Let’s Dish, Kansas City
Dig In: Our series showcases meals from our favorite restaurants.
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My mom and I were signaling after a hectic day, making faces like we knew each other. Perhaps order from the Italian store down the road, eat fettuccine and pizza, and watch “Gilmore Girls.”
(There are many great Italian spots in Racine, Wisconsin, but our favorite was less than five minutes away.)
When I moved to Brooklyn, an oasis of glowing billboards on the corner greeted me for long days and nights. It’s my go-to pizzeria.
And from the moment some friends in Kansas City introduced me to a neighborhood spot with sweet pea ravioli of my dreams, it was Kupini’s.
An unassuming Italian flagship just off the border at 1809 Westport Road became my KC Cheesy Kirby Comfort Food Haven.
These new friends have become dear to us for what we’ve dubbed ‘Cupini Thursdays’ and say a bad day at work, a big win, or just a lot.
The restaurant feels like an extension of our living room and that’s exactly the kind of atmosphere Franco Cupini wants. I opened a restaurant with the same name as my daughter-in-law. And while he has stories of serving all-white dishes for the Italian president, he said he wanted his restaurant to be more relaxed and welcoming.
“This is a family business and a home,” he told me and two of his friends during a recent lunch stop. “I’ve worked in luxury hotels all over the world, but this is home. Everything we offer tastes like home.”
When you walk in the door it feels more like a deli than a sit down restaurant. Look to the left and you’ll see a row of tiramisu slices and cannoli. Cupini said it prepares 150 fresh cannoli daily from scratch. To the right, you can see bags of the restaurant’s homemade pasta, frozen for you to prepare at home. Straight up: A jar of Kupini’s beloved marinara sauce, which he prepares in a vat and doesn’t add salt. Framed family photos adorn the walls.
Patrons go up to the counter, order from the menu on the wall, receive a number and bring it to their table.
Cupini calls his six-layer lasagna his “business card” and says Guy Fieri liked it so much he ate it for breakfast, but I couldn’t get past the ravioli on the menu. Sometimes I eat it, but mostly I rely on my favorite sweet peas. My friend Kat got the same as I did and my other friend Kat also went for the lasagne.
A $12.99 ravioli and cannoli and a bottle of wine cost about $20.
Cupini’s makes fresh pasta daily, including gnocchi, manicotti, and linguine. For ravioli, a machine pushes the noodles together to create rows of pasta pockets.
“We use three types of flour for elasticity, lightness and body,” says Cupini.
The bechamel sauce was plain and simple, “cream, onions, romano cheese, different spices, love,” he said sarcastically.
But the peas are the star, really sweet.
“If you’re going to make pea ravioli, you want to taste the peas,” Kupini explained, pointing out where he got all the ingredients. “The simpler the better.”
The freshness and lightness of the pea filling balance the heavy pasta and sauce. You’ll get all the satisfaction of a plate of creamy, doughy goodness, but you don’t necessarily need a nap.
As a bonus, I leaned forward and had Cat’s Lasagna for the first time. As Kupini warned me, “It’s easy to love.”
The next time you send and receive that familiar text, you might end up ordering for yourself, but it’s so different from the familiar “Are you Kupini tonight?” there is no.