Black Eagle hardly resembles the community that stood in 1938. The air was thick with foreign accents. The Big Stack loomed large overhead. City limits were distinct from those of neighboring Great Falls. Black Eagle was home to folks that toiled at sunup and socialized at sundown; though, in that regard, the community is very much the same.
A number of Black Eagle’s founding families have well- established roots here. The descendants of smeltermen reside in and delight in the community today.
One such lineage is that of Emilio “Borrie” Grasseschi, founder of the popular Borrie’s restaurant and lounge in 1938. When the smelter shut down in 1980, Borrie’s kept its doors open. For eight decades and four generations, it has served Black Eagle through thick and thin.
“Borrie’s has been an anchor for Black Eagle,” says Debbie (Grasseschi) Thomas, granddaughter of Borrie and current owner-operator of the time-honored enterprise.
Numerous family members and long-tenured employees have maintained the restaurant’s commitment to quality food and service throughout the years, and now, the fifth generation of Grasseschis is growing up in the tradition.
“When customers pass under the neon lights and through the door, they know they are not going to be disappointed,” says Debbie.
A Taste of Italy
Borrie was six when his family started their new life in Black Eagle. Like many Italians, the Grasseschis had left their home country for better opportunities out west, finding them at the Anaconda Company’s Boston & Montana Smelter in 1910. Borrie spent his formative years in “Little Chicago” and the other hamlets around the Big Stack. And like many, he went to work for the Anaconda Company when he entered young adulthood. Borrie spent twelve years slogging it out before he was presented with a new vocational opportunity. The change of scenery was only a slight one; instead of sweating alongside smelter men, he served them beer and sandwiches.
“The first Borrie’s was not an architectural inspiration by today’s standards. It was boxy-looking and small,” says Debbie. “But the food and nickel beer made up for it.”
Prior to Borrie’s restaurant, the building had served as Johnny Figarelli’s Italian café, making the transition nearly seamless. Moreover, Borrie’s wife, Anna, had worked in the restaurant industry for several years, so it was a natural joint effort. At the start, the Grasseschis only served pork sandwiches, heavy on garlic and pepper, expanding the menu over time to include other well-seasoned, Italian staples.