Over the last 10 months, a few Italian restaurants have closed: midtown's The Copa Room, the Ameristar Casino's Bugatti's Ristorante & Café, and Olathe's Carrabba's Italian Grill. Last Saturday, the 13-year-old Il Trullo at 9056 Metcalf in Overland Park joined the list. I know what you're thinking: Hasn't that restaurant closed before, only to reopen in the same location? Yes, but just for several months in 2005 before the same owners in the Avelutto family opened it again.
Last week's finale was the real thing, at least for that location.
The unique Italian trattoria, boasting at its center a wood-burning oven in the shape of a trulli (one of the round, whitewashed, peaked-roof buildings scattered throughout Italy's Apulia region), was the dream project of entrepreneur Joseph Avelutto Sr. A native of Apulia, Avelutto wanted to bring that area's distinctive cuisine to Kansas City, even though his greatest success was with the more traditional (and inexpensive) Italian-American fare, like lasagna and spaghetti, served at his Italian Delight in Mission.
Il Trullo did catch on, and last Saturday night, the dining room was filled with regulars who wanted one last bowl of gnocchi with wild mushroom ragu or beef short ribs served with polenta and roasted parsnips.
For the last three and a half years, Il Trullo was operated by Avelutto's son, Joe Avelutto Jr.
Joe Jr. never felt that the location, in a dated shopping strip at 90th Street and Metcalf, was the ideal setting for a restaurant that served such a specialized cuisine. Adding insult to injury, the immediate neighborhood became glutted, over the last decade, with corporate-run Italian rivals: Cinzetti's Italian Restaurant, Carrabba's Italian Grill and Romano's Macaroni Grill.
"The irony is that last summer was the best we've ever had. We really did well. But the last eight weeks have been tough, really tough," Joe Jr. told me.
He plans to reopen Il Trullo in a different location and has already looked at several locations in south Johnson County. He also might consider a spot on the Missouri side. "I live in Brookside, so I'd like working closer to home," he said.
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