North gets a new chef, tweaks its name and menu

09/23/2013 10:01 AM

09/23/2013 5:40 PM

This year, the Italian restaurant in Leawood’s One Nineteen shopping center changed its name and tweaked its concept.

North Modern Italian Cuisine is now North Italian Farmhouse. The corner restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows has the same sleek décor (olive green chairs, espresso wood floors), but the food menu has been completely revamped.

North, owned by Arizona-based Fox Restaurant Concepts, now sources as many local ingredients as possible, and a team of chefs led by Travis Pyle, formerly of Pig & Finch, makes everything from the pasta to meatballs, tomato sauce and butterscotch pudding from scratch, says general manager Stephen Rubenstein.

North’s pizza crust is different, too. The thicker, chewier and more traditional crust is made with honey and three types of flour (one of them is rye), then baked in a stone oven. Try the customer-favorite Salsiccia ($14), topped with crumbled Italian fennel sausage and sweet roasted red peppers and onions.

Like the pizzas, the loaded Italian Farm salad ($12) comes on a rustic wood board. The salad makes a filling entrée and is loaded with salami, olives, roasted vegetables and provolone cheese.

North’s rustic but elegant presentation encourages sharing. If you’re there during happy hour, don’t skip the Chef’s Board ($10 during happy hour, $16 at dinner). It’s a feast for the eyes — glossy green olives in oil, bright red and yellow pickled peppers, hunks of organic white cheddar, slices of artisan salami and lots of crusty bread.

The $20 Bottle & Board special gets you a Chef’s Board, an Italian Farm salad or the pizza of the day with a bottle of house red or white wine. That special runs during happy hour (3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and all day Sunday).

North’s bar also serves beer (everything from Bud Light to Boulevard Pale Ale and Peroni lager) and cocktails made with Italian spirits. The popular Julietta ($10) married house-infused ginger and vanilla vodka with St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lime and a pour of sparkling prosecco. A fresh flower garnishes the delicate drink. The Gia Carino ($9) is slightly more savory. The New Amsterdam gin drink is made with cucumber and Campari, which bursts with citrus and herbal notes.

I went for happy hour, but if you’re at North for dinner, Rubenstein strongly recommends the Seared Diver Scallops ($24), served with earthy roasted mushroom risotto, and the Scottish Salmon ($23), a summery selection with English peas and a corn and tomato salad.

Rubenstein says North will switch to a fall menu in late October, so there’s still a few weeks left to savor summer dishes like the Seasonal Vegetable Salad ($10). Roasted corn, English peas, avocado, shaved radish, kale, farro, dates and fresh mint harmonize and make the salad as satisfying as an entrée.

I’m hoping the menu retains the Caramel Budino dessert ($6), a squat mason jar full of homemade butterscotch pudding topped with caramel sauce and a fat dollop of crème fraiche. Sous chef Megan Wooten tops it off with flaky Maldon sea salt, achieving that perfect balance between sweet and salty.

“It’s heaven,” Rubenstein says.

And, like a lot of the rustic dishes on North’s new menu, it’s perfect for sharing. As long as you don’t mind fighting over that last scrape of salted caramel.

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