After John Francis closed in the 1980s, a variety of restaurants came and went: Tony Ferrara's lasted the longest, at three years, but the limited parking aggravated Ferrara's upscale clientele, so he moved to Lenexa. Later, the space housed a short-lived German restaurant, then Pegah's.
This weekend, chef Carl Scavuzzo and his wife, Suzanne, opened Scavuzzo's in the front half of the restaurant's space; they'll turn the former private dining room into a carry-out Italian delicatessen offering hot dishes, sandwiches and pastries.
Carl's last high-profile gig was as executive chef for the Hotel Phillips, which shuttered Platters, its all-you-can-eat-for-a-lot-of-money dining room last summer. That 1920s space (the former Sir Loin Room) has since reopened -- softly, according to Tom Pratt, the hotel's general manager -- as the Phillips Chop House, serving steaks, chops and, Pratt says, "lots of seafood." No word on what happened to the mostly Eastern European serving staff at Platters, who often sounded -- and looked -- like Czech porn stars.
Back on 80th Street, the Scavuzzos have given their new restaurant's once-dreary interior a vibrantly colorful makeover, hung dozens of family photos on the walls, installed an espresso machine and spent a day in the kitchen perfecting Mama Edith Scavuzzo's recipes for meatballs and rich sugo.
Carl's dinner menu offers seven pasta meals for less than $11 (including salad and bread) as well as slightly more pricey veal and steaks. There's also the family's sallasicca, with homemade Italian sausage broiled alongside sweet peppers and potatoes, and the hard-to-find Italian wedding soup made with tiny meatballs and orzo.
Carl plans to make all his own desserts, too, including chocolate mousse "with a hint of cinnamon." Is it his same recipe from the Platters dessert cart?
"It is," Suzanne says. "And although I'm not crazy about the cinnamon, everyone else is cuckoo bonkers over it."