On a recent visit to Kansas City, I had a meeting with my big dealer there one evening. After the meeting, we went to Bravo! Cucina Italiana for dinner.
Bravo! Cucina Italiana - or Bravo! for the regulars - is a small chain of 34 restaurants located mainly in the eastern and midwestern part of the nation. There are two in Kansas City and we went to the Bravo! restaurant located in the upscale Town Center Plaza shopping complex in the Overland Park/Leawood area (see map).
Bravo! is an Ohio-based corporation headed by CEO Chris Doody. Bravo! is part of the Bravo! Development Group of restaurants that also includes the Tuscany-style offerings of Brio, a 20 plus chain of restaurants across the eastern and middle part of the U.S.
Bravo! is more of a "ristorante" style of Italian restaurant complete with linen tablecloths and authentic Italian decor. The "Cucina Italiana" - Italian Kitchen - part of their name signifies the traditional style of Italian cooking that goes on in the restaurant. The kitchen is in full view of the diners, similar to traditional upscale Italian restaurants.
According to their web site, Bravo's interiors are consistent with ancient Italian architecture down to the imported Italian marble floors, the Venetian-plastered walls and other hand-crafted Italian reliefs. I didn't really pay that much attention to the decor the night we went. It seemed to be nice, but sort of loud in the place.
There were five of us who went to dinner that evening. We were seated at a table in the back corner offering us a side view of the goings on in the kitchen. It also afforded us a much quieter surrounding so we could continue to discuss business over dinner.
The dinner menu is truly traditional Italian with pasta dishes, pizza, wood-fired steaks and chicken, and seafood. The wine list was a little less than desirable, but we did end up getting a bottle of the Sketchbook Cabernet from California that was recommended by one of my guests. It did the job.
Since I'd never been there before (and, subsequently, didn't realize it was a chain), I looked at a lot of possibilities. Their Pasta Bravo! dish looked interesting - pasta with grilled chicken chunks and mushrooms with a red pepper sauce. They also had a chicken Marsala dish that was grilled above wood, served with a white wine Marsala sauce and served on top of a bed of Tuscan mashed potatoes. They both sounded pretty good to me.
However, one my guests absolutely RAVED about the Bolognese Lasagna. He said it was the best lasagna he'd ever had. He talked about how good it was, I had to get try it.
One of the other guys got the Lobster and Shrimp ravioli. Another person got the special that night - grilled sea scallops with pasta. And one other person got the sauteed crab cakes.
We were also served a generous dinner salad that we ate along with an appetizer of a Spinach and Artichoke dip. Our waiter - a 50's-ish gentleman - was attentive. But he was almost too attentive and too overbearing for my liking.
Our food came and while the portion of lasagna I received was generous, it was no where near the size of the lasagna I've gotten from Lunardi's in Davenport. And I have to say that it was good, but I liked Lunardi's lasagna much better.
The grilled scallops looked great and my guest who ordered them said they were. And the grilled crab cakes were reportedly very fresh and very tasty. But the dish I should have gotten is the Lobster and Shrimp ravioli - chunks of lobster and full shrimp on a bed of mozzarella cheese ravioli with a white wine sauce poured on top. I was offered a bite and I have to say it was very good.
But as attentive and hovering our waiter was before the dinner was served, he all but disappeared after our meal was served. A couple of the guys wanted water refills and some fresh cracked pepper. He finally showed back up after we were all nearly finished with our meals.
All in all, Bravo! was nice, but there are better Italian restaurants in the south Kansas City area that, I feel, are more authentic and have better food. But as a corporate entity, Bravo! does it well and it doesn't seem to have the "cookie cutter" feel that one gets from some of the larger Italian chain restaurants. Since most of the Bravo! restaurants are located in or near large shopping complexes, I'd say it's worth a visit when you're out shopping.