Erik Borger first scouted River Market spots in 2009, hoping to open an upscale pizza operation there to serve the tight-knit community.
He liked a space at 412A Delaware in particular but lost out when another tenant quickly leased it.
This year, Borger opened il Lazzarone Neapolitan Pizzeria in St. Joseph, in a former radiator repair shop. He makes the dough from ingredients imported from Naples, Italy, and then tops his pizzas with high-quality ingredients — organic and farm fresh when possible.
On weekends, many of his customers make the drive from the Kansas City area. So when Borger recently found out that the River Market space he liked so much was once again available, he locked it down for his second location. A March 2015 opening is scheduled.
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“On weekends about 60 percent of our customers are from Kansas City, even bringing big parties with them,” Borger said. “I understand it. I used to have to go to New York or California to get this pizza.”
Borger grew up in New York but moved with his family to St. Joseph when he was 14, taking a job washing dishes at a restaurant in the 1600 block of Frederick Avenue, with its Culinary Institute of America-trained chef. Borger worked his way up to sous chef about a year later. He left the restaurant business for college, eventually earning a master’s in exercise physiology.
But he never stopped cooking.
Pizza became a particular passion as he tried out different pizza dough recipes and filled his garage with several commercial pizza ovens in his search for the best one. His market? Just his family and friends.
“I was going down my own pizza journey … with no dreams of opening our own restaurant,” he said. “But then you have so many friends and family telling you you need to open a place. And it was sad to me that people had to travel so far to get Neapolitan pizza.”
A year ago he bought a brick building on the same St. Joseph block where he once worked as a sous chef. He opened il Lazzarone in May.
“Lazzarone is a bum, a vagabond. They worked just long enough to make enough to eat and drink, and pizza was their food of choice,” he said.
The menu at il Lazzarone has eight specialty pizzas, including the Bruxelles (Brussels sprouts, mozzarella, garlic, Parmigiano-Reggiano, smoked pancetta, and extra virgin olive oil), and the Uovo (farm fresh egg, Parmigiano-Reggiano, mozzarella, salami, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, fresh garlic, sea salt and black pepper). It also serves appetizers such as bruschetta and caprese, as well as entree salads, and 31 craft beers.
“We are still food evangelists in St. Joseph, spreading that food gospel,” Borger said.
Fairway’s Hoopla expanding
Molly Maxwell and Megan Thornberry, owners of Hoopla in the Fairway Shops, are expanding their operation.
Their second salon is scheduled to open in the Crossroads Arts District, 1817 Wyandotte, in early March 2015.
The partners hope to attract tourists and members of the ever-growing residential population in the area, as well as have a presence on First Fridays. They also cater to corporate groups.
Hoopla opened in mid-2012 at 2708 W. 53rd St., Fairway, offering manicures, pedicures, waxing and chair massages by appointment or walk-in. It uses hospital-grade sterilizers, and equipment is sealed in bags so each customer is assured of its cleanliness.
It has more than 40 signature polishes that are made in the United States and not tested on animals.
Customers get to take the small bottle of polish home after their manicure or pedicure for future touch ups.
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