Just a few weeks after the splashy debut of the Crossroads Hotel at 21st Street and Central Avenue, the hotel, owned and operated by the Aparium Hotel Group, has opened its star dining attraction, the upscale Italian restaurant Lazia.
Lazia takes its name from 1920s KC mafia boss John “Johnny” Lazia, who was connected infamous political boss Tom Pendergast – a fitting moniker as the handsome brick building was once home to offices Pendergast rented as well as a Pabst bottling and distributing facility. The modern incarnation of the space has been reimagined as an upscale Italian concept, with a selection of fresh pastas as well as seafood, small plates and shared entrées.
Accessed through the lobby of the luxe, modern hotel, the 78-seat restaurant is purportedly in the same spot as Pendergast's offices, on the street level of the northwest corner of the building. The room is a modern homage to baroque design, and it's utterly glamorous: Pressed-tin tiles line the ceiling and handmade wooden tables and muted green couches fill the space. Dozens of wax candles glow and drip onto a white marble-topped center table, which also functions as a service station. The room’s original vault serves as a 10-seat private dining space, and the restaurant’s wine program is on prominent display via a floor-to-ceiling wine case on the south wall.
Lazia’s menu was developed by chef Remy Ayesh, a Wichita native and French Culinary Institute graduate who most recently helmed the kitchens at Café Sebastienne and later Repeal 18th after spending years honing her skills in New York and Chicago. Ayesh is excited to finally bring Lazia and her love of Italian cuisine to light.
“I’ve always gravitated toward Italian fine dining,” she explains. “It’s my love of simple, rustic cuisine: If there are three ingredients on the plate, what are the three best ingredients that you can find? There’s nothing to hide behind.”
Ayesh is particularly proud of the restaurant’s fresh pasta program, and her pomodoro well illustrates the simplicity she loves. Her red sauce is made with browned garlic, San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil and basil, and is served on maltagliati – Italian for “torn sheets” – with housemade ricotta. Five other fresh pasta dishes are available on the menu, including a tortellini with spinach pasta stuffed with ricotta and kunik, a soft cheese made with Jersey cow cream and goat milk that Ayesh describes as “mind blowing.” The bacon and egg carbonara is served in a cream sauce containing grappa, aged Pecorino and Cheddar with prosciutto, the fat of which is rendered back into the sauce. It's served with generous hunks of prosciutto and pea shoots, and topped with a cured egg yolk. No less stunning is a dish of cuttlefish ink spaccatelli, with mussels and baby octopus in a saffron cream with Calabrian chiles.
Ayesh notes that most of the Italian cuisine she could find in Kansas City was dense, and the restaurants very masculine; she wanted to try something different. “We wanted to do something a little more feminine, and lighter,” she says. She adds, “It’s super serious food, but we’re having fun with it.”
In addition to the pasta, Ayesh is especially proud of Lazia’s vegetable offerings, noting that just throwing a panzanella and a Caesar salad on the menu isn’t enough for vegetarian diners – or her. She describes how her giardiniera, which features roasted, poached and pickled vegetables, is highlighted with a butter oil and grapefruit vinegar that she sources from Fustini’s Oils and Vinegars out of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Lazia’s veggies are sourced locally from Thane Palmberg and Goode Acres.
Lazia also offers seafood dishes including king crab legs and a sea bream tartare as well as premium steak cuts, including a 14-ounce bone-in ribeye. The F***in Delicious Chicken features two crispy fried chicken thighs served atop a celery heart panzanella with a rich chicken jus, and while the bone-in Duroc pork chop is pounded out, dredged in panko and deep fried, served with a caper cream sauce. The restaurant’s La Tabla dishes, meant for two, include a 24-ounce bone-in strip steak, “a massive amount of lasagna," (in Ayesh’s words) and "chickenetta," chicken served Porchetta style: boned out, stuffed with cheese and fried.
Old World wines feature prominently on the drink menu at Lazia, in addition to amaro cocktails and spritzes. Classic cocktails, including Manhattans, Negronis and Old Fashioneds, are also available.
Even before the addition of Lazia, the Crossroads was one of KC’s premiere dining destinations, but with its opening (as well as Lidia’s Kansas City and the soon-to-open Farina by Michael Smith) it can now boast itself as the city’s prime destination for modern Italian cuisine. On its own, though, Lazia presents a beautiful environment for Ayesh’s creations, and a must-visit for pasta-lovers.
Lazia is open Thursday through Sunday from 5 to 11pm.
Lazia, 2101 Central Ave., (inside the Crossroads Hotel), Crossroads Arts District, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.531.2400, crossroadshotelkc.com/food-and-drink/lazia-restaurant