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Lidia's: The Search for New York Nirvana in Kansas City
Jeanette Pryor ^ | July 31, 2012 | Jeanette Pryor

Posted on 07/31/2012 2:09:12 PM PDT by Jeanette Pryor

My husband was so homesick for Brooklyn that I resolved to find a New York-style restaurant here in Kansas City, a sort of “home away from home.” It would have to serve real Italian food, employ very loud waiters and feature at least one New York accent. In such a place an exile might find relief from the excesses of politeness, tranquility and non-homicidal drivers that plague the Midwest.

Research beat a quick path to Lidia’s owned by the star of P.B.S.’s famed Lidia’s Italy. For weeks I poured over every cookbook the woman ever published. Culled from Kansas City’s six libraries, these tomes featured Lidia’s philosophy and recipes. I prepared for the dining experience with an expeditionary spirit rivaling that of Shackleton himself.

Online virtual tours of the renovated Rockwell-designed freight house elevated anticipation to utterly utopian heights; all that remained was to actually experience what I’d certainly find at Lidia’s, plated essence of Italy.

Arriving for Sunday brunch, I brushed aside momentary surprise when, instead of feeling the much-vaunted familial hospitality, I stood for several minutes alone in the entryway. The hostess finally arrived and led me to a table.

The visual battle raging in Lidia’s high ceiling was disturbing. A preposterous amalgamation of glass balls, a sort of deconstructed abstraction best entitled, “Essence of Grape Cluster,” clung precariously to what appeared to be dangling chicken-wire. The atmosphere aspires to old farm-house kitchen in Northern Italy. The airy, lightsome dining room is pleasant, but fails to conjure thoughts of meandering chickens.

Besides the Democlesian glass balls, Lidia’s attempt to evoke sun-soaked villas is thwarted by a rather hideous painting of a New Orleans jazz player splayed on the west wall. The mural gives the impression an entertainer from the Big Easy accidently sashayed into the dining room, ignoring the incongruity of his dancing in the middle of the would-be Italian countryside.

The waitress was personable without being silly. She explained that Sunday brunch is served in four courses; a basket of fresh-baked goods, a buffet of appetizers, a sampling of three pastas and another buffet of desserts.

The basket appeared full of bread sticks and crisp pastry triangles contrasting with moist muffins and scones. An assortment of flavored butters arrived on a chilled plate. I found them overly sweet. The pastries were tasty, but altogether too heavy for an amuse-bouche.

The baked goods left me deflated, but determined to be enchanted by the entrees. The salmon, slimy and bland, bored the palate. The soup, overly spicy, lacked a single distinguishable taste. Sweet potatoes were barely cooked, though the spinach, a now nearly-despaired-of- delight, sported a fresh, balanced vinaigrette. The broccoli, a most difficult vegetable to prepare, as it can be delicious in only one precise state, delivered alternating textural sensations of wood and mush.

My mood had descended precipitously from giddy anticipation to morose disappointment and now threatened petulance. Except for a mouthful of spinach, the food failed to live up to its promise. I would defer final judgment however until the pastas had their chance to redeem.

A waiter approached, brandishing a pan of fresh ravioli. The pasta was cooked to perfection; but its chicken-liver filling was overpowering. Next arrived spaghetti married marvelously to its marinara; the sauce a blend of succulent tomatoes and noticeably fresh herbs. The farfalle was an excellent al dente, but unfortunately lay smothered beneath pulverized broccoli. My opinion, slightly improved by the pasta itself and marinara sauce, was dampened again by a bowl of parmesan sawdust placed in front of me; no fresh-grated was offered table-side.

Anticipating final disappointment, I surveyed my dessert choices with dismay. Tiramisu takes a concerted effort to ruin so I chose this, giving the faux-Picasso-adorned barn a final chance to impress. The Tiramisu was fine, but people don’t come to this renowned venue for fine. Like Zorro, they are “looking for the miraculous in everyday life.” Lidia’s served a buffet of the commonplace.

