people were willing to make the drive from Kalispell to Bigfork for When In Rome’s award-winning pizza, owner Engjell Vrapi said Kalispell customers had long been pushing for a more-convenient location in Kalispell.
So when a low-overhead spot opened up in the Kalispell Glory Days Emporium on First Avenue East, Vrapi said it was a good time to make the move.
“In Bigfork we weren’t open for lunch anymore and a lot of our regular customers were frustrated that we didn’t have pizza by the slice,” he said. “We’re financially ready and it was a good deal on the lease, so that is what pushed us into going forward.”
Vrapi and his wife, Kaleigh Brook, took home ribbons for two of their pizza varieties in 2011’s International Pizza Challenge in Las Vegas. At the time, their business was called Sun Mountain Trattoria/Pizzeria, but they soon changed the name to When In Rome.
They have also altered the look and feel of the Bigfork restaurant substantially. Located on Montana 35 in a strip mall on the outskirts of Bigfork, Vrapi said they have put a great deal of money and effort into remodeling When In Rome so that it offers a fine-dining ambiance.
“Even if people are just thinking about getting pizza, they end up having a wonderful experience they wouldn’t have anywhere else and it’s not that expensive,” he said.
The 50-seat dining room in Bigfork fills up quickly, Vrapi said, and even over the winter months it’s so busy that the restaurant requires reservations.
The Kalispell restaurant will be a bit different.
Pizza will be sold by the slice, though whole pizzas can be ordered, with salads and gelatto also available. At this point, the pasta options are not on the menu, but probably will be eventually, Vrapi said.
The restaurant has seating for 25, and will also offer delivery.
Around 15 people will be employed in Kalispell, and Vrapi said offering more jobs was part of the reason to expand. Some employees from Kalispell were having trouble making it to Bigfork, so this offers them the chance to work closer to home.
A number of eating establishments have come and gone from the Glory Days Emporium, but Vrapi said he isn’t intimidated by the reputation of the building.
“Actually people say that place is cursed, but we’re trying to break that curse and make it happen,” Vrapi said.
When In Rome in Kalispell is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, with hours expected to expand from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. soon. Call (406) 249-ROME (7663).
Business reporter Heidi Gaiser may be reached at 758-4439 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Engjell Vrapi and Robert Hawkins make pizzas on Wednesday, May 22, at the new Kalispell location of When in Rome located on First Avenue East. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)