Chef Michael Corvino will put down roots in Kansas City when he opens Corvino Supper Club and Tasting Room in the Crossroads in early 2017.
Corvino arrived in Kansas City in 2013 from the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas to take over The American Restaurant and immediately earned raves for his artistic plates and imaginative tasting menus, including a rare four-star review from The Star.
The next year, Corvino was named general manager, and along the way culinary magazines and the James Beard Foundation named him a rising star to watch. But last month, The American announced that the venerable fine dining restaurant that sits atop Crown Center would be converted to a pop-up space at the end of this year. Corvino’s last day at The American will be Saturday.
Corvino, a native of Walla Walla, Wash., and his wife, Christina Corvino, originally from Arizona, decided to stay in Kansas City after scouting possible locations in Seattle.
“Kansas City has a strong sense of community and sense of place,” Corvino explained. “I’ve just met such good people so fast. It’s a very supportive community of chefs. We feel good about being part of something that is growing.”
The couple chose the historic Corrigan Station building at 1828 Walnut for their new restaurant because it is an up-and-coming neighborhood that “fits my food well,” Corvino said. In prior lifetimes, the building, which features 16-foot ceilings and wide-open spaces, served as a garment factory and a post office.
The 10-story building is currently being renovated by Copaken Brooks and 3D Development. The 5,320-square-foot restaurant will occupy the first floor and include a 90-seat main dining room and bar focusing on “approachable contemporary American food,” as well as an 18-seat Tasting Room for more intimate gatherings.
Christina Corvino, a public relations professional who will handle marketing and guest services, describes the central dining and bar space as “modern” and “sexy,” with black tables that allow her husband’s artful plates “to pop.” The 18-seat bar will have a viewing window into the kitchen.
Live music by solo performers will be a regular feature during dinner hours, with space for multi-piece groups featuring jazz for late-night soirees. To accommodate the live music, acoustics are an important part of the design plan.
Chef Corvino described the new restaurant as “approachable” and the menu as “robust” and “with no rules.” He is designing a menu to offer a variety of mid-size plates that allow diners to experience a variety of tastes in a single sitting.
A more casual pizza or a slider might make it onto the menu, but, Corvino says, “a casual and approachable space doesn’t have to go to quality of the food.”
Corvino currently serves a spicy pork slider, but the housemade English muffin, pickles and pork belly of the highest quality elevate Corvino’s version.
Prices per dish will range from $10 to $20 to encourage more than special occasion visits.
“I want people to order more and taste more,” Corvino says. “I want a sharing aspect.... I don’t want that restriction of the entree in a familiar format with other components on the plate that are there just to be there and make it more filling.”
“The restaurant will be high touch,” Christina adds, but reflect dining “in a way that is friendly, conversational and warm.”
Of course, for those diners with a taste for caviar and Champagne, the tasting room will feature “luxurious jewel box seating” for people interested in 12-course meals and wine pairings. The space allows guests to watch the chef and his crew plate their meal in the semi-open kitchen.
Corvino’s Kansas City investors include Liz and Greg Maday, and everyone involved in the project is from Kansas City, except the kitchen designer.
Corvino says the choice to open his own restaurant has been a logical progression: He had previously opened restaurants, managed budgets and built teams.
Asked how his food has changed over his time in Kansas City, Corvino says: “I’ve learned every course can’t have every visual element. It’s about flavor. Less is more.”
Jill Wendholt Silva is The Star’s James Beard award-winning food editor, lead restaurant critic and blog curator. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or @kcstarfood.