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Tavernonna: Local Sourcing and Grandmother’s Recipes with a Modern Twist

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When you walk into Tavernonna at the corner of 12th and Baltimore, it’s refreshing to sit down at a table and dine in an urban, modern ambiance with a bustling streetscape passing by just outside the enormous floor-to-ceiling windows. For those of us who don’t live or work in downtown Kansas City, it is such a treat to find an urban trattoria featuring seasonal, trendy menus as well as some our favorite Italian staples.

In the span of a decade, Kansas City’s downtown dining scene has exploded, and I love exploring some of the best of the best. Tavernonna tops this list. Whether you work downtown, live nearby or might be coming in from the suburbs, this Italian-influenced farm-to-table restaurant has set the stage with its incredible redesign and experienced culinary expert, Executive Chef Bryant Wigger. 

Growing up on a farm outside of St. Joe, Missouri, Chef Bryant moved to Los Angeles when he was 21 and worked as a chef at some of the city’s top restaurants and hotels including the Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles and Beverly Wilshire. He traveled to Italy, read everything he could and studied the language, culture and, of course, the varieties of Italian foods.

“One of the greatest compliments I hear from restaurant guests is that they’ve just visited Italy or they’re from Italy and that our food tastes just like what they’ve eaten on a recent trip or something they remember eating growing up. Because real Italian food isn’t necessarily what you might expect,” said Chef Bryant.

What do I expect? Well, they certainly do not take short cuts in food preparation. Especially at a place with a name like Tavernonna: nonna = grandma and taver = tavern. So, it’s like going to a cozy place where grandma cooks, but a sleek, modern tavern where you might spend time with friends or a date! I was blown away at all of the attention to detail. 

All of the pasta is made from scratch, in house. The homemade focaccia bread recipe is something that Chef Bryant has perfected over many years. Ingredients are always seasonal and local when possible. The delicious Italian staple, the Fried Chicken Parm, starts with Wigger’s grandmother’s fried chicken. Brisket meatballs; enough said! Even the Rigatoni Bolognese has a twist. “They brought me here to do Midwest soul with Italian food;” Chef Bryant said; he makes his Bolognese with Midwest pot roast Italian style.

Although it feels like it’s still winter here in Kansas City, Chef Bryant just introduced seasonal dishes that will ensure your taste buds believe spring has sprung. 

The Lambchetta is as tasty as it is beautiful. Using lamb rather than pork, because lamb is more common in the southern sections of Italy, infuses the dish with another level of authenticity. The thinly sliced lamb belly is topped with tomato jam, pesto and spiced yogurt.

I couldn’t get enough of the Suppli al telefono. A lighthearted name for how the cheese stretches like a telephone wire when you pull it apart, this mouthwatering deliciousness features spicy sausage and tomato rice cake, Pomodoro and grana Padano. It’s categorized as an appetizer; I could have eaten these all night.

Simply referred to as Grilled Asparagus on the seasonal menu, this item is totally undersold. The organic polenta, roasted morel mushrooms, poached egg and truffle pecorino are all topped with gorgeously grilled asparagus to build a colorful plate that’s equally as tasty.

The final surprise was the Red Wine Tagliatelle. Anyone who knows me knows I love surprises when dining, and knows I love trying new foods. Delicious with a unique flavor, it’s a duck ragout, plus one of my favorites, fava beans, and finished with black pepper pecorino.

This is why I’m a good fit for Chef Bryant’s seasonal menus. He brings in only the best ingredients at their peak season and then creates the menu around those items. It is this part of the menu that he is able to experiment with a bit and infuse some of his grandmother, his farm roots, what he learned in Italy along with nearly two decades of cooking for diners in Los Angeles. 

We’re so happy that his wife, two darling toddlers and the Chiefs, along with this amazing executive chef position at Tavernonna, stole him away from Cali and planted him with us here in Kansas City! Ciao!

Tavernonna is located adjacent to the Phillips Hotel, 106 W. 12th Street, Kansas City, Missouri, and is open for breakfast, lunch, happy hour and dinner and features brunch Saturdays and Sundays.

Written by: Megan Neher

Journalist-turned-PR-professional Megan Neher has never forgotten her true first love: writing. Today, Megan owns her own PR firm, Megan Neher Public Relations; she’s a wife, mom, marketer, student and spends a lot of time cleaning up after her four pets and two teenagers. Her dream is to live on a tropical beach somewhere where she can stroll barefoot to a nearby grass hut for a fish taco and margarita.