Find a seat in the dimly lit wooden bar, or sit at a table in the artwork-lined dining room. Carmen's Café offers a comfortable environment with good acoustics, although lighting sometimes makes reading the menu a challenge. The staff is generally knowledgeable and attentive, with many long-time employees. There are plenty of kudos for the food but this restaurant blends Italian cuisine with Latin-inspired dishes. Toasted ravioli, and jumbo scallops with Spanish saffron cream sauce, are favorite starters. A wide array of entrees includes Seafood Diablo, Chicken Lemonnata, Veal Marsala, and gnocchi served with vodka tomato cream sauce, mushrooms and peas. Sweet endings range from spumoni and tiramisu to several versions of cheesecake.
Recommended for Italian because: A friendly bistro with a loyal following, the character inside Carmen's Brookside location combines dark wood with white linens, soft jazz and a cozy bar.
Lisa's expert tip: Designed to help customers get in and out quickly at lunchtime, Carmen's offers lunch specials at $10 or less, such as Judy's Rigatoni, a new Salmon Salad or classic Eggplant Parmesan
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.
Recommended for Italian because: This classy restaurant offers pasta, pizza, flatbreads and appetizers at great prices, from 3-6 on Monday through Friday. There are terrific beverage deals too.
Lisa's expert tip: Paolo and Bill allows customers to customize their pasta dishes, by choosing add-on chicken, shrimp or salmon for a small upcharge of $3 to $5.
Newly christened, in recent years, The North End takes a 90-year culinary tradition and infuses it with a new take on old favorites. This is a great place to find rib-sticking Italian appetizers, from Fried Meatballs to Crispy Artichoke Hearts or North End Fries – a tasty combo of seasoned waffle fries smothered in cheese sauce, bacon and jalapanos. There's an expansive menu for pasta lovers too, which includes Lobster Ravioli and Chicken Parmesan accompanied by pasta or eggplant. The North End's sandwiches are also popular. Piled high with capacola, genoa salami and Mortadella, as well as provolone cheese and giardiniera (mixed sliced vegetables), The Trap is a classic Italian meat sandwich. Other favorites include a crisp-tender Homemade Giant Pork Tenderloin sandwich or the Hot Italian Beef "The Don Bosco." Casual surroundings and nice staff make this a pleasant lunch or dinner destination.
Recommended for Italian because: Old-school ambiance meets fresh, modern takes on classic dishes and ingredients, with a side of premium local beers.
Lisa's expert tip: The earlier you arrive for a meal, the better. Parking along this quiet street can become pretty crowded during The North End's peak serving hours.
The original Cascone's has served classic Sicilian cuisine for 62 years, in a cozy space with a retro feel. Even when crowded during a weekday lunch hour, seating is quick, and service is typically fast, efficient and friendly. Manicotti Florentine, with veal and spinach, shrimp Alfredo, Jennie Cascone's Canneloni – a delicious combo of ultra-thin pasta paired with creamy ricotta, spicy Italian sausage, sweet tomato sauce and gooey mozzarella – and refreshing lemon drop martinis, are crowd pleasers. Veal lovers will appreciate three tasty options and fish fans will enjoy Norwegian Salmon, which features Cajun honey glaze and a side of Fettuccini Alfredo. Because meals here can sometimes be pricey, the Early Special Menu is a welcome deal that includes choice of entree, bread and butter, soup or salad and spumoni.
Recommended for Italian because: Cascone's has always strived to share the best possible version of their beloved Sicilian cuisine with appreciative patrons.
Lisa's expert tip: This is a terrific spot for unusual dinners.Like bourbon and cigars? How about mysteries? The original Cascone's has offered bourbon and cigar dinners as well as 'mystery guest dinners.' Check their web site for updates.
Fresh pastas and sauces made from scratch, daily, as well as incredible cheesecake, make the original location of this popular deli a fun and flavorful neighborhood gem behind a quaint storefront. The restaurant even appeared on Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, with host Guy Fieri swooning over their chicken and prosciutto tortelloni. Other menu favorites include huge slabs of lasagna, sausage and fennel-stuffed ravioli, hot meatball paninis and salads topped with homemade balsamic dressing. Desserts also get rave reviews. There are gluten-free pasta options available, 10 pizza options in three sizes, and a little al fresco dining in the adjacent alley. While customers sometimes complain about service, others give it high praise.
Recommended for Italian because: There are daily specials available, from 'buy one panini get the second half off,'to $5 gnocchi with choice of sauce.
Lisa's expert tip: Lunch time seating is limited at this original Cupini's location so it's a good idea to avoid the midday crush of customers. Better yet, stop in for an early dinner.
Providing Kansas Citians with authentic Italian ingredients, since 2016, there's always a hustle-and-bustle at this Brookside gem. And it can be downright exciting to sit in the midst of this deli-grocery-restaurant-beloved neighborhood gathering spot. Pizza lovers have a dozen great choices, from Diavola – with spicy salami, mozzarella and spicy oil to Quattro Formaggi (four cheese) or Genovese, with pesto, sundried tomato and mozzarella. Melt-in-your mouth Lasagna Bolognese combines tender lasagna noodles with rich and satisfying house-made Bolognese, while light yet flavorful tomato sauce tops many other pasta dishes. Sandwiches arrive piled high, with prosciutto, Genoa salami, capocolla, fresh cheeses and other Italian favorites.
