FBC seniors get a taste of Italy during trip to Monticello


On a beautiful fall day, the seniors from First Baptist Church journeyed to Monticello to have lunch at Panorama Ristorante, sightsee and shop.

The Panorama Ristorante is a new restaurant in downtown Monticello. The owner, Safri Antonio “Tony” Ferati, created the new local favorite.

He said, “Panorama Ristorante means something like 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.”

The restaurant has an extensive menu with exquisite Italian cuisine at a reasonable price. The menu contains many dishes with fish, steak, roasted chicken and pasta — all made from scratch, nothing frozen.

Jeanette McGrew’s friends, Ann and Eamle Hilgeman, recommended the lobster raviola, which Ann described “as to die for.” The desserts were also devine, especially the Italian favorite — tiramisu.

Ferati, originally from Calabria, Italy, immigrated to the United States. He grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. He said, “As a foreigner, I got hooked in the restaurant business.”

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

The new facade to the building has gained attention with the addition of an outdoor patio. The building owner, Richard Akin, owns a great deal of the real estate downtown, and had always wanted an upscale restaurant on the square. He and Ferati collaborated on the building layout — they wanted a romantic, elegant place for people to eat — awesome food, cloth table tops — a New York and European-style restaurant. Akin’s objective is to keep the square alive — surrounding towns and their downtown areas are dead. He didn’t want to see that happen in Monticello.

Next door to the restaurant is an antique store and across the way, a shoe store and Tree o, a picture-framing and gift shop that has a new front to its building.

After shopping the downtown area, the Senior Adult Ministry took a driving tour of some of the old homes in Monticello. The Drew County Historical Museum is located on south Main Street and is housed in the beautiful, old Cavaness Home — a prime example of late 19th century architecture. The Trotter B & B is also on south Main as are many lovely, old homes.

Arkansas has its share of haunted houses and one of the most famous is the Allen House, also located on Main Street. McGrew read the history of this house to the seniors as they drove by the house. John Lee Allen built the house in the early part of the 20th Century. Joe Lee was wealthy for the time and liked to spoil his children — Ladelle, Lonnie Lee, and Louis. Pictures of them still hang in the front hall. Ladelle committed suicide in the south bedroom by drinking potassium cyanide. Not long after, Joe Lee moved the family to a new location hoping that they could get a fresh start. Although the family moved, the ghost of Ladelle apparently stayed behind. Others who have lived in the building have heard the sounds of someone crying, moaning and walking around the upstairs floors when the rooms were unoccupied. Police have been called to the house on numerous occasions to look for someone or investigate a possible prowler, but no one is ever found. Though the house is still believed to be haunted, it is now a private residence with tours conducted during the Halloween season.

After the tour of the homes, the group shopped the Stage Department Store in the Walmart shopping center and the Town and Country Florist and Gift Shop. The gift shop was decorated for fall with many autumn wreaths and decor as well as yard art. There is also a kitchen shop next door.

By this time, the seniors were ready to board the church bus and make the journey home. Those making the trip were the driver, James House, Peggie Howard, Grace McKnight, Marie Arnold, Audrey Borecky and McGrew, organizer of the trip.