As a young man, I remember the excitement generated by a certain establishment in Casper. Crowds would brave long waits and miniscule parking for a chance to taste some authentic and filling Italian food. I can remember standing outside as lines formed around Bosco’s Italian, nestled in a small corner of Casper. Wanting to recapture that fever, I decided to return after a hiatus of several years. I was hoping beyond hope to rekindle that feeling from my youth.

Arriving at the small building, I was immediately met by Bosco’s arch nemesis . . . . . . . . space. Very few parking places grace the front of this building. Driving around the block to park behind the eatery, I found myself locking doors and hiding any valuable electronics. Across the street sits a seedy motel with folks openly drinking and fighting while seemingly engaged in a pseudo demolition derby. I genuinely feared for my vehicle. I quickly verified my insurance policy and calmed myself knowing I was covered for comprehensive damage.

Walking to the front door, I took a deep breath and readied myself for the inevitable wait that I remembered from past years. To my surprise however, I walked right in and was instantly sat. I checked my watch to make sure I was actually eating dinner and hadn’t confused it with lunch. Sure enough, it was an early evening meal. I absolutely could not believe the lack of customers. While the building is incredibly small, it almost seemed spacious without all of the customers I was expecting. I began to worry about the Boscos’s I had once loved. What could have happened to this little place that would drive the customers away?

A very pleasant young lady gave me my menu and took my drink order. As I opened the menu, it looked exactly the same as I remember. Same dishes, but shifting my eyes to the right side of the page, I noticed the price increase. While I do understand that operating costs are rising, I was still disheartened. Bosco’s was never a cheap eatery and now, they are far above what I would consider as a weekly or even bi-monthly meal. The reasoning for the lack of customers was starting to add up. What I couldn’t understand was the parking situation and why I had to abandon my defenseless truck in no mans land. Even if every other customer in the building had driven their own vehicle, the parking spots should not have been occupied. The only thing my wild imagination could come up with was that the staff themselves were taking the valuable spots. If this is indeed the case I don’t know, but it seemed the only probable cause.

With my order in and the kitchen cooking away, I got up to stretch a bit. I asked about the restroom and was directed THROUGH the kitchen, food prep area, and into an extremely small room. I could not believe that I was inches away from food being prepared for other customers, yet had no obligation to stifle my coughs or sneezes. Absolutely no barrier kept me from spreading disease. While the majority of the kitchen looked clean, I was still taken aback by this path I had to take to relieve myself. Walking back through the kitchen again, I felt almost shamed into washing my hands since I was near others food. I just hoped that others felt the same inkling.

I was prevented from leaving the kitchen though. I was trapped behind a wall of family who was there to visit the chef. An entire gaggle of kids and grandkids traipsed through the kitchen and dining area. I watched as the staff would interact with their grandson with one hand, while cooking my dinner with the other. I understand the idea of large Italian families who like to be around each other, but I also understand how illness transmits itself through food. It was clear to me that a culture of cleanliness was attempted, but poorly executed. Between unwashed patrons and loving family entering the kitchen, I was suddenly less hungry.

Circumnavigating the restaurant to avoid the family, I arrived at my table to find complimentary bread and my salad waiting for me. The salad had the customary shrimp that I remember from so long ago. What I didn’t recognize was the limp, tired ingredients that the shrimp were resting on. It appeared to have been decent greenery at one time, but it had been sitting stagnant longer than it should have. I further had my memories erased when I tasted the bread. Instead of being warm and fresh, it was crunchy and cold to the touch. Unable to melt the butter with the frigid starch, I used the candle on my table to soften a pat and drizzle it over my bread.

After an un-appealing appetizer, my main dish arrived. I ordered several items, but the grand prince of the ball was the shrimp scampi. I am a sucker for fresh shrimp left swimming in warm butter with garlic and other herbs. Expecting to be transported back with the first bite, I instead found myself sitting in a time machine that would not start, as if the Delorean only got up to 87 mph. The butter didn’t taste real, the shrimp fresh, nor the garlic plentiful. It was rubbery shrimp in an oily sauce that didn’t taste appetizing. Where was the richness I had grown to love so many years ago. Sadly, the remainder of the dishes followed suit. Not bad, but at the same time, not good. Marinara sauce that had no flavor, covering tortellini that was mildly warm in the center and chewy on the outside. Just bland and blah. I also noted a lackluster portion size that did not reflect the price. I encourage the evolution of restaurants and embrace improvements made to an already great dish. This time however, felt like several massive steps in the wrong direction.

I paid the substantial bill and made my way to the door. I was bereft at the thought that this once great dining location had succumbed to the pressures of either indifference or exhaustion. A very unique eatery in the mountains of Wyoming that once had an entire town in the palm of it’s hand, now seemed to be barely hanging on by a thread, almost forgotten by the town that could not get enough.

Because of mediocre food and a very bizarre habit of allowing folks in the kitchen, I give Bosco’s Italian in Casper a 5.5/10 cold breadsticks. I could have dismissed the changing of food from what I remember, if it had still been tasty. Sadly, I can see this establishment vanishing from the eating scene in Casper and nary a word will be spoken.

I do credit them for polite wait staff and a cozy warm space.

I doubt I ever go back unless they can get that atmosphere of yesteryear. Delicious food with a fun environment.

The Casper Food Critic is an independent author and is not employed by K2 Radio or Townsquare Media, LLC. The views expressed by the Casper Food Critic do not reflect those of K2 Radio or Townsquare Media, LLC.

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