Panorama Ristorante Brings Rustic Italian Cuisine To Downtown Area

By D.C. Miles
Junior Editor

tv_News 10dbMONTICELLO – A new facade has taken place on the square downtown, and behind it contains rustic Italian cuisine.

   Safri Antonio “Tony” Ferati created a new and soon to be local favorite, Panorama Ristorante.

   “Panorama Ristorante means something like in Arkansas. When you think about Arkansas you think about the beautiful view – a panorama. And, the people are nice and friendly – believe me, I’ve seen half the world,” Ferati said.

   The restaurant plans on having an extensive menu with exquisite Italian cuisine at a reasonable price range. Ferati said that this experience should be something that everybody can afford.

   “We all are experienced. I’ve been in the business for about 27 years. As a matter of fact, all my life (has been) on and off back home in restaurant business – but in America, about 25 years, running the businesses,” Ferati said.

   He said his Italian cuisine will be 100 percent from scratch, from A to Z.

   “Nothing frozen – I do not believe in (a) microwave – no microwave. Everything will be prepped in a promise daily: the sauce, the pasta, the bread – everything,” Ferati said.

   The menu contains many dishes with fish, steak, roasted chicken and pasta.

   He explained his inspiration in the food industry, saying how entire families in Italy have become knowledgeable in the kitchen. The spirit of the family in the kitchen caused him to love the business.

   Ferati, building owner Richard Akin, and their associates have gone before the Arkansas Beverage Commission to petition for a private club liquor license.

   “We’ve got opposition to the private club (license) and the alcohol, but probably 75 to 80 percent of the comments we have received are in support of the restaurant,” Akin said.

   At first, the business would have had to go before a board in a hearing towards an appeal for licensure in liquor sales. With the positive feed within their petition, Michael Langley, director and administrator of the Arkansas Beverage Control Administration, automatically approved it.

   “Well, I don’t see any way that you could have an Italian Restaurant without wine. Most people that I know want a glass of wine when they go out to eat. And, in order to do that here in Monticello, you either gotta be a member of the country club, or you got to drive to Little Rock or Monroe,” Akin said.

   Ferati said that in an Italian restaurant, to have a good meal, you need to have a glass of wine to clean the palette.

   “We will have a combination of Italian and Californian wines. We will have domestic beer for most Americans, of course. We will have Italian beer (and other imports),” Ferati said.

   Ferati, originally from Calabria, Italy, immigrated to the United States. He grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y.

   “As a foreigner, I get hooked in restaurant business, finding a job as a busboy in New York. After that, I become the host manager for two years and, (for the) third (through) fifth years, I become owner of restaurant business – I suppose (some) of the top places in New York,” he said.

   His resume’ consists of working in some of the most top notch restaurants in New York, including Castellano, Il Castello and Bella Giardino. Gerati owned the Il Castello and Bella Giardino at different points in his life.

   The new façade to the building has gained attention with the addition of an outdoor seating area. Akin stated that people will be able to drink in the patio. With accordance to Arkansas state law and the owners of the restaurant and building, Akin said smoking will not be allowed in the outdoor seating area.

   He and Akin collaborated on the building layout, and they decided on the patio. Ferati mainly wanted the patio for the view outside, making it unique to have supper outside in the spring. He hopes to have screens for the late fall of next year to keep the patio usable.

   “This will be a very romantic, elegant place for people to eat, and (we) guarantee that the food will be awesome, just like it was from Sicily,” said Ferati.

   Ferati plans to have pictures of nature lining the lit walls, with clothed table tops to make a New York and European classy style.

   They plan to have a layout for families, showing the traditional layout in Italian restaurants. Ferati explained how much of an inconvenience it is for everyone when a larger party needs consolidated tables, and how this usually prevents the problem.

   Akin explained his desire for opening such a business in the town.

   “Well, I’ve been wanting a restaurant on the square. I bought all of this real estate down here in ’97, and I have approached several people about putting in a restaurant – upscale – on the square. And, these fellows … I had told them what I had wanted, and so we got together and converted this building into a restaurant,” Akin said.

   Akin said if residents of Monticello want to go to a real nice restaurant, they usually have to drive to Monroe or Little Rock.

   “Now, you do have Lane’s in Star City, but that means you (have to) go out of town. These people, they will pull people from all over southeast Arkansas into Monticello. There is nothing like this restaurant anywhere south of Little Rock,” Akin said.

   Akin said he met Ferati accidentally while passing back and forth through Monticello.

   “We got lost. We were looking for a place in Jonesboro. Coming down, we get a little lost,” Ferati said.

   Ferati said that the residents of Monticello consisted of “great businessmen.” He said he likes the town and the people. He also said he has always been looking to open a place in Arkansas.

   He further explained in detail why he chose the specific location.

   “When I drove this hill, I just pictured a sign on this building … and boom. When I spoke to Mr. Akin, I thought, I had to do it. I saw the right place and spoke with the right people,” Ferati said.

   Akin said his objective is keeping the square alive. He said he goes to surrounding towns, and their downtown areas are dead. He said he did not want to see that happen in Monticello.

   “It’s always possible. We still have a vacant building on the south side of the square, and I would love to see all the buildings occupied, so that’s always a possibility. When I took over the McKiever Building and restored it, the lady next door that owned the Tree-O, that encouraged her to put the new front on her building,” Akin said.

   With new businesses comes an employment opportunity. Ferati explained how he would prefer full day workers, but acknowledges students and will work it out for those students.

   The hours of operation for Panorama Ristorante are from 11 a.m. to 2:33 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Thursday. The restaurant will close at 10 p.m. Friday through Saturday. The restaurant will be open Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

   Panorama Ristorante originally planned to open on Dec. 5 in accordance to a passed liquor license. Although it has passed, their food distribution services have hindered their goal opening day. Ferati stated that he had to push the opening day to Thursday, Dec. 13.

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