Image via Facebook.com/michaelsmithkc
Chef Michael Smith’s namesake restaurant has served up contemporary American fare in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District for 10 years. For almost half that time, “Big Italian Night” specials featuring handmade pastas and wine pairings have been a fixture—but now, every night is special with a new menu that entirely devoted to Italian dining. According to Smith, the restaurant has been trending toward Italian for several years, a combination of his decades-long love of the cuisine, European travels and one memorable meal at the Michelin-starred Guido.
Thanks to overwhelmingly positive response to the change, what started as a savory sabbatical for the chef is likely to become a permanent fixture. The menu won’t limit itself to a particular region in Italy and will be influenced by the seasonal ingredients available in Kansas City. For example, when tomatoes are at their peak in the summer, dishes will be inspired by Rome, Naples, and Sicily; in the winter, wild boar will showcase flavors of Tuscany.
Smith theorizes that KC’s craving for Italian food might, in part, be a desire for substance over style. In an age of food judged for its potential virality, simplicity can be radical. “I think people are getting over some of the frills and saying, ‘I want delicious food,’” says Smith. “You can say that about the bistro cooking of France and you can say it about Italian food in general—it’s delicious. There’s a comfort in it and maybe that’s what Kansas City is doing right now.”