In the Kitchen with Brian Scotti-Belli

A conversation with head chef and co-owner of downtown Kalispell staple 406 Bar & Grill

By Dillon Tabish
Brian Scotti-Belli, head chef and co-owner of 406 Bar and Grill on Feb. 10, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Two years ago this month, Brian Scotti-Belli and his wife, Lorraine, took over North Bay Grille, a downtown Kalispell staple. With a background working for acclaimed chef Wolfgang Puck and a lifetime in the kitchen, Scotti-Belli brought his unique pallet to the new 406 Bar & Grill, which offers a flavorful and revolving array of entrees and appetizers, from the brie burger to stroganoff and seafood. Of course, there’s a classic lineup of charcoal-grilled steaks and 12 taps of unique craft beers, alongside the full bar.

The Beacon sat down with Brian before another busy shift to chat about the life of a downtown restaurateur.

Here is Scotti-Belli in his own words.

I think it’s a great location. I think downtown needs more restaurants, more stuff to do so. I would love a lot more (restaurants in downtown Kalispell).

(Alcohol) licenses are so expensive, that’s keeping restaurants from moving downtown. You’re basically waiting for someone to fail to swoop up their license.

North Bay always had a hopping bar scene so that was an easy way to get in the door. We kept the bar scene and added music three nights a week, and that helps a lot. On Mondays, we have happy hour all day.

You just have to put out a great product. I think people are starting to realize more and more what real food is supposed to be like. And everything here we do from scratch. It’s a little more pricey and it took a little while for people to realize they’re paying for what they get. Every year we’ve been busier and busier.

Staying consistent with your food — that’s a big one for any restaurant. If you stay consistent, the word will get out.

It’s good to offer things to your guests, like music and specials. And just try to be different. You go to a lot of places and you see a lot of the same things, so trying to set yourself apart is always good.

It’s a little tougher to get food (year-round in Northwest Montana) and getting it at a good price. I go back home to visit family and I can get the same dish for $4-5 dollars cheaper. But they don’t pay the freight to get seafood brought in, and even then my prices are lower than they should be because I can’t charge more.

I’ve even had to buy food on Amazon, that’s how hard it can be to get food here.

We’re trying to get more local food. My burgers are all from Flathead farms. In summer, we get our lettuce and other produce from local farms. Our buns are local. It’s good four months out of the year and the season changes and it can get challenging.

It’s cool, too, working in the Northwest because I haven’t worked with some of the food types – bison, wild game – and it’s been fun to work with that.

My family has owned restaurants since I was born. So I grew up in it. I worked through high school in the kitchen. My dad had two chefs from Italy and I learned from them.

I moved to Vegas and had this opportunity to work with (acclaimed chef Wolfgang Puck), and I got to manage his fine dining restaurants. I did that for 2.5 years and stayed and watched the chefs.

(Wolfgang Puck) uses tons of different exotic flavors that you wouldn’t think would work together. And that’s where I learned not to be in a box. Just try it and don’t be afraid to fail. If it doesn’t work, try again.

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