The waitress was hailed, the bill paid. Professional restaurant reviewers dine three times in an establishment before passing judgment. Real people will not pay for three awful meals; they must be seduced upon first acquaintance. Lidia claims that every meal prepared with fresh ingredients and Italian culinary techniques will render a sumptuous symphony of tastes. Sadly her own restaurant did not prove this.

Refusing to despair of an authentic Italian experience, my pursuit happily concluded with the discovery of Jasper’s in Kansas City. Jasper’s is less a restaurant than a standing invitation to share the Mirabile’s family table. None of the waiters are loud and we have yet to hear a Brooklyn accent, but there is always a warm greeting at the door of this unabashedly Sicilian oasis. The food is indeed the gastronomic “miraculous in everyday life,” which, instead of provoking disappointed flight, beckons one continuously to return.

As for Lidia’s, I hope the chefs get library cards and revisit the wisdom and recipes so beautifully articulated by their founder in her books.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Food; Society
KEYWORDS: kansascity; restaurants

1 posted on 07/31/2012 2:09:20 PM PDT by Jeanette Pryor
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To: Jeanette Pryor
There's a comedian who once complained in one of his routines that when he went to the NY Public Library and tried to borrow a book the clerk rudely demanded that he first prove that he lived in New York...”so I stabbed him”,said he.
2 posted on 07/31/2012 2:15:44 PM PDT by Gay State Conservative (Poor Barack.If He's Reelected,Think Of The Mess He'll Inherit!)
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To: Jeanette Pryor

“Democlesian”? Were you referring to the sword of Damocles?


3 posted on 07/31/2012 2:24:17 PM PDT by Atomic Vomit (http://www.cafepress.com/aroostookbeauty/358829)
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To: Jeanette Pryor

Jasper’s is overpriced and we found the food just edible when we visited relatives in Kansas City....


4 posted on 07/31/2012 2:25:37 PM PDT by illiac (If we don't change directions soon, we'll get where we're going)
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To: Jeanette Pryor

Also, you wouldn’t “pour over a cookbook”, unless you were a sauce. The correct term would be “pore”, as in “I pored over Lidia’s cookbook”.

You need an editor.


5 posted on 07/31/2012 2:47:23 PM PDT by Atomic Vomit (http://www.cafepress.com/aroostookbeauty/358829)
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To: Atomic Vomit

Can’t figure out what makes her a food critic anyway....nothing on her blog to indicate such expertise....


6 posted on 07/31/2012 2:55:17 PM PDT by illiac (If we don't change directions soon, we'll get where we're going)
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To: Jeanette Pryor
She needs to give in to KC and eat what they excel at - barbeque. KC has some of the best que in the country.

Which is not to say KC doesn't have some fine dining establishments fit for a foodie. It does.

I have an Italian friend and asked him once where he likes to go for Italian food. He said, "my house." His point was why pay for overpriced pasta when he makes it better at home!

7 posted on 07/31/2012 3:16:58 PM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: Atomic Vomit

In a critical piece, one has to make sure not to make errors like those detailed above. It’s easy to become the butt of the joke if one is not careful.

To expect perfection from others while detailing their faults in a slapdash amalgamation of errors is hypocritical in the extreme. Ridiculous, even.

Democles was an Athenian orator. Damocles was the fellow with the sword dangling over his head. One letter makes the difference, but changes the reference from merely ham-handed to complete gibberish.


8 posted on 07/31/2012 3:22:12 PM PDT by Atomic Vomit (http://www.cafepress.com/aroostookbeauty/358829)
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To: Jeanette Pryor

One of the most pretentious attempts at a dining and restaurant review I have ever seen.


9 posted on 07/31/2012 3:22:49 PM PDT by Tainan (Cogito, ergo conservatus sum)
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To: Jeanette Pryor
Do not eat Italian outside of NYC, Boston, Montreal or Providence.
10 posted on 07/31/2012 3:44:31 PM PDT by Little Bill
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To: Jeanette Pryor

Lidia’s was much better when they first opened, much better places to eat in Kansas City than at her place. Made the mistake of taking my Chevy Chase Brother in Law there and haven’t been back since.

