Feb 20, 2012
Location: 4579 W. 119th St., Leawood, KS
Food: Northern Italian
Service: Traditional Waitstaff
Atmosphere: Modern, vibrant
Price: Starters $8-$12, Pizzas $11-$13, Entrees $14-$30
Rating: one napkin
A restaurant's food should be a catalyst for good conversation and fun times. That's my philosophy. So it was a bit disappointing that after our birthday-foursome's meal there, we felt our good times were had in spite of a lackluster dinner.
La Bodega on 119th street. The place was packed. There was a roar of enjoyable conversation mixed with the clinking of plates and glasses as exotic but homey tapas were passed and shared at the many tables surrounding us. In the distance, a server spun flaming stemware in a shower of sparks as she prepared their signature Spanish coffee. Brisk outside but toasty warm inside, we enjoyed an adult beverage and then bounced over to North, on the opposite end of the shopping center.
There, too, we were greeted with a raucous, buzzing scene. It was dark with strategically placed spot lights illuminating tables and the brick walls. Lime green seats, which would likely have looked cheap in higher light, worked to add a splash of color to the otherwise stark interior. I got the feeling North was working much harder to come across as modern and intriguing than homey despite its rustic food and northern Italian concept.
What I like about the wine list is that North offers it by the glass, terzo (individual carafe) or bottle. When the table isn't up for sharing a bottle, terzos are a nice way to get an affordable second glass at a price slightly less than two full glasses of wine. And it's nice to be able to refill your own without worrying about offering it to the rest of the table first.
The zucca (zucchini) chips were nice. Incredibly thin and loaded with salt, there was really nothing not to enjoy about them. And being zucchini instead of potato, they had a slight sweetness to their aftertaste I liked. Next up was an attractive wooden board lined with thin sheets of salami and topped with a pretty mixture of greens, provolone, roasted peppers and olives. It had nice Italian flavors and a good balance of briny saltiness against the earth, slightly bitter greens and their acidic vinaigrette. Of everything we had that night, this simple starter was the thing that stood out as my favorite.
just recently tasted something very similar at Seasons 52, listed on their menu as "flatbread," which seems more apt of a name. My selection was the roasted mushroom variety which was too sparsely topped with mushrooms and I guess some onions though there were barely any. I appreciate when a pizza isn't overly-laden with toppings but there was little flavor on this one and I was left wanting.
Elizabeth's entree was quite nice--a pretty bowl of spaghetti with succulent, plump, juicy shrimp, delightful brussels sprouts and cubes of butternut squash in a creamy brown butter sauce. By the time I gained the courage to request a bite, it was somewhat cold, but even then I enjoyed it. I salivated over its simplicity and undeniable richness.
Italian cuisine is about simple dishes that feature the freshest, seasonally inspired ingredients. Few chains can pull off that kind of food. The food at North wasn't bad, but it certainly wasn't hitting home runs, either. KC is loaded with Sicilian-inspired Italian-American red sauce and garlic restaurants. I hoped North would be a successful foray into a more old-world Italian experience. It doesn't fail at its task but I wouldn't recommend its fish/meat dishes over Il Centro or its pizza over even Spin.
Rating: one napkin