Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Now Open: Johnny's Italian Steakhouse

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2012 at 2:24 PM

Goodbye fried chicken, hello Steak DeBurgo...
  • Goodbye, fried chicken. Hello, Steak DeBurgo...

Believe me, there were no tears shed by me — no pun intended — when the mediocre chain restaurant the Machine Shed in Olathe (my 2002 review of that joint is here) closed four years ago. Since then, the building was razed so that the company that operates the Machine Shed restaurants, the Illinois-based Heart of America Group, could build a new hotel (a very nice Hilton Garden Inn) and another one of their brand restaurants, Johnny's Italian Steakhouse. Johnny's opened August 20.

Unlike the Machine Shed, which made the low-rent Cracker Barrel restaurants seem almost classy, Johnny's Italian Steakhouse at 12080 S. Strang Line Road boasts a tastefully designed bar and dining room where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served.

Johnny's takes reservations, too, that is, if you can get anyone to answer the phone in the restaurant. The phone number is routed through the hotel switchboard and transferred over to the hostess station. If no one is standing there, well, good luck. And if someone does pick up the phone, getting questions answered is also something of an ordeal. I called one day to find out what time the restaurant serves breakfast. The hostess hemmed and hawed and finally said, "Did you want me to ask someone?"

Well, yes. While I was waiting on hold, the cheery recorded message had an upbeat male voice announcing, "Service here is a commitment!"

I was ready to be committed — to a nuthouse — by the time the young woman returned to the phone to tell me that breakfast is served from 6 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 to 10 a.m. Saturday.

"Do you serve breakfast on Sunday, too?" I asked.

"Yes."

If you want to know those hours, you call. Lunch is served daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and dinner is served from 6 to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, said the hostess. I told her that I thought a 7 p.m. starting time for dinner seemed awfully late. "Well, if you come in at 6 o'clock," she said. "You can, like, be served."

The pasta selections at Johnnys include angel hair with grilled scallops.
  • The pasta selections at Johnny's include angel hair with grilled scallops.
Uh huh. So I called back and asked to speak to a manager. The actual dinner hours, he told me, are from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, from 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday, and from 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday.

There was a beautiful young blond hostess at the front desk last Thursday night. She was wearing a miniskirt that was so tiny, I wondered if she had sewn two of the dinner napkins together. But she was professional and gracious and so was our server, a sassy young woman who seemed to know the menu inside out.

The menu is reasonably priced — a 22-ounce porterhouse, for example, is $32 and includes a salad and a potato or vegetables — and there's a nice selection of chicken, veal and seafood dishes. The menu says the meals are served with "fresh baked focaccia bread." A basket with a half-loaf did arrive, well before the salads, but calling it "freshly baked" proved to be an overstatement. It might have been freshly baked — the previous week.

The big slab of lasagna wasn't too expensive at $13, and it was certainly filling but not nearly as good as the same dish served up at the noisier, much less classy Zio's Italian Kitchen across the street. Still, for a corporate steakhouse, Johnny's does offer five meatless pasta options, which is saying something.

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