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GLADSTONE, MO.

The Italian Sausage Co. serves housemade sausage and serious sandwiches in Gladstone, Missouri

On North Oak Trafficway sits a tiny storefront in a quiet strip center dotted with picnic tables with large green umbrellas where people are eating lunch – because there is no room to sit down inside. That’s how you know the food is good at The Italian Sausage Co., a mini-Italian market, East Coast deli and handmade sausage counter in Gladstone, Missouri, just 15 minutes from Downtown Kansas City.

For Michelle and Joe Brancato Jr., family history played a big role in their decision to open The Italian Sausage Co., as both husband and wife come from strong Italian families where food was always part of the culture.

“My husband’s grandfather, Sam, and his dad, Joe Sr., ran a liquor and convenience store in Kansas City that also sold Italian steak sandwich and sausages from 1989 to 2002. Even after the store closed, Joe’s family continued to make the sausage, especially around the holidays,” Michelle says. “They were that good.”

Joe Jr. learned sausage-making from his father, and when he is not working full-time as a firefighter for the Kansas City Fire Department, you can find him making mild and hot Italian sausage along with his signature chicken spiedini sausage right inside the shop.

Michelle previously worked as the marketing manager for Liberty Fruit, a wholesale produce company located in Kansas City. Those contacts helped her fill her store shelves with imported Italian goods, fresh baked bread from Au Contraire Bakery, Zero Zero handmade pasta and Betty Rae’s Ice Cream – she scoops custom flavors like Italian wedding cake, Lemon Biscotti, Italian fig and a kind of spumoni ice cream.

The couple makes all of their sandwiches with bread they get from Kansas City’s own Roma Bakery, Au Contraire Bakery and Le Monde Bakery in Strawberry Hill; they then pair local breads with quality Italian meats and cheeses. In addition to making their own sausages, they also make and sell their own sauces and dressings. Red sauce, alfredo, amogio, pesto and even their olive salad are all made from scratch.

If the couple cannot find the food product they need locally or import it from Italy, they make it themselves, and it is what gives each of their hefty deli sandwiches a kind of cultural and regional authenticity you can taste. Quality is their calling card, and that is what has attracted local chefs to come and work with the couple to create collaboration sandwiches that are only available at The Italian Sausage Co.

“We decided to invite different chefs to come and create their own signature sandwich. In return, we would give a portion of the sales from that sandwich to a charity of their choice,” Michelle says. “We worked with chef James Chang first and he raised $700 for Cultivate KC from the sales of his sandwich.”

Katee McLean is the current chef for the sandwich collaboration (available through Sat., May 28). Hers starts with salted rosemary focaccia from Au Contraire Bakery and tops it with turkey, mortadella, Brie, arugula, tomato, caramelized shallots, stone-ground mustard and apricot preserves imported from Italy. McLean will donate her portion of the proceeds to a GoFundMe account that benefits a chef friend of hers whose brother needs a heart transplant.

Sandwich collaborations will continue through the fall with chef Nick and Leslie Goellner, owners of Antler Room; chef Johnny Leach from Town Company; chef Robin Krause, owner of Billie’s Groceries; and chef Charles d’Ablaing from J. Rieger & Co. Distillery all participating. There will even be a morel mushroom and sausage collaboration with chef Chad Tillman.

As for The Italian Sausage Co.'s regular sandwich menu, it has some standout hits, including the #7, a spicy sandwich piled high with all of the Italian cold cuts, lettuce, tomato and oil and vinegar, and #3, which is another spicy number featuring mortadella, prosciutto, pancetta, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, hot honey and Calabrian chili cream.

The sandwich that has been a surprise hit in their shop is their #5, a classic muffaletta. Michelle tells the story of how that New Orleans staple sandwich was so good, it made a woman from New Orleans cry right in their shop.

“We opened our doors to The Italian Sausage Co. on Thanksgiving Day 2021, and we haven’t looked back since,” Michelle says. “We are thankful for all our regulars and our East Coast transplants and Italian families who found our food comforting and familiar, like a hug from home.” 

The Italian Sausage Co. is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11am to 7pm.

The Italian Sausage Co., 7315 N. Oak Trafficway, Gladstone, Missouri, 816.832.8305, italiansausageco.com

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