V's Italiano Ristorante | Kansas City, MO
Original Owner Still Works The Room 50 Years Later
Here’s how you know you’ll get an authentic, old-school experience at V's Italiano Ristorante: After more than 50 years, Momma V still works the dining room, greeting guests and ensuring that everything’s up to par in the kitchen. The 85-year-old matriarch doesn’t have to—because the restaurant is thriving under her son-in-law Greg Hunsucker—but it gives her joy to see people enjoying her food after all these years.
“She’s been retired for 23 years,” explains Hunsucker, “but she’s here every day at least two to three hours to make sure we are taking care of her guests the way they should be taken care of. Our specialty is Italian. Her main focus is to see her guests.”
Born in Campobello di Mazara, a coastal town in Sicily, Vita and husband Jay Totta eventually made their way to the United States. With only $3,000, they opened the original V's Café off Interstate 70 in Missouri in 1963. It seated only 35. But as V’s garnered a loyal following for Momma V’s signature baked lasagna, thin-crust pizzas and veal parmigiana, demand called for a larger venue.
By 1972, the Tottas had moved into the space of their dreams in Independence, a town right outside of Kansas City, Mo. V's Italiano Ristorante not only accommodates 150 guests, but it includes a spacious lounge, three private dining rooms and a garden patio. But the most sentimental part of the restaurant is that Momma V’s dad lovingly planted grape vines on the exterior of the building. Hunsucker says those vines are carefully attended to by fourth generation relatives.
Keeping with tradition is major at V's Italiano Ristorante, as the menu is comprised of dishes made with at least 75 percent of Momma V’s original recipes. “The 75 percent is the tried-and-true backbone of our menu that has gotten us where we’re at,” says Hunsucker.
That includes, of course, the signature lasagna, which is made to order in individual casserole dishes. The award-winning toasted provolone, alfredo sauce, Italian rum cake, meatballs and meat sauces—which are cooked 40 gallons at a time—are additional menu highlights.
Part of the reason why the food has been consistent all these years, says Hunsucker, is because of the staff’s longevity. “The kitchen staff has been here forever,” he tells us. “Four lead cooks have collectively 90 years of experience between them. And one dishwasher has been here for more than 30 years.”
Hunsucker says that the majority of the area’s locally owned Italian restaurants have come and gone as V’s continues to evolve. They’re sticking around, he insists, because they’re dialed in to the customers’ needs.
“Daily we get calls about gluten-free items,” he says about the special menu that includes pastas, pizzas and meat dishes. “It’s a challenge to make sure there’s no cross contamination, but it’s one of those things that the consumer needs, wants and is demanding. Therefore, we need to make sure that we appeal to that need.”
- Author: Audarshia Townsend
- Posted: January 04, 2017
- Categories: In Our Communities, VOL 5 - ISSUE 1 • WINTER 2017