Whomever this woman might be, she is the most obnoxious, arrogant eatery reviewer the world has every known. I wouldn’t let her recommend dog food. If she wants something really good, I heartily endorse the Country Eggs Benedict at Dagwood’s Diner on Southwest Boulevard, but I doubt that she would share my enthusiasm.


11 posted on 07/31/2012 4:08:59 PM PDT by centurion316
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To: Atomic Vomit
Also, you wouldn’t “pour over a cookbook”, unless you were a sauce. The correct term would be “pore”, as in “I pored over Lidia’s cookbook”.

Heh. I noticed that, too. Poor English causes one to discount the writer's knowledge of, well, anything. Doesn't it.

12 posted on 07/31/2012 5:00:32 PM PDT by BfloGuy (The final outcome of the credit expansion is general impoverishment.)
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To: Jeanette Pryor

Pretty snarky. The writing style makes you dislike the author so much you want to do the opposite of what they suggest and dine at Lidia’s.


13 posted on 07/31/2012 5:06:34 PM PDT by antceecee (Bless us Father.. have mercy on us and protect us from evil.)
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To: BfloGuy

Sure does. To be a writer, a person first has to be a reader. A discerning one. Using homonyms in each others place is a common error these days.
I’m convinced it’s because many people simply are not readers.They are used to a diet of pre-digested pap tickling their ears.
The distinction between words which sound alike but which have very different meanings is completely lost on them.
How baffling some things must be to them. Like children listening to the grownups talk.


14 posted on 07/31/2012 5:21:09 PM PDT by Atomic Vomit (http://www.cafepress.com/aroostookbeauty/358829)
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To: Atomic Vomit
"Using homonyms in each others place is a common error these days. I’m convinced it’s because many people simply are not readers. They are used to a diet of pre-digested pap tickling their ears."

I suspect spell-check and auto-correct have as much to do with the phenomenon. They make it just as easy to spell the wrong word correctly.

15 posted on 07/31/2012 5:30:51 PM PDT by Joe 6-pack (Que me amat, amet et canem meum)
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To: Joe 6-pack

I suspect that’s part of it, though having never paid much attention to either, I must defer to your knowledge on the subject.


16 posted on 07/31/2012 5:48:51 PM PDT by Atomic Vomit (http://www.cafepress.com/aroostookbeauty/358829)
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To: Gay State Conservative
Photobucket
17 posted on 07/31/2012 7:07:20 PM PDT by SWAMPSNIPER (The Second Amendment, a Matter of Fact, Not a Matter of Opinion)
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To: Atomic Vomit
Thank you so much for this. I was able to change this and I so appreciate your thoughtfulness.

I love to write but I am a terrible “line-editor.”

Best to you!

18 posted on 07/31/2012 9:08:29 PM PDT by Jeanette Pryor
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To: antceecee
Dear Antceecee,

I am so sorry you found this “snarky.” I was so unhappy with the experience when so many people told me I was going to heaven at Lidia's. I didn't mean any harm or disrespect. I think that we all hate the elitism that claims only experts have a right to an opinion about something we can all appreciate, like a good or terrible meal. Thank you for reading though!

19 posted on 07/31/2012 9:11:52 PM PDT by Jeanette Pryor
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To: antceecee
Dear Antceecee,

I am so sorry you found this “snarky.” I was so unhappy with the experience when so many people told me I was going to heaven at Lidia's. I didn't mean any harm or disrespect. I think that we all hate the elitism that claims only experts have a right to an opinion about something we can all appreciate, like a good or terrible meal. Thank you for reading though!

20 posted on 07/31/2012 9:13:53 PM PDT by Jeanette Pryor
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To: Jeanette Pryor
I love to write but I am a terrible “line-editor.”

Just barely following this thread because I'm half-asleep, but try this technique.

Once you've composed 'whatever' read it word-for-word backwards. You will find grammatical and spelling errors you never knew you were capable of.

Old school stuff.

No word processing program can program this stuff in.

FWIW, I've written some good stuff on a manual typewriter and 'modern' word processing software and have a software development background.

