Brian Archibald, the 33-year-old executive chef of the uncompleted Rosso restaurant atop the seven-story - and still unfinished - Hotel Sorella, has only heard about the Thanksgiving-night lighting festivities (some call it madness, but whatever) on the Country Club Plaza.
"I know it's the busiest day on the Plaza and that all the restaurants are swamped," says the Phoenix native who hopes to officially open the doors to the top-story restaurant - which will serve both Italian and Mediterranean dishes - on November 6 and is starting to take reservations for Thanksgiving dinner (a take on a mostly traditional meal, Archibald thinks, with stuffing, turkey and mashed potatoes) for patrons who simply must dine at the newest restaurant on the Plaza before the hoi polloi invades the starkly beautiful dining room.
The hotel currently known as the InterContinental Kansas City had the snazzy Alameda Rooftop back in the day (an upscale dining room that lasted well into the hotel's incarnation as the Ritz-Carlton in the 1990s). The Raphael Hotel's celebrated dining room is in that boutique hotel's basement (it used to be the beauty salon), and the InterContinental Hotel's Oak Room is on the lobby level.
The Italian word Rosso (pronounced roe-soh) translates as red, but Archibald has a litany of other adjectives for the 120-seat venue (not including the 50 seats in the elaborately tiled Bar Rosso which overlooks an outdoor pool - not a lap pool, Archibald says, "but a hanging-out pool" - with its own menu of cocktails and small plates). Archibald's preferred word choices for Rosso are "sexy, chic, playful and unpredictable."
"This is not a chain restaurant," he says. There is only one other Hotel Sorella in the United States, he notes, in Houston. And that hotel's dining venue is called the Bistro; the Houston hotel's bar, serving "posh plates and chic drinks" is called the Monnalisa, not to be confused with Leonardo da Vinci's 16th-century painting of the same name. Bar Russo will be equally chic, Archibald says, focusing on house-made infusions and speciality cocktails - and with its own take on the art of Italy's medieval period: a black-and-white mural celebrating the legendary Palio di Siena horse race in Siena.
"We don't call our bartenders mixologists," Archibald says. "We call them Bar Creatives."
And even though the bar hasn't actually opened yet, those Creative types are already mixing up signature beverages for the saloon, including a cocktail called the Devil's Advocate that they've designed for the sophisticated young attorneys working in the Polsinelli law firm housed in the building right next door.
Archibald also has a pedigreed executive sous chef, award-winning Tate Roberts, who turned in his resignation to the EBT Restaurant last month after an eight-year run as that upscale restaurant's executive chef. Roberts, who has impeccable culinary credentials, says he was happy to join the Hotel Sorella's culinary team, which plans to aggressively pursue both dining and banquet business on the Plaza. The management has also lured away an up-and-coming young pastry chef, Robert Wallace, from the Sheraton Hotel in Overland Park.
House-made pastries will be a signature of both the Rosso restaurant (which will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week) and the first-floor espresso bar, Francesca's, which will serve coffee drinks and continental breakfast exclusively to hotel guests every morning but will open to the general public in the afternoons for light snacks and beverages.
I asked Archibald if the Plaza needs another restaurant influenced by the cuisine of Italy. After all, there's already Brio Tuscan Grill, Buca di Beppo, and Coal Vines Pizza.
"No," Archibald says, "but Rosso will not be like any of those restaurants. Our menu is much more creative and sexy."
And certainly more expensive. The pasta entrees range in price from $25 to $30, and the 14-ounce dry-aged Kansas City strip with baby roots and potatoes, fresh green peas, carrot "butter," pickled shallot, and black sarawak peppercorn sauce will be priced at $42.
But the view is sensational (particularly now with the leaves on the south Plaza trees turning into a riot of golds, burgundy, and umber), and the Plaza is still a restaurant destination spot with some solid cachet. Archibald says he still has dinner reservations for Thanksgiving night. "The menu for that night isn't done yet, but we're taking names and numbers."
To make a Thanksgiving dinner reservation at Rosso, call 816-753-8800.