A lot of new restaurants opened in the Kansas City metro in 2014, including the eight-month-old Luigi's Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar at 8 East Franklin in downtown Liberty. I'm sorry that it took me so long to stumble into owner Ari Dreshaj's Italian bistro. It's truly one of the restaurant discoveries of the year.
Why? The Italian cuisine is quite good — Dreshaj makes almost everything, including the hot, yeasty herb rolls, from scratch — and the prices are well worth making the 21-minute drive to Liberty from Kansas City. The costliest dish on the menu, a fruti de mare
pasta with shrimp, calamari, scallops, mussels and clams, is less than $20. The excellent Luigi's Special — spaghettini tossed with chicken, sausage, peppers, ham and black olives in a soothing white-wine cream sauce — costs $13.95.
Dreshaj, who was born in Sicily, is half Sicilian, half Albanian: "But the cuisine of Albania is very much influenced by Italian cooking," he says. "The countries are so close to each other. I make the dishes that I grew up eating."
The 36-year-old restaurateur opened the Liberty location after running the original local Luigi's in Leavenworth with his family for six years. "We had so many patrons from Liberty who would drive to our Leavenworth restaurant and ask us to open a branch in downtown Liberty," Dreshaj says. "After I found our location, I knew I had to go ahead and do it."