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The original item was published from 2/2/2015 8:48:52 AM to 2/17/2015 12:10:00 AM.

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Butte-Silver Bow

Posted on: February 2, 2015

[ARCHIVED] Recipe for success: What works for area restaurants

What makes a restaurant successful? Some tricks of the trade – good food, good service -- are high on the list. Others have sometimes more unique approaches. The bottom line: Finding success in the restaurant business isn’t always easy.

Here's what area restaurant operators had to say about their successful niches:
Lydia’s, 4915 Harrison Ave.

Ever since Dave Micheletti’s Aunt Lydia started the restaurant way back in 1946, the renowned Butte restaurant has been a mainstay of dining excellence.

He attributes Lydia’s statewide reputation to several factors, starting with elegant white table cloths for an upscale ambiance and an emphasis on top quality and quantity of food served.

“I think our key to success has been Lydia’s has always served a traditional Meaderville-style dinner,” said Micheletti, whose grandfather immigrated to Butte in the 1920s and settled in the old Italian Meaderville neighborhood, located where the top center of the Berkeley Pit sits.

Micheletti’s family history follows:

Despite having four other siblings, Lydia became the breadwinner of the family at age 13. After washing dishes at a Meaderville club, she eventually worked her way up to chief chef at the famous local Rocky Mountain Café, and then co-owned the Savoy.

By 1946, she bought a little bar, the Casino, which sat to the south of today’s Lydia’s. She gave the place her namesake and a fine-dining legacy was born.

Lydia retired in 1966, when David Micheletti Sr., took over the restaurant. His two sons, David Jr. and Greg, worked off and on at the family business while pursuing concurrent careers.

Now David Jr.’s two adult children, Nico and Toni, work for him since David Sr. died in 2009. The family dynasty goes on, but not without a set of high standards.

“Lydia’s has really become a Butte landmark over the years,” said David Jr. “We’re the last restaurant in Butte that still serves the traditional Meaderville-style dinner – a hybrid of Italian and American food.”

Diners get plenty, including choices among main staples steak, chicken and seafood; homemade raviolis and an antipasto as the first course.

The antipasto alone seems worthy of a meal in itself. It includes Lydia’s “famous” homemade Roquefort dressing, salad, cheese, green onions and homemade sweet potato salad.

“We do have a couple gourmet Italian entrees on our menu, as well, but most people come for our steak, chicken and primarily lobster – that’s the American part,” said Micheletti.

All-you-can-eat raviolis and spaghetti with homemade sauce, plus French fries round the traditional Meaderville dinner.

“When I was growing up, almost all restaurants in Butte served that type of meal,” he added.

But then Meaderville was absorbed by the pit in the 1960s.

Customer service is key, too.

“We’re pretty proud of what the family has accomplished,” said Micheletti. “It’s a family tradition. As you know, in this day and age, this is a long time for a family business to still be in business.”

Another key to Lydia’s success? Stable, dedicated employees.

“We’re very proud that on the average, we employ about 30 people at any given time. Since 1946, Lydia’s has provided jobs for Butte citizens – literally thousands of Butte people have had employment opportunities at our business.”
The Derby Steakhouse, 2016 Harrison Ave.

Rene Pascavage, who took over ownership of The Derby Steakhouse last year after 24 years working in various capacities there, reveals that it’s crucial to strike a delicate balance between preserving old-school traditions and modernizing.

A combination of factors play into continued success of a restaurant like the Derby, where Pascavage’s staff cuts fresh steaks everyday and the staff of 29 is stable and dedicated.

“I’ve got good employees,” said Pascavage. “That makes a huge difference, too.”

Eating at the Derby gets handed down in families -- a definite key to maintaining a steakhouse dynasty of sorts.

“People keep coming back,” she added. “At the Derby, I see three generations because I’ve been there so long. Diners’ kids are coming back with their kids, so we’re doing something right.”

Pascavage touts the dependability of regular clientele and menu specials that continue to draw them in, such as Seafood Dream on Fridays (clam chowder and seafood bisque) and daily “awesome” homemade soups.

An ambiance update, too, has helped.

“I’ve changed it up a little but, though,” she added. “I painted and redid a few things. I gave the walls a new look with new sconces, lighting and a new sculpture. I just kind of freshened it up a little bit and gave the Derby a modern look.”

One significant change is serving hamburgers in the evening.

“Everybody kept asking: ‘Why don’t you serve your burgers at night?’” said Pascavage. “It’s what the people want -- that’s what I’m trying to pinpoint; I want to make them happy.”

Twenty-six of the 29 Derby employees are full-time, which lends to stability for them, their families and Pascavage.

“My employment doesn’t change too much,” Pascavage said. “A lot of my staff has been there a long time. Once they’re there, they usually stay.”

She should know, after dedicating 25 years (so far) of her life to The Derby.

“We have good food and a good reputation,” she said. “Business has been really good; I’ve been real happy with it lately. We make it all work.”

Read the full story in The Montana Standard.
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