Recommended for Italian because: There's an incredible selection of fresh-cut deli meats and cheeses in the grocery area, plus barrels of olives, and more, to enjoy at home.
Lisa's expert tip: This is a great place to find cheap wine on Tuesday evenings, when half-price bottles are available and crowds are smaller. Many lunch items are also priced under $10.
The well-executed homemade northern Italian fare at this Euro-style bistro is reminiscent of an intimate dining experience in Italy. Paired with a terrific Wine Spectator-awarded wine list and a host of Tuscan vintages, the Brookside restaurant is known for its intimate dining room, excellent service and refined atmosphere. Fabulous seafood pasta dishes, Calamari Fritti with basil pesto and roasted red pepper cocktail sauce, and outstanding lamb chops, are several menu highlights. From orange roughy or ravioli to classic veal meatballs served with spaghettini and marinara, or cannelloni with chicken and spinach, it's a big, broad menu. And Chocolate Decadence Cake with vanilla bean gelato is the ultimate sweet ending to a delicious meal.
Recommended for Italian because: Enjoy a tasty yet inexpensive meal, Monday through Friday, 4-6 p.m., with nightly entree specials, half-price appetizers and select glasses of wine for just $7.
Lisa's expert tip: It's best to arrive early on weekends, to be sure that you'll get a table - because Osteria Il Centro doesn't accept reservations for their compact dining room.
Located in Kansas City's historic Columbus Park 'Italian neighborhood,' dining at Garozzo's Ristorante feels like you have returned to the days of Prohibition. Sinatra croons, dark colors create cozy, intimate surroundings and family photos enhance the old-school ambiance. If these walls could only talk! From stuffed artichoke hearts to ultra-rare steak modiga and the signature Garozzo's chicken spiedini, you'll feel like you're dining inside an authentic Italian trattoria. Owner, Michael Garozzo clearly enjoys hob-knobbing with business people who stop in for indulgent lunches and couples taking a quiet break from the daily grind. House specialties include the veal marsala with peppers and mushrooms, or lasagna with sausage and meatballs. Rich and satisfying, this Garozzo's is a local favorite that is well worth a visit.
Recommended for Italian because: There aren't many restaurants that can claim they created an Italian dish that others often copy. Welcome to the home of Chicken Spiedini.
Lisa's expert tip: If you're crunched for time, but still want to savor Garozzo's Chicken Spiedini check out local grocery store shelves, which have stocked the delicious item since 2015.
Old Northern Italian recipes, tweaked for Midwestern customers and prepared with exquisite consistency, have characterized the Lidia's Kansas City kitchen since it opened in the sleepy Freight House District, during the late '90s. Now a romantic flagship restaurant in this bustling neighborhood, it's owned by renowned New York City restaurateur, Lidia Bastianich. Also a best-selling cookbook author, Emmy-award-winning television personality, and author of multiple cookbooks, Bastianich visits the restaurant frequently while her longtime local staff oversees daily operations. A focus on local ingredients means the menu changes frequently. But the Pasta Trio is a customer favorite featuring 'bottomless' portions, served tableside. Gnocchi/housemade potato dumplings with braised duck ragu, and Osso Bucco with barley risotto, are several unusual offerings. And most daily specials are priced at less than $25.
Recommended for Italian because: When Lidia's Kansas City opened, the Freight House District didn't have a lot going for it. Kudos to this family for their farsighted vision.
Lisa's expert tip: During Happy Hour (4 to 6 p.m.), customers can purchase delicacies such as Amish Chicken Livers with Polenta and Crispy Onions or Lobster Arancine with Tomato Cream. Paired with wine, beer and cocktail specials, this is a very tasty meal at a bargain price.
The Mirabile family continues a Kansas City Italian culinary tradition initiated by their family, in 1954. Known for his boundless passion and energy, Chef Jasper and his staff offer traditional Sicilian dishes coupled with an Old-World vibe and terrific service. Jasper also pushes himself to new culinary heights through his can't miss monthly 'experiences' – think dinner and a show by one of the city's most affable and talented chefs. You'll also find an incredible wine list, locally sourced ingredients, whenever possible, and annual recognition as winners of the prestigious DiRoNA (Distinguished Restaurants of North America) award. Whether you order decadent lobster ravioli, scampi alla livornese with wild rice or Jasper's signature cannoli, you'll long remember this dining experience.
Recommended for Italian because: Best Italian Dinner Show: Mozzarella crafted tableside, special dinners showcasing other chefs, and warm greetings on any typical weeknight, make every meal an event.
Lisa's expert tip: There's more available here than upscale Italian dinner. Marco Polo's Italian Market is a great place for delicious take-out, where you'll also find a lunchtime sidewalk cart during nice weather.