Surprisingly, there are a lot of very good Italian restaurants in the greater Kansas City area. One of the better ones - if not the best one - is Garozzo's.
Michael Garozzo (note the emphasis on the long "o" in the logo) was born in St. Louis and lived on the famous Hill there. His father and uncle were long time waiters at many of the great restaurants in that neighborhood. He had a lifelong dream of owning a restaurant, and in 1989 he opened his first restaurant in Kansas City on Harrison St. north of the downtown area (see map).
He opened his second restaurant a couple years later out in Independence and eventually sold it to his cousin, Sam, who renamed the location Salvatore's. It's still in existence today (see map).
(As an aside - The head chef at Salvatore's, a Vietnamese immigrant, worked his way up through Garozzo's kitchen starting out as the salad chef, eventually taking over as head chef at Salvatore's when Michael Garozzo sold it to his cousin. I've heard that many of the menu items that you find at Garozzo's you can get at Salvatore's.)
In the meantime, Michael Garozzo opened up three other restaurants - one in Overland Park, KS, one in Lee's Summit, MO, and one in Wichita. The waitress the night we were there told us that he is looking at expanding into other towns, as well.
The last time I ate at Garozzo's was at the Overland Park location about three years ago. The food was outstanding that night and I've been wanting to go back. On our trip to Kansas City as part of our vacation, we went to Garozzo's for a late dinner one evening. Even though we got there around 9:30, the staff was more than accommodating as we apologized throughout the night for getting there so late.
The table we sat at was the same table I sat at the first time I ate there in 1990. Unfortunately, it was situated close to a birthday party where a number of younger children - who probably should have been in bed - were fueled by inordinate amounts of sugar and were pretty loud. But we got through it. We found out later that if you go to Garozzo's for your birthday, you get a free plate of their signature Chicken Spiedini.
Garozzo's is famous for their Chicken Spiedini - chicken breast chunks marinated and breaded, then grilled and served with a house sauce called Amogio. They have variations of the Chicken Spiedini and Cindy went with the Chicken Spiedini Samantha - Chicken Spiedini with an alfredo sauce served over a bed of fettuccine noodles and topped with artichoke hearts.
I went with the Tortellini Gina - huge homemade tortellini shells filled with chicken, cheese and prosciutto ham served with a white cream sauce. We each got salads - they were served in big bowls, but the dressing was a little bland for us. And we each got a glass of an Italian Pinot Grigio that I wasn't familiar with, but it went well with the meal.
In short, our meals were outstanding. Cindy thought the Chicken Spiedini over the fettuccine was one of the best meals she's ever had, and she wasn't too certain that the chicken was the best she'd ever tasted. My tortellini was equally as good - huge tortellini shells stuffed with a wonderful blend of three different taste sensations.
Everything, with the exceptions of their desserts, is made from scratch at Garozzo's. We did try a piece of their tiramisu and it was average, at best. The waitress explained that a local baker used to do all their desserts, but she retired a few years ago. I think they need to find a new baker.
The original Garozzo's is sort of tough to find - the other locations in the suburbs and in Wichita are on well-traveled streets and easy to get to. But it's worth the drive to go to the original Garozzo's for a great Italian meal.