Kansas City's Best Italian Restaurants
By Lisa Waterman Gray
Kansas City Local Expert
Do you love Italian food? We do too, and that's why we dedicate ourselves to finding the best places to enjoy Italian cuisine in Kansas City. We've diligently scouted out the top eateries, and we've listened to our readers and their reviews of Kansas City restaurants. We share the places that get great buzz and we showcase the ones that have proven themselves over time. We also point out good neighborhoods for Italian restaurants in Kansas City - Shawnee Mission, for instance. When the craving hits, we'll make sure you get your fix!
Avelluto's Italian Delight
Kansas City's Avelluto family has been in the local restaurant business for decades. Their Italian Delight is an expansive deli known for New York-style pizza - topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella, plus additional toppings placed on top of the cheese. Unusual gourmet choices include Polpette, a combination of mozzarella and Parmigiano Regianno, luscious San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil and olive oil and sliced meatballs or Portobello, with meaty mushrooms standing in for meatballs. Plenty of customers also build custom slices or pizzas. But there's more to Italian Delight than pizza. Whether savoring a single meatball, Chicken Parmigiana, Calamari in Marinara or a meal-sized Caprese salad, visitors always depart full and satisfied by this Italian comfort food. (913-262-7564)
The North End
Take a 90-year culinary tradition, infuse it with a new take on old favorites and you have The North End. Previously Lasala's, this Italian upstart offers a huge array of rib-sticking appetizers, from Fried Meatballs and Pork Chips and Cheese Sauce to Crispy Artichoke Hearts and North End Fries -- a tasty combo of seasoned waffle fries smothered in cheese sauce, bacon and jalapanos. The Trap is a classic Italian meat sandwich with capacola, genoa salami and Mortadella, as well as provolone cheese and giardiniera (mixed sliced vegetables). There's also a crisp-tender Homemade Giant Pork Tenderloin sandwich and the Hot Italian Beef "The Don Bosco." Pasta lovers will find plenty of choices too, from Lobster Ravioli to Chicken Parmesan accompanied by pasta or eggplant. Casual surroundings and nice staff make this a pleasant lunch or dinner destination. (816-421-2189)
Cascone's Italian Restaurant
Celebrating their 60th anniversary in 2014, the flagship Cascone's Italian Restaurant offers classic Sicilian cuisine in cozy space where Sinatra frequently serenades customers. Creamy herb butter dresses decadent Stuffed Clams-Deviled Crab, while Jennie Cascone's Canneloni combines ultra-thin pasta with creamy ricotta, spicy Italian sausage, sweet tomato sauce and gooey mozzarella. Classic dishes include Eggplant Parmigiana, Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo and Fresh Made Cheese Ravioli. There's veal cooked three ways, a 10-ounce filet dressed in mozzarella, herb butter, mushrooms and au jus and even Norwegian Salmon -- with Cajun honey glaze and a side of Fettuccini Alfredo. Six decades after they began, Cascone's Italian Restaurant still offers good, classic Italian fare in a landmark location. (816-454-7977)
Although it now has several local branches, the original location of this deli and lunch spot is the most popular. Patrons can't get enough of made-daily pastas and sauces, and Cupini's has responded by selling both at the counter for at-home noshing. Come after the lunch rush if you'd actually like to be seated, and try to choose from a hot meatball panini, cannelloni, the vegetarian Adriano pizza, and many more selections. Notable soups, salads, and desserts provide alternatives for light-lunchers and sweet tooths. (816-753-7662)
Belly up to the dimly lit wooden bar, or take a seat in the lighter, artwork-lined dining room -- Carmen's has the kind of neighborhood vibe that puts customers at ease immediately. With a menu that combines Italian dishes with Latin-inspired tapas, there's something for all appetites and tastes. Start with small plates of toasted ravioli or jumbo scallops sauteed in saffron cream sauce, and then find a wide array of entrees -- beef, chicken, veal, fish, and pasta are all given a fair shake. Tiramisu and Spanish flan coexist happily on the dessert tray. (816-333-4048)
Osteria Il Centro
This Euro-style bistro enjoys a fine reputation among well-heeled sophisticates. Intrepid palates adore the fabulous homemade northern Italian fare, and young romantics appreciate intimate tables and refined atmosphere. Menu highlights include chicken spiedini and a handful of fabulous seafood pasta dishes. The impressive wine list, which has received praise from the likes of "Wine Spectator," features a wide range of Tuscan vintages. It's best to come early on weekends since Osteria Il Centro does not accept reservations. (816-561-2369)
Garozzo's Ristorante Due
When downtown business people feel the urge to indulge, this Old Country-style trattoria is usually the first place that springs to mind. Garozzo's sports a "Godfather"-like interior, complete with snug tables, a "wall of fame," candles, and Sinatra crooning in the background. Add to the mix the ubiquitous owner, who weaves his way from table to table, armed with a peppermill, a sharp wit, and a silky smooth voice, and it's easy to see why this cozy joint enjoys such loyal patronage. House specialties include the famous chicken spiedini, veal marsala with peppers and mushrooms, and lasagna with sausage and meatballs. (816-221-2455)
Paulo & Bill
It's worth a road trip to Shawnee Mission just to sample the superb Italian fare served at this authentic trattoria. The upscale dining area features dark wood beams, recessed lighting, and Continental-flavored decor. Regulars rave about the appetizers, and no experience is complete without sampling fried calamari with caramelized garlic aioli or grilled scallops. Recommended entrees include fabulous osso buco with roasted fall vegetables; Mona Lisa pasta with Italian sausage, artichokes, and roma tomatoes; and veal parmigiano with fettuccine alfredo. Save room for their delectable dessert offerings. (913-962-9900)
From flaky grilled salmon with roasted asparagus and piquant Dijon mustard sauce, to lasagna with spinach pasta and hearty Bolognese sauce or rich and satisfying house-made potato dumplings with braised duck ragu, Lidia's Kansas City offers authentic Northern Italian fare shaped for a Midwestern clientele. Owned by Lidia Bastianich, best-selling cookbook author, Emmy-award-winning television personality, author of multiple cookbooks and co-owner of a winery and an Italian bed and breakfast, this is a great spot for a romantic meal or a Pasta Trio lunch. The popular Freight House restaurant recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, proving this NYC transplant has also found enthusiastic patrons in the heart of the nation. (816-221-3722)
Nationally-acclaimed and a local legend, this establishment has built its reputation on impeccable service, a charming and rustic atmosphere, and, of course, food that comes close to perfection. Snag a seat on the patio overlooking the creek and tuck in to an appetizer of famed scampi alla livornese (shrimp and garlic in wine-cream sauce). Beef, fish, chicken, veal, and pasta are represented in entrees, and you'll find a few enticing vegetarian options as well. A wine bar and excellent espresso drinks add appeal. (816-941-6600)
About Lisa Waterman Gray
Lisa Waterman Gray moved to the Kansas City area 35 years ago and has written professionally for 20+ years. A member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association, she's excited about the recent local explosion of great food and drink. Childhood moves and living with international students created Lisa's insatiable interest in travel. She has shared her passion with Midwest Living, msn.com, offbeattravel.com, and AAA Midwest Traveler - to name a few. When Lisa's not on the road or computer, she sells olive oil and balsamic vinegar and makes dynamite desserts. In October 2014 she'll attend Slow Food International's Terre Madre conference, in Turin, Italy.
Read more about Lisa Waterman Gray here.