Tavernonna (Kansas City, MO)

Last late summer and fall were a whirlwind of travel, but one thing we really got a chance to enjoy was a side trip to Missouri for the 2017 eclipse. We flew into Kansas City, spent a few days exploring, and then headed out to Columbia to meet up with friends to watch the actual eclipse. But Kansas City itself is actually a pretty fun destination these days: the downtown has gotten a bit of a makeover, there’s a relatively new World War I museum, and the town has a surprisingly nice beer and cocktail scene going on. And we got to stay in the Hotel Philips, originally built in 1931 as a classic Art Deco hotel, and now run as part of Hilton’s Curio collection. After arriving mid-day, and spending a bit of time checking out some of the local bar scene (including Border Brewing Co and one of Kansas City’s multiple speakeasies, Manifesto) we ended up deciding that Italian food would be good for dinner, trying out Tavernonna in the lobby of the hotel.

Tavernonna has a nice, pleasant dining area on the corner of the building, with nice floor to ceiling windows making for a nice, bright, and open dining experience. Menu-wise, Tavernonna is primarily sticking to the Italian basics: the menu is basically the traditional Italian breakdown of antipasti, pasta, and piatti principali, with a few American dishes and specials mixed in as well. We started off with their charcuterie plate, which was a very pleasing selection of prosciutto di Parma, coppa, chorizo, pate, and prosciutto cotto, and a nice selection of pickles (including some very nicely done cauliflower) with some crostini. This is one of the better charcuterie plates I’ve had in recent history, with the pate and the prosciutto di Parma both being particularly flavorful.

Next up was my pasta course. I so rarely order spaghetti (having been ruined by one too many bad cafeteria meals), but here they had the classic Spaghetti Caccio e Pepe, a simple spaghetti with cheese and pepper, served up with a soft egg. One of the things I love about a dish like this is its simplicity; all of the chef’s talent is out on display, since every ingredient needs to be perfect: the perfect al dente on the pasta, drained properly, and served up with just enough pepper, oil, and cheese to be flavorful and textured without being sticky, gummy, or watery, and they didn’t disappoint: this was pretty much a perfect little bowl of pasta.

We also order some garlic gnocchi, which were served up seared with a light sauce, these were perfectly cooked little pockets of garlicky gnocchi, with a nice seared exterior. If I had to fault something, it was a little more sear than I usually like (my standard for this will always be the James Beard award-winning seared gnocchi from Gracie’s in Providence), but otherwise quite nicely done gnocchi, and I’d be happy to get these again.

For my entree, I went with one of their specials: the “Golden Fork” chicken. Basically an upscale fried chicken served up on a cauliflower risotto, this generally was quite good: the chicken very moist and flavorful, and the “risotto” rather pleasant for being cauliflower instead of rice. Again, a relatively simple dish being basically just breaded chicken, but they got the interior chicken perfectly cooked. Two things subtracted from this a bit, however: the breading was a bit thick, and the pickled vegetables on top were very, very acidic. But otherwise, a great dish.

Carol, meanwhile, went for the thyme-baked mussels and scallops, served up up with prosciutto and roasted corn. The star of the show here was the scallops, perfectly cooked and seasoned, and the roasted corn and prosciutto paired well with it. The mussels worked well with the underlying broth, making a pleasing dish overall.

For an Italian place that focuses on the basics of Italian cooking, the charcuterie and the pasta were both excellent and exceeded our expectations. The entrees, while not in the same class, were pleasant as well, and I can easily see myself returning if my travels bring me back to Kansas City.

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