Last week, I wrote about The Boot, Kansas City’s newest Italian Restaurant. I mentioned in that post that The Boot is “not your father’s Italian Restaurant.” That is a very loaded phrase in a town where not much has changed on the menus at many of the premier Italian restaurants since I was ordering off of the kid’s menu. Which is not to say that these are not great restaurants, but there is a very fine line between “traditional” and “predictable.” What impressed me about The Boot was that they weren’t trying to be traditional. What impresses me about Chef Jasper Mirabile is that he makes traditional anything but predictable.
If you are even remotely related to foodie events in town, you are familiar with Chef Jasper. He is involved in nearly every group in town advocating sustainable, local, or slow food. You may also know him from his radio show, television appearances, books, or cooking demonstrations. Having myself been called “Kansas City’s Savviest Self-Promoting Server” by no less an authority than Charles Ferruzza, I can appreciate these efforts. Chef Jasper Mirabile might have been our first local celebrity chef. This is not always a compliment in my mind if you know my opinion on celebrity chefs.
So last night when I walked into Jasper’s, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. By all appearances Jasper’s is a traditional Italian restaurant. Not with the clichéd red and white checked table cloths, but with the distinct feeling of Italy. From the paintings on the wall to the wine cellar on display, I never expected such a warm atmosphere inside having driven by the building many times. The servers still wear traditional uniforms. The restaurant was clean. The dining room was not over crowded with tables. The layout created a pleasant mixture of privacy and romance.
The menu at Jasper’s was traditional, but pre-dates many of the American-Italian standards that now are considered traditional. I didn’t see a lasagna dish, although my girlfriend swears it was there. I saw Berkshire pork and veal. I would have happily agreed to any of the appetizers. We had a lobster bisque that I would put against any soup I have ever tasted. When you go, you have to order the tableside mozzarella. Chef Jasper came over to the table and turned cheese curds into mozzarella right before our eyes. Then he turned that into a delicious caprese salad that proved that he is hording ever ripe tomato in the city for himself. He explains the entire process and the local origins of many of the ingredients. He does all of this with his trademark passion and energy. I imagine he has done this presentation thousands of times, but he does this with the excitement of a child having his parents watch him pop his first wheelie.
My girlfriend has the Chicken Saltimbocca. I was nervous to try this dish after serving it at too many Italian chain restaurants. Now I know what they were shooting for. The prosciutto worked wonderfully with the light sauce. This was not a strange variation of a picatta sauce, this sauce tasted like it was scientifically engineered to make prosciutto taste even better (which I didn’t think was possible). I had the Pork Osso Bucco. This Berkshire pork shank was slow simmered to the point that it fell right off the bone. The server delivered a steak knife with it, but I could have eaten it with a spoon. In fact, I will attribute any grammatical errors in this post to the fact that I am anticipating my leftovers for lunch after I finish writing.
There will be leftovers from Jaspers and there should be. You have to save room for a cannoli. Going to Jasper’s and not having a cannoli is like going to the Trevi Fountain and not tossing in a coin. This wasn’t something I was looking forward to because I had sworn off cannolis after eating far too many of the sugar stuffed treats. Jasper’s cannolis were difference. You taste the ricotta and the cinnamon. The emphasis is on flavor and not gluttony. These were so tasty that I had the second cannoli for breakfast this morning with my coffee.
I suppose that something should be said about the service at Jaspers since that is the focus of this blog. Our server Anthony worked the room like he owned the place. He joked with his tables, smiled at everyone who passed, and was spot on across the board. The service was impeccable without being stuffy. In a restaurant built on the core concepts of hospitality, Anthony personified them all. It is tough to be a server in a restaurant with a dynamic owner on the floor that the guests came to see. He worked the floor like an honorary Mirabile, and after this visit that is about the highest praise I can give.
I could write all day about the subtle nuances that make Jasper’s special. It is not easy to impress me with service and hospitality. I found myself taking notes on things I saw at Jaspers. The food was incredible and the service was perfect. There is something great about Jasper’s. It is a sense of pride that you see in everyone working there. It is a passion to do things the right way everytime. That is the tradition that I wish more Italian restaurants would aspire to uphold. It is tough to put your finger on what makes this restaurant so special, but it is something you owe to yourself to experience. Do yourself a favor and make a reservation at Jasper’s, just save room for a cannoli.