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Food recs: The best Italian food in Kansas City

Lidia's Kansas City
KCUR food critic Mary Bloch says Lidia’s has some of the best Italian food in Kansas City.

Where to get the most mouthwatering Italian pasta, pizza, paninis and small plates in Kansas City according to KCUR food critics and listeners.

Pasta carbonara. Margherita pizza with fresh mozzarella. Caprese salad. Risotto. Gelato. Tiramisu. Not to mention, wine.

"The Italians do it right. For them, food is a lifestyle," KCUR food critic Mary Bloch says.

Most of us won't be traveling to Naples anytime soon. But a trip to the right place in the Kansas City region can give us a taste of what it might be like.

Whether you're looking for an afternoon small plate or a full-on Italian feast, here are the restaurants our food critics recommend trying out this summer while the tomatoes and basil are particularly fresh.

Carlton Logan, Kansas City Eats:

  • Jasper’s Italian Restaurant and Marco Polo's Italian Market — Italian Hero sandwich, pollo alla Parmigiano, spaghetti and meatballs, charcoal grilled Italian sausage sandwich, chocolate cake. I've picked all of these up over the last few months, but my favorite combo is the Italian sausage sandwich with peppers, onions and potatoes.
  • Jovito’s Italian Cafe — Italian sausage grinder, paninis, calzones. The Italian sausage grinder here brings me right back to my childhood. Also, before I came here, I had never experienced a sandwich stuffed with meatballs and spaghetti sauce!
  • Bella Napoli — pizza. I usually order the Margherita with tomatoes and cheese, Salsiccia (sausage) or Giovanni with sausage, peppers and onions. Everything is great at this neighborhood restaurant and market.
  • Trezo Mare — fried calamari, Caesar salad, pasta, salmon. This restaurant has quickly become one of my favorites. Think of it as Italian with a twist. Of particular note is the stuffed salmon with shrimp or the salmon served with butternut squash risotto.
  • Viona’s Italian Bistro — lasagna. You can find this flavorful Italian classic in downtown Overland Park.
  • Cupini’s — caprese panini, pasta, pizza, calzones, dessert. If you want fresh pasta, this is the place to get it. You can even buy pasta and sauce to cook at home.
  • Osteria IL Centro — caprese salad, pizza quattro formaggio, pesto shrimp pizza, crème brûlée, tiramisu. I love this place because it is warm and intimate.
  • Carollo’s Grocery and Deli — deli sandwich, grilled sausage, Italian cookies, cannoli. You'll find so many great Italian goods here that it'll make you think you're shopping in Italy. When I make spaghetti pie, this grocery is one of the few places in town where I can find the big bucatini noodles.

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

  • The Town Company — ricotta dumplings. The combination of stinging nettle, spring onion, almond and chickweed in these dumplings is spring on a plate. You can find it at the gorgeous new restaurant at the new Hotel Kansas City.
  • Canary — ricotta gnocchi. Don't miss this light and addictive dish featuring Sunny Meadow Farms pork sausage, local spinach, spring onion, and Idiazabal cheese. Replacing the typical potato in the gnocchi with ricotta makes for a refreshing change of pace.
  • Bella Napoli — amatriciana di cesare. This rigatoni with pancetta in spicy tomato sauce is my absolute favorite.
  • Lidia’s — bistecca, Caesar salad. This Italian bone-in ribeye steak will make you feel like you're in Florence, without leaving Kansas City. It comes with delicious roasted tomatoes, twice-fried potatoes and broccoli rabe. They also have my favorite Caesar in town here.
  • Ragazza Food & Wine — bucatini all'amatriciana, lasagna Bolognese, meatball grande. These are all must orders, but if you really want to start your meal out with a bang, get Ragazza's famous giant meatball in red sauce with grilled focaccia.
  • Farina — tagliatelle Bolognese, rigatoni all’amatriciana, spinach cappelletti, baby artichokes. All of the pastas are great here, but the seasonal spinach cappelletti with spring pea Parmesan filling in a chicken Parmesan broth is especially good. Also, the artichokes are served Roman style, braised with wine and olive oil.
  • Corvino Supper Club — ricotta & peas. This small plate with fresh peas, homemade ricotta, lemon and mint screams spring. It's almost too pretty to eat.
  • Room 39 — ricotta ravioli. This ravioli with Green Dirt Farm ricotta, fresh herbs and white wine is light and delicious.
  • Jasper’s Italian Restaurant — caprese salad. Chef Jasper Mirabile is known for his tableside mozzarella theatre, where he makes fresh mozzarella before your eyes for this traditional tomato and mozzarella salad.
  • Novel — tagliatelle. This white Bolognese of pork, veal, sweetbreads, basil and Parmesan may take you out of your comfort zone, but I promise it's delicious. Working together, all of the individual flavors create a lovely symphony. There are lots of other great pastas on the menu, too.
  • Osteria IL Centro — chicken marsala. This delicious classic is served with mushrooms, Marsala wine, garlic mashed potatoes and spinach. Not to mention, this restaurant is a Kansas City classic with a legion of loyal fans.
  • Fox and Pearl — porchetta, smoked pork shank agnolotti. This is the best porchetta in town. Pork loin is wrapped in pork belly and then slow roasted and is currently served with coal roasted beets, sautéed beet greens and bok choy. The pasta is also always amazing. Right now there’s a penne with smoked pork shank, grilled spring onions, roasted carrots, smoked pork jus and fried shallots.
  • Restaurant at 1900— risotto nero. The combination of charred octopus, squid, cherry tomatoes, red onions, parsley and preserved lemon salad makes this absolutely irresistible.

Listener recommendations:

Mary Bloch and Carlton Logan joined Steve Kraske on a recent episode of KCUR's Up To Date.

Whether it’s something happening right now or something that happened 100 years ago, some stories don’t fit in the short few minutes of a newscast. As a podcast producer at KCUR, I help investigate questions and local curiosities in a way that brings listeners along for adventures with plot twists and thought-provoking ideas. Sometimes there isn’t an easy answer in the end – but my hope is that we all leave with a greater understanding of the city we live in. Reach me at mackenzie@kcur.org.
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