21 posted on 08/01/2012 12:24:35 AM PDT by Looking4Truth (Leave it to some angry, frustrated liberal do-gooder to screw things up for the rest of us.)
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To: Looking4Truth
I used 'stuff' 3 times in the same post.

But I'm not "writing" now, am I?

22 posted on 08/01/2012 12:31:04 AM PDT by Looking4Truth (Leave it to some angry, frustrated liberal do-gooder to screw things up for the rest of us.)
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To: Jeanette Pryor

Your fake jocularity and sarcastic reference to my “thoughtfulness” are reminiscent of the CHP who began in the late ‘70’s or so to wish motorists to “have a nice day”. They didn’t mean it and neither did you, and it’s truly silly.

You may indeed thank me and other critics of your writing style and content as you hone your ability. You do have some natural talent, but the piece you wrote came off as pretentious and nasty and contained too many errors to be taken seriously. You should take better care when you are putting out an example of your work for people to read. It bespeaks slovenly habits and intellectual laziness.
The flack that you received here is a good thing for you. Had you sent this to someone you were trying to impress with your fine writing style and biting wit, they would have just filed it in the trash can and moved on to better writers. That can be a life or death moment if you are looking to sell something.

Take your detractors seriously and turn that critical eye on your own work. Beside making you a better writer, you’ll also be able to make something positive out of what could have been a negative. He who laughs last and all that.


23 posted on 08/01/2012 6:30:42 AM PDT by Atomic Vomit (http://www.cafepress.com/aroostookbeauty/358829)
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To: Atomic Vomit
My husband always tells me that people see and judge the world through their own eyes. I was 100% sincere in my thanks to you and gratitude for your advice. I did go back and look through the work I posted and I am utterly and respectfull happy you pointed out my errors.

My experience at Lidia's was terrible and I am as free as any person to write of this. It is true that people would be turned off by my mistakes and I am duly humiliated by them. I go through my life with the desire to improve and without the thought of being perfect.

You must be a very unkind person to assume that when people speak, they are insincere. Hence my husband's observation. If you were sincere and open with people, you would not judge me to be sarcastic when I was actually trying to be polite and have an adult, reasonable conversation with you.

24 posted on 08/01/2012 8:07:40 AM PDT by Jeanette Pryor
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To: Looking4Truth

Thank you for this advice.

I am sincere and do mean that.


25 posted on 08/01/2012 8:10:19 AM PDT by Jeanette Pryor
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To: Looking4Truth

Thank you for this advice.

I am sincere and do mean that.


26 posted on 08/01/2012 8:10:48 AM PDT by Jeanette Pryor
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To: Jeanette Pryor

My wife watches all the food shows on TV, so when the Lidia’s opened in KC she insisted we go.

This review is, if anything, much too kind.

Since Jenny’s closed years ago, if you want Italian food in Kansas City, go to Garrozzo’s.

Or come to our house, where Monica’s lasagne has become the family’s Christmas treat.


27 posted on 08/01/2012 9:40:42 AM PDT by G-Bear (Always leave your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark.)
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To: Jeanette Pryor

Well bless your heart.
Forgive me if I interpreted sarcasm where none existed. In this online environment, the only clues are history and context, both which would lend the impression that sarcasm was intended.
Perhaps I was a bit harsh in my criticism of your writing, but if it makes you a better writer you are the victor after all.

Become a better editor. If you are going to make allusions to Greek mythology, have some knowledge of it first. Buy a style guide. Read it and use it. Don’t rely solely on spell-check/auto-correct features. Before submitting writing to an audience, have someone read it critically for you(Hint: not your husband).
Take responsibility for your mistakes and move on from humiliation to excellence.


28 posted on 08/01/2012 9:52:53 AM PDT by Atomic Vomit (http://www.cafepress.com/aroostookbeauty/358829)
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To: Atomic Vomit
I’m convinced it’s because many people simply are not readers.

I agree. And reading internet posts isn't enough. Ya gotta read books -- lots of them.

29 posted on 08/01/2012 4:30:16 PM PDT by BfloGuy (The final outcome of the credit expansion is general impoverishment.)
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