kansas city italian restaurants authentic

The Italian restaurant scene in Kansas City is strong – there are several options that are simply delizioso! They range from authentic Italian eateries to those with a more modern take on the cuisine.

Regardless of what vibe you’re going for, you are sure to love our local recommendations for the best of the best Italian restaurants in Kansas City.

As Kansas City locals with a fondness for freshly made pasta noodles and the creamiest of creamy burrata, we have visited them all.

If you too find yourself being able to develop a deep appreciation for a long-simmered marinara sauce, you need to visit these Kansas City Italian restaurants, pronto!


Where To Find Kansas City’s Best Italian Food

We recommend making a reservation in advance.

1. Lazia

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District

Lazia is an upscale trattoria with a sophisticated, modern approach to classic Italian flavors. Upon arrival, you’ll be treated to a taste of their house-made amaro.

The ambiance is warm – think dimmed lights, candelabras, and rich colors.

Their sectioned menu features a wide range of elevated Italian dishes, including antipasti, cicchetti (small plates), and shareable main courses of meat and seafood entrees, handmade pastas, and wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas. 

For the best experience, order several items and share amongst the table, which is the true Italian style of eating.

Menu highlights include whipped potato with salt cod fritter, butterfly peaflower focaccia with honey nut squash butter, stuffed beet pappardelle, pork shoulder with mascarpone polenta, and root vegetable bolognese.

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2. Osteria Il Centro

Neighborhood: South Plaza
$$ – $$$

Since their beginning in 1995, Il Centro has captured the ambiance of a traditional Italian neighborhood trattoria.

The menu showcases classic, authentic Italian dishes just like your nonna makes.

In our personal experience, the staff has always been part of the exceptional experience at Il Centro – they are warm, engaging, and incredibly knowledgeable.

Several have been there for many years, which is a testament to the inviting environment you’ll find here.

You should not leave without ordering dessert – we recommend the tiramisu or the raspberry gelato coated in dark chocolate. 

Their extensive wine list has received numerous awards. Rated at the top for Italian Restaurant in Kansas City by Zagat, this locally-owned neighborhood favorite is a must visit.

Menu highlights include focaccia with olive tapenade and roasted red pepper gorgonzola spread, calamari fritti, prosciutto pizza, spedini di pollo, eggplant parmesan, sausage and pepper pasta, and veal piccata.

3. Bella Napoli

Neighborhood: Brookside
$ – $$ 

Bella Napoli gives Italian sidewalk cafe vibes with an atmosphere that is somehow both laid-back and refined, making it a versatile option. 

We love their authentic Italian dishes and the overall experience.

The space, opened in 2001, features a modest market and deli counter, perfect for lunchtime. All the items in the market and deli ingredients are imported straight from Italy.

For the seated restaurant, visitors can opt to sit indoors or on the sidewalk patio. If it’s a warm evening, opt for the patio.

The freshly-baked bread is served in plastic baskets and the tables are filled with regulars. The wine list is extensive and includes multi-generational small Italian vineyards.

They are able to accommodate larger groups, ideal for when your second and third Italian cousins are in town for the holidays.

We have ordered a variety of dishes over our many visits, and all have been excellent.

Pro Top: Don’t leave without ordering the tiramisu.

Menu highlights include mussels in white wine broth, spaghetti carbonara, ragu di manzo, tagliatelle bolognese, osso bucco, and the pizza – oh, the pizza – is divine.

4. Il Lazzarone

Neighborhood: River Market
$$ – $$$

Those with an appreciation for authentic Italian pizza should not miss out on Il Lazzarone.

Located in the historic River Market district, this stylish, open-kitchen pizzeria showcases a traditional wood-fired oven imported from a Naples business that has been building them over four familial generations. 

Certified by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana – one of only seventy-seven in the country, Il Lazzarone’s menu features a variety of authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas with thin, chewy crusts.

They use simple, quality ingredients, like their San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy where they are grown at the base of Mount Vesuvius. Yes, really.

Il Lazzarone’s specialty is authentic pizza, and they stay pretty close to that. They have a few antipasti options, but you’ll want to plan on ordering pizza. With over twenty options to choose from, you’re sure to find one you’ll love.

5. Farina

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District
Pricing: $$$$

Farina brings a modern take on Italian cuisine with an emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients and a culinary approach that embraces innovation.

Offering a chef-driven menu by well-known, James Beard award-winning local chef Michael Smith, each dish is thoughtfully curated.

Farina’s menu showcases a fusion of Italian and Mediterranean flavors, featuring dishes like handmade pastas, fresh seafood, and tender grilled meats.

Each plate is artfully presented, and the attention to detail extends to their wine list, which features exceptional vintages from Italy and beyond.

The restaurant also features an oyster bar and a raw bar with shellfish and fish flown in daily. 

The ambiance is modern, sleek, and upscale. The interior features contemporary art, making the dining experience feel like a blend between a gallery and an Italian modernist space.

