(Kansas City, MO) – The long-awaited, much-anticipated reopening of Ragazza, a beloved Italian bistro and wine bar, in its new location is Wednesday, March 13. After more than four years at the original location in Westport, Ragazza has made a new home just a few blocks away at 4301 Main Street – in the resurging Southmoreland neighborhood – to accommodate a growing customer base and a more efficient overall operation.
Owner and proprietor Laura Norris signed the lease in late January 2018 with Del Properties and was represented in the transaction by Justin Cottrell with KC Commercial Realty Group. She describes the renovation at 43rd and Main in the historic Karnopp Building as a labor of love that has thrown some unexpected curveballs including a fluke car crash into the storefront and a cave fire that destroyed the newly fabricated entryway. When the plan for a seamless transition from the former location didn’t work out quite like she had hoped and construction was delayed at the new location, Norris made ends meet and managed to retain her family-like staff with pop-up dinners and impromptu events.
She fielded all the curveballs with grit and is now just a liquor license away from opening. She said she expects to hit the ground running with little fanfare, “We just want to get back to the business of serving family, friends and neighbors again.” She’s excited to greet the regulars from the former location and is looking forward to welcoming first-timers the new locale is sure to attract.
A midtown native with a professional background in architectural preservation, Norris says the building with its corner entrance has a charm that resonates with her inner history buff. Formerly a small grocery store, the space had been severely fire damaged and was completely gutted when the project began. Early in the project, Norris discovered unique details that have been incorporated into the restaurant’s design including an exposed brick wall and sections of colorful vintage mosaic flooring that has been salvaged from a thick black layer of tile adhesive from decades prior.
Through it all, Norris’ prevailing concern has been translating the charm and intimate atmosphere of the original Ragazza into the new space while more than doubling its capacity and elbow room. By all estimations, she’s succeeded as the new iteration bears a striking resemblance to the original in terms of layout and vibe. The interior design is warm with custom walnut accents and vintage detail mixed with modern elements.
Upon entry, the bar remains the focal point and the familiar chandelier – once orange, now white — hangs out at the far end like an old friend waiting to be spotted. The classic family photo of Norris’ grandmother, mother and uncles still smiles upon the restaurant capturing the spirit of Ragazza. Veterans will note that a few original handmade tables made the move, and those who have been around since the very beginning will recall the original waiting area that was replaced with tables early on. There’s room now, so it’s back and comfier than before. The kitchen is larger, less exposed, more efficient and enables Chef James Landis, formerly of Blue Grotto, and the larger, seasoned staff to work nimbly.
The layout allows diners to enjoy natural light from tall windows that flank Main Street, and after sunset the artisanal lighting scheme creates a cozy sparkle throughout the interior. The dining room was ingeniously designed to accommodate good-sized events that can be enclosed with sliding walnut panels. Norris says she plans to hold more of her popular Monday night wine dinners, tastings, wine classes and more. Sunday Vinyl Sunday Brunch is in the works complete with a deejay, turntables and crowd-pleasing record albums.
The overall design parallels the menu: familiar and refreshed. Patrons can look forward to their favorite standards like meatballs, eggplant parm and lasagna. New items are joining the offering as well as seasonal features. Norris says the eggplant fries are addictive, and she’s particularly excited to offer her grandmother’s swordfish prepared with lemon and capers, a traditional dish from the Island of Salinas, her great grandmother’s birthplace. Other mouthwatering additions include braised lamb shank and cinghiale stew – all served with a wider variety of sides.
Upon opening, Ragazza will serve dinner Tuesday – Saturday and Sunday brunch. Reverse happy hour will be available until midnight Thursday-Saturday. Daily lunch service will be added soon.
Ragazza open Tuesday – Sunday