I'd like to suggest an advertising tagline for the terrific new Italian delicatessen Pezzettino, at 2101 Broadway: "So good, you're willing to circle the neighborhood half an hour trying to find a parking place."
Chris and Annie Barbieri Spohn opened the beautifully designed Italian deli and market on April 16, on the first floor of the dark brick warehouse building originally constructed for the Piggly Wiggly supermarket chain. They knew they faced a parking challenge along this stretch of Broadway, where the Jacobson, Café Gratitude and Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop were already competing for a limited number of parking spots. Now that they've had their space open almost a month, though, they're looking at an outside-the-lunchbox answer: valet service.
"We're investigating the costs of that," Chris Spohn tells me. "It may be a very viable solution."
Parking difficulties are a bit of a legacy for Annie Spohn, granddaughter of Sicilian-born restaurateurs Vincenzo and Antonina Sola. The couple operated an urban Italian deli of their own, Sola's, in Columbus Park from 1939 to 1946. Later, they ran a saloon serving Italian food at 409 East 33rd Street (a space that's now incorporated as part of a gay bar called Sidestreets). In those days, though, customers who didn't want to fight downtown traffic could take the city's streetcars to pick up sandwiches and cold cuts.
The Spohns, who moved back to Annie's hometown from California to open their dream business, fell in love with the space at 2101 Broadway the first time they saw it.
"We had an idea of what we wanted," says Chris Spohn, "something urban, yet very Italian. We looked at dozens of locations all over Kansas City, but this is the place that resonated for us."
Pezzettino (the name translates, roughly, as "small bites") offers immediate visual appeal in this art-centric Crossroads neighborhood. Through the oversized windows, you can see the restaurant's shiny concrete floors and gleaming marble-topped and refrigerated cases full of attractive salads, cured meats, olives and tapenades. That food (served from 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.) isn't just beautiful but also tasty, thanks to the skills of Argentinian chef Tomas di Gregorio, known for his tenure at the Northland's Piropos restaurant. He joined the Spohns as Pezzettino's executive chef when the restaurant was still in its planning stages.
Pezzettino is for now primarily focused on lunch and happy hour, so di Gregorio has created a basic but satisfying array of Romagna-style flatbread sandwiches (called piadina) and more familiar grilled Panini sandwiches. (Some of the bread is baked in-house; the rest comes from Sasha's Baking Company.) The venue serves both domestic and imported wine and beer, along with a limited selection of seasonal cocktails, and stays open later than 7:30 p.m. on First Fridays. The Spohns say they're planning a few special chef's dinners for the summer, for which they'll stay open later.
Di Gregorio's one-page menu is "still in the experimental stage," he says. "We haven't made many changes to it since we opened, but it's an evolving process. I'm offering six or eight daily specials that we post on our blackboards for lunch and probably as many for the apertivo."
"We've only been open for three weeks, and we've done no advertising, but our sales are very, very good," Chris Spohn says. "We already have so many repeat customers that we're certain we chose the right place in the right town for our idea. We're very pleased."