The menu changes seasonally, with the exception of the Four Kings of Rome: Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe, Rigatoni all’Amatriciana, Tagliatelle Bolognese and Bucatini Carbonara.

6. Lidia’s

Neighborhood: Crossroads Arts District
Pricing: $$$

When it comes to Italian cuisine, Lidia Bastianich is the Godmother of Kansas City.

Lidia’s is housed in a historic railroad building, and the ambiance – old Italian farmhouse vibes – is as authentic as the pasta.

Many opt for the Pasta Trio, served tableside, which is a daily three course pasta special – and you can get as many seconds –  thirds, fourths – as you want.

With fresh, locally sourced ingredients and an extensive wine list, Lidia’s is a local favorite.

Although her culinary career has taken her beyond Kansas City, Lidia has continued to provide culinary excellence to the Kansas City foodie scene.

7. Ragazza

Neighborhood: Westport

This intimate, charming Italian eatery is beloved for its authentic cuisine.

Ragazza offers a taste of Italy right in the heart of the city and the award-winning wine list offers the perfect accompaniment to any meal.

The cozy setting, complete with a fireplace and bar, adds to the dining experience, making Ragazza the ideal destination for a romantic date night.

Menu highlights include the eggplant parmesan, chicken piccata, and spaghetti and meatballs. Also worth mentioning is their Sunday Sauce Everyday dish – a six-hour sauce with local Scimeca’s sausage.

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DiCapo Foods, Crossroads Arts District Kansas City

Kansas City’s Italian Influence: A Brief History

When considering Italian immigration to the heartland, many think of Chicago’s infamous mobsters or The Hill neighborhood in St. Louis.

The stories of Italian immigration to Kansas City aren’t at the forefront of history, but those with Italian heritage in the city will argue that the cultural influence has been just as significant here as in those neighboring cities.

Italian influence in Kansas City dates back to the late 19th century when Italian immigrants began arriving in search of opportunities in the fast-growing city with many landing in the railroad and construction industries. 

Most Italian immigrants in Kansas City hailed from southern Italy, particularly regions like Sicily and Campania.

Familiar with each other’s culture and customs, they settled together, forming close communities to preserve their cultural heritage.

These communities primarily settled in the northeast region of Kansas City, around the area now known as Columbus Park.

This Kansas City Italian neighborhood – known back then as Little Italy – featuring numerous Italian social clubs, bakeries, and grocery stores.

These gathering places for the community offered a wide range of imported Italian ingredients, helping families maintain their culinary traditions.

In those days, a walk down the street would greet you with the aroma of tomato sauce simmering on stovetops and the lively sound of Italian conversation filling the air.

As immigrant families became established, several expanded those culinary traditions into the local restaurant industry. 

Although Columbus Park is now home to a diverse range of cultures, the Italian influence can still be felt – there remain a handful of Italian-owned businesses, fire hydrants are painted in the Italian flag pattern, and the original shotgun-style houses remain. 

The culinary traditions that these immigrants introduced in the 19th century have become integral to Kansas City’s culinary industry today.

What is Kansas City’s Oldest Italian Restaurant?

While there are several family-run Italian restaurants in Kansas City, there is one that has been around for longer than the others: Cascone’s in North Kansas City, which has been serving up the classics since 1932.

The Cascone family immigrated from Sicily and opened up their first location in the Columbus Park neighborhood. It was moved to the current location in the 1950’s.

Cascone’s is known for their Italian steak sandwiches as well as their “Italian Flag” – a trio of basked lasagna, chicken parmigiana, and fettuccine alfredo, topped with a paper Italian flag.

Their offerings are primarily the same as they have always been – they are strict on tradition and embrace their original family recipes.

What Italian Food is Kansas City Known For?

The most well-known Italian food to hail from Kansas City is the chicken spiedini.

The story of chicken spiedini in Kansas City starts in Abruzzo, Italy, where the traditional spiedini, or meat skewer, originates.

Mike Garozzo of Garozzo’s Ristorante, who opened his restaurant in 1989 in Columbus Park, Kansas City’s traditional Italian neighborhood, brought his own take on this dish, marking the beginning of chicken spiedini’s local journey.

Unlike the original spiedini, Garozzo chose chicken as his primary ingredient, a move that was reflective of the health-conscious trends of the late 1980s.

Chicken was seen as a healthier alternative to the traditional beef or veal due to its lower cholesterol content.

Garozzo’s chicken spiedini involved marinating chicken tenders in a mix of olive oil, garlic, basil, and breadcrumbs, then skewering and broiling them to perfection.

Served in various Italian sauces and with pasta, this dish became a signature item at Garozzo’s Ristorante.

This culinary innovation sparked a trend across Kansas City. Restaurants like Carmen’s Cafe in Brookside, opened by Juan Bautista who was influenced by his decade working at Garozzo’s.

Each restaurant adds its unique touch, whether it’s in the marinade or the cooking method, like the deep-fried approach, differing from Garozzo’s charbroiled style.

Buon appetito!

Map of Kansas City’s Best Italian Restaurants