Missoula Restaurant Owners & Chefs: Bob Zimorino of Red Pies Over Montana

“Owners and Chefs” is a restaurant section with a twist. To fill either position, chefs and owners must be able to wear many hats: Cook, server, human resource manager, repair person, negotiator, mediator, psychologist, bookkeeper, and more. Armed with his top ten questions, Bob Zimorino takes a peek behind the kitchen doors to find out how these local restaurateurs view the restaurant business, in their own words. This week, Bob answers Make it Missoula’s questions himself.

Name: Bob Zimorino

Position: Chef / Consultant

Restaurant: Zimorino’s Red Pies Over Montana

Address: 1250 W. Broadway

City: Missoula

Takeout and Delivery Pizza and Pastas


Make it Missoula: There are a lot of restaurants in Missoula. Why here?

Bob Zimorino: There weren’t that many when we first started Red Pies back in 1979. Missoula was the first place that I ever lived as an adult that truly felt like home. This is a place where dreams can still come true. I came from an extensive food background with the idea that I could open my own place by the time I was 25.

I don’t know where else on earth I could have pulled it off. When I first moved here, I asked people where I could find the best Italian food and was told “an Italian Restaurant” ( it shall remain unnamed) in Lolo. I asked folks if it was good and they said, “it is okay for Missoula,” which in my mind was a pretty lackluster endorsement. Missoula was ready for us.

MIM: What dish is your signature dish and why that particular dish?

BZ: At the current restaurant, I would say the “Zootown” pizza. It is my favorite. Homemade Italian sausage, my Mom’s meatballs, roasted sweet red peppers, and cream cheese. My buddy Jack Meyer once took me to his favorite deli in Denver while we were in town for a Bronco game. They offered cream cheese on their meatball and sausage sandwiches and it was delicious. I sell a lot more pizza than sandwiches, so I decided that would be the best avenue to get more people to try it. It has been a huge success.

MIM: What would you want it to say to the person who orders it?

BZ: That every ingredient has a place on your palate. The perfectly-seasoned meats play against the sweetness of the peppers and the little blasts of cream cheese are like little treasure bonuses. The sauce and crust are the perfect compliment to all of it.

Visit the Zimorino's Red Pies Over Montana website.

MIM: What is your favorite dish prepared in another Missoula restaurant?

BZ: I have a long-standing addiction to the Fireworks Chicken at the Mustard Seed, but I also think the best cheeseburger I have ever eaten in a restaurant is at Sapore, the restaurant that took over the old Zimorino’s spot on Higgins.

MIM: As a place to do business, why Missoula?

BZ: My brother and I were like so many other young people at the time (and probably still) in that we wanted to live in Montana but really wouldn’t fit in, say, in Two Dot. Plus, the fact was that we needed a place with enough of a population base to sustain an Italian restaurant. Missoula is not only the perfect size but was and is the hippest town west of Chicago and east of the west coast.

MIM: What is your least favorite cooking trend?

BZ: Overstatement without purpose. The idea that food has to have some kind of artistic achievement that makes it look like it belongs in a gallery rather than a restaurant. Great food, prepared and plated well, needs no further introduction. I often times think that by doing this restaurants get a little too hoity toity in their pricing. I would rather pay for great flavors and less design.

Another overstatement without purpose is pairing everything with everything and coming up with dishes that don’t even sound tempting on the menu, often times for their complexity…things like “Tandoori beef with marshmallow fluff, smoked cheddar cheese, and licorice tea leaves.”

Obviously that is an overstatement of an overstatement, but I still think that most folks are still looking for good food at a fair price.

MIM: It’s the Iron Chef competition and you are up. Who would you rather be up against Bobby Flay or Cat Cora?

BZ: I would take on both. They are both good and I would learn from each, but I would certainly make sure that they got as good as they gave and pull out all of the stops to try and take them down.

MIM: What was the pivotal experience that made you think you could open your own restaurant and be successful?

BZ: If you follow my blog about becoming a chef, you will see over the next few weeks are about what I learned in Scottsdale, Arizona back in the 70s.

I had a lot of experience with food before that job. My Mom had MS, so my younger brother Mike and I started by helping her in the kitchen. My older brothers missed out on that and, consequently, never really learned to cook. I often joke that you could put my older brother John in a room with a hot dog and a microwave and he couldn’t come out with a warm meal. My Dad had this catering business that my brother Mike and I were enslaved in from a young age, too. That and several restaurant jobs over a period of years were all part of the foundation but that job in Scottsdale was the one that put me over the top.

MIM: What do you think when you hear someone say: “I think owning a restaurant looks like fun.”

BZ: I think that you are in for the shock of your life. In addition to dealing with a product that has a limited shelf life and needs to be handled safely to protect your consuming public, you are working with a usually younger and somewhat transient work force.

The social guy that you see greeting and seating and stopping by and checking on you with a story or a joke only gets to that point after making sure the seemingly 10,000 things that it takes to put a dinner service together are taken care of, that his help is trained well enough to handle their jobs without you babysitting them, and no one has called in sick at the last minute, leaving him to wash dishes. There is so much to explain and I have so little typing skill that I suggest you read the blog so I only have to type it once.

MIM: Give me five words to describe your restaurant.

BZ: Delicious, Homemade, Convenient, Clean, and Original.


Check out our comprehensive list of Missoula Dining options.  You may also want to check out Bob Zimorino’s Taste It blog or even watch one of his many video blogs–including this one on Cashew Chicken!

 See the “Taste It” archive. Back to “Taste It” homepage.  Check out Bob’s recipes.


Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a Musician with the popular local band Mudfoot and the Dirty Soles, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. His weekly “Taste It” blog gives a behind-the-scenes look at Missoula’s restaurant industry.