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Jasper’s Italian Restaurant | Kansas City, MO

Jasper’s Italian Restaurant | Kansas City, MO

Inspired By Adventures In Italy

One solid piece of advice Jasper Mirabile Jr. took to heart came from his father: “He always told us to never look at local restaurants (for inspiration), but to always travel to see what's new around the country and bring back new dishes for our guests.”

Mirabile took that advice a step further and more than 15 years ago, he started visiting a different region in Italy each year for inspiration. The trips, of course, have served Jasper’s Italian Restaurant well. That’s the restaurant Mirabile’s parents opened in 1954 in Kansas City, Mo.

Back then, there were only 12 tables, and the diminutive operation was run by his father and grandmother, who whipped up her original Italian recipes for hungry diners. Even his mother got in on the action: “(She) would boil eggs and put them on the bar counter and make $7 a week extra that she got to keep,” Mirabile recalls.

But that didn’t last long, says Mirabile, as the restaurant continued to grow and his father bought parts of the city block until he had more than 225 seats in the dining room. The recognitions soon came as well, from the first-ever Holiday Award of excellence by Holiday magazine to a Mobil 4 Star Award, the first Kansas City restaurant to be awarded.

Once Mirabile and his brother, Leonard, were ready to take the reins, they soon moved the restaurant to a spiffy new space in the Watts Mill Village Shopping Center in Kansas City. It’s adjacent to their other venture, Marco Polo’s Deli, which specializes in Italian salads and sandwiches. And while Jasper’s is proud of its long-standing tradition in a region best known for BBQ, those annual trips to Italy keep the restaurant exciting.

Jasper’s boasts Scampi alla Livornese, a signature shrimp appetizer with a hint of garlic in a wine-infused cream sauce that’s been around for more than 55 years. There’s also Lasagne al Forno, a recipe that his grandmother passed down to the chef; Cappellini d'Angelo alla Nanni, a specialty pasta entrée his father worked on for years; and tableside mozzarella, a unique offering in which servers make the cheese in front of guests from a bowl of curds and hot water (“Guests line up all summer long to experience it,” beams Mirabile).

But the restaurant also spotlights a number of dishes as well as interactive experiences inspired by Mirabile’s Italian excursions. “I will travel for 10 days and try more than 100 dishes. We visit artisan food producers, farms, cheese producers, olive oil producers and some of the most famous wineries and finest restaurants. When I return home, I start practicing until I perfect at least six to eight dishes.”

Lucky for Mirabile, he doesn’t have to practice alone. Every Sunday, three generations of his family gather at his home to test new recipes. “If a dish can pass this test, it’s good enough for our customers,” he says. “The secret to our longevity is family working together to carry on our father’s legacy.”

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