Over drinks at my B&B in Pierre, South Dakota, the great-granddaughter of Doane Robinson (the South Dakota state historian who conceived the idea of Mount Rushmore) and her husband, a retired grammar school principal of 32 years and owner of Dinosaur Park in Rapid City, were quick to suggest a few restaurants in their home city when they learned I was heading there after I departed the capital. Located within the city’s small downtown, all of them were an easy walk from my hotel.
On Thursday nights during the summer, Rapid City sponsors its Main Street Square Concert Series, a street fair that, seemingly, attracts every resident of the city. Live bands, kids’ activities, food and refreshments, cowboys and cowgirls dancing in the street, and lots of beer without a single incident of drunken buffoonery all combine to create one heck of a festive atmosphere.
Before I joined the party, I stopped for dinner at one of the establishments my new friends touted. The unassuming exterior of Botticelli, a one-story brick building with green awnings, reflects the lovely lack of pretension inside among the staff and the décor. Blinking red and white bunches of grapes flashed along the bar. Classical music, opera, and Frank Sinatra set the tone for un buon pasto.
Try This: Botticelli draws a good crowd of locals and visitors alike, something I picked up on as I observed tables of strangers strike up conversations with one another over an appetizer of Toscana bread topped with smoked salmon and a spread of cream cheese, roasted red peppers, and mozzarella. My main dish, pollo pignoli, consisted of a moist roasted chicken with mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, toasted pine nuts, and a creamy pesto sauce over a bed of penne (although I’m sure the tempting tortellini alla panna — cheese tortellini with sautéed cappacola ham, mushrooms, and green peas in a homemade alfredo sauce — would have been just as rewarding). Oenophiles will swoon over the long and refined list of wines, but if you’re not in the mood for a glass of the grape, just opt for a terrifically sweet classic cherry Italian soda. Tiramisu or cannoli will satisfy your sweet tooth, but I preferred the rich chocolate cake topped with raspberry sauce.