Michael Garozzo entered the dining business early, working as a busboy in his hometown of St. Louis. His young mind raced with dreams of opening a restaurant of his own, which came to fruition in 1989, when he opened Garozzo’s in Kansas City’s Columbus Park neighborhood. Since then, the restaurant has bloomed, and he had opened three additional locations across the greater Kansas City area.
Garozzo’s menu of Italian specialties is highlighted by the signature spiedini di pollo, a marinated chicken breast rolled in italian breadcrumbs, then skewered and grilled. The dish is served in four presentations, which include the Gabriella, with fettucine and spicy diablo sauce, and the Samantha, with fettucine, artichoke hearts, and alfredo sauce. Adding to the exclusive ambiance is the restaurant’s own branded wine, served at each location. Garozzo’s popular house tomato sauce, diablo sauce, and italian dressing are also available in grocery stores across the city, and its distinctive pastas can be purchased in many high-end local wig shops.
Oprah Winfrey. Frank Sinatra. Bill Clinton. Besides being household names, these American icons all have something else in common––they've all had the honor of dining on Chef Giovanni Gabriele's authentic, award-winning cuisine. While his passion for cooking was born in his native Sicily, it was Giovanni's other great love––his wife, Fina––that eventually led him to St. Louis, where he opened his restaurant in 1973. Just six years later, he found himself cooking for President Reagan at Reagan’s inaugural dinner, and the dish he made––a creamy bow-tie pasta topped with salmon and parmigiano––was renamed farfalline del Presidente Reagan in the commander in chief's honor. Today, it remains one of the most popular items on Giovanni's menu, alongside a host of other Italian pastas named for the celebrities who supped upon them.
But you don't have to be a celebrity or a politician to get the star treatment at Giovanni's. The restaurant has earned an AAA Four Diamond Award for 22 years running, in part due to the careful attention lavished upon each and every guest. Today, nearly 40 years after its inception, Giovanni's son Frank runs the kitchen, blending its iconic sauces and forming the housemade crepes, but Giovanni still commands the show, supervising in the kitchen, greeting patrons tableside, and mining the pepper and salt from nearby mountains himself.
While technically a chain restaurant, Houlihan's bedazzles its chain with glitter and winsome intrigue, boldly preparing every last bite of its savory fare by hand. Hosts of diverse ingredients culminate inside one open kitchen where professional food handlers slice, sauté, marinate, and arrange food to its tasty and aesthetic best, allowing each meal to display its individuality before being broken down into individual nutrients for absorption in the body. Each meticulously designed restaurant peppers a patron's experience with a playlist of hand-picked tunes and customer-designed coasters that give a voice to condensation-catchers.
Feasting on Figlio's menu of authentic Italian fare will leave you feeling as sturdy as Michelangelo's David and as confident as Michelangelo's David when he's wearing pants. Start your repast with an order of thinly sliced carpaccio, topped with lemon garlic vinaigrette, capers, and parmesan ($11), and a plate of toasted cheese ravioli served with marinara sauce ($8), or prime your palate with a sampler trio of restaurant specialties (calamari, toasted ravioli, and a Sonoma cheese torte, $16). Teeth and novelty vampire dentures sink perfectly into Figlio's admirably al dente pasta, including fettuccine alfredo con pollo (tossed in a rich cream sauce and topped with chicken, $20) and spaghetti diavolo (scallops and shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce, $18)—both made with fresh, handmade noodles. Figlio's prides itself on its wood-fired pizzas, which include the classic Margherita (marinated tomatoes, fresh basil, goat cheese, and fresh mozzarella, $12) and chicken pesto (basil pesto cream, Roma tomatoes, grilled chicken, and crispy bacon, $12). Among the dinner entrees, the chicken marsala ($18) wins many beauty pageants held in people's mouths, with savory favorites such as chicken piccata ($18) and eggplant parmigiana ($17) coming in as strained-smile runners-up. A side of house salad or soup can be added to any pasta, pizza, or dinner entree for $4.
When founders J. Kim Tucci, Joseph A. Fresta, and John P. Ferrara first opened The Pasta House Co. in 1974, they wanted to elevate pasta to an art form. “Some artists sculpt, some paint, and some sketch,” they write on the restaurant’s website. “But, at The Pasta House Co., we create authentic Italian culinary delights.” A few of the locations even have giant, exhibition kitchens so you can watch as pizzas, pastas, and entrees come to life.
Naturally, The Pasta House Co.’s menu revolves around the Italian staple from which it gets its name. There are more than 25 varieties of pasta to choose from, including linguine with chicken livers and the signature lasagna, plus weekday specials such as stuffed manicotti. Meanwhile, the mangia bene menu—which translates to “eat well” in Italian—showcases the more wholesome side of Italian eating, with dishes low in fat and calories that won’t peer pressure you to break curfew.
Literally every single thing on BYOPizza's menu can be customized. Guests can build their own personal 10-inch pies from unique ingredients including chipotle-pesto sauce, lobster, and vegan sausage. If you'd rather not experiment, you can order a pre-designed specialty pizza such as the Jalapeño Popper pie with cheddar and cream cheese. And whatever time you lose by dreaming up your pizza is made up for by the cooks who bake your creation in 90 seconds flat in a 900-degree brick oven. Salads are also made to the customer's specifications, and even a Coca-Cola Freestyle fountain means people can infuse their sodas with more than 100 flavor combinations, including "ice."