A Foodie’s Bucket List Evening at Lidia’s Italy

Lidia’s Italy Kansas City is the first restaurant that chef Lidia Bastianich opened beyond the streets of New York. She chose Kansas City for its history of Italian immigrants who arrived in the heart of the Midwest to work on the railroad. It’s in keeping with that history that Lidia selected the historic freight house for her restaurant.

Lidia's Italy in the Kansas City freight house

Lidia’s Italy in the Kansas City freight house

Lidia’s Italy opened its doors 14 years ago, and all these years it’s been on my foodie bucket list. Why it’s taken so long for me to make my way there is without explanation. We finally decided that for our 26th wedding anniversary, the day had come at last. Perhaps we were exceptionally anxious to make this a special event, as a year ago, for our 25th, thousands of miles separated us due to my 4-week work stint in India. We celebrated our silver anniversary with lots of I miss yous on the phone, and then I went out to dinner with my coworkers, who were thoughtful and generous and splurged on a bottle of champagne.

It was with much anticipation that we took our seats at a cozy table for two in the cavernous freight house. Coincidentally, Lidia’s cooking show on television earlier in the day featured her Kansas City restaurant, and I watched with pleasure as Lidia recommended traditional Italian prosecco for a perfect accompaniment to all courses in an Italian feast. I’m a pushover for sparkling wine and have been known to select an evening’s dining destination based on the fact that one restaurant over another serves sparkling by the glass. So, all Lidia had to say was prosecco, and I was in.

Prosecco by Candlight

Prosecco by Candlight

I had studied the menu well earlier in the day, so I was quick to order the Stellina di Notte prosecco, a Caesar salad and gnocchi with braised duck ragu. Mr. Sushipoet also ordered a Caesar and quail stuffed with mushrooms, which is served with Luganega sausage, cannellini beans, Swiss chard and tomato.

Our Caesar salads were absolutely wonderful. The portions were dinner-size, with freshly torn romaine, a creamy, garlicky dressing, generous slivers of Parmesan and flavorful, crisp croutons. The anchovy was just a subtle hint and not overwhelming. The salad along with the Italian breads, bread sticks and dips alone were satisfying, and I could have left at that point and been a very happy foodie.

But then arrived one of my great foodie loves—gnocchi. How I do love gnocchi. At Lidia’s, these luscious little potato pillows are house-made and delectable. Coupled with a rich braised duck ragu, they are something close to perfection. To passersby, it may have seemed liked I was celebrating a special anniversary with gnocchi, rather than with my sweet husband. Sorry, Hon.

But, it’s all right, as he was pretty infatuated with the two quail swimming in a stew of tomatoes, Swiss chard, and cannellini beans. It wasn’t long until his plate was clean and all that remained was a little mound of bird bones. Rest in peace, little quails.

Our maiden voyage to Lidia’s was a wonderful candlelit evening, filled with savory, rich flavors and sparkling prosecco. We won’t let 14 years go by before we return. I’m sure of it.

Gnocchi with braised duck ragu

Gnocchi with braised duck ragu

Quail stuffed with quaglie mushrooms, served with Luganega sausage, cannellini beans, Swiss chard and tomato

Quail stuffed with mushrooms, served with Luganega sausage, cannellini beans, Swiss chard and tomato

© Sherry Burns and sushipoet.wordpress.com 2013

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