Finding a Niche for Meetings in Northeast Missouri

December 1, 2008

By Tony Carosella


Not long ago, 2002 to be exact, a couple of guys from Denver saw a need for an adventure in pub culture in Kirksville, Missouri. After  some careful study and inspiration from other Midwestern restaurant pubs, they bought a vacant retail/warehouse space and began renovations in late 2002. Il Spazio was born. Owner Jeff Newton saw an opportunity in this northern Missouri college town to create an urban, upscale pub/restaurant experience.

The students and citizens of Kirksville gather at il Spazio and have affirmed it by their loyal patronage.

Il Spazio is located in the city of Kirksville, which has a population of 17,000-plus and is the Adair County Seat. Kirksville is also home to more than 6,000 students at Truman State University and the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. Both Truman State and the College of Osteopathic Medicine were founded in the 19th century and have a long, proud tradition in the area.

Il Spazio is an evolution of the successful style of pub/restaurants around the country, that combining comfortable atmosphere, an eclectic menu and a great location. Owner Jeff Newton describes the look of the place as “one big art experience.” A rotating palette of artwork from local artists hangs on the painted, exposed brick walls. The colors are warm neutral grays and tan wood framing with cherry wood chairs and tables. The floors are the exposed concrete of the building’s original car dealership tenant, dating back to the 1930s. Car dealer Harry Jonas built the structure where gleaming and polished Chevrolet and Oldsmobile cars once could be seen through the expansive windows. Now guests crowd the tables and look out through those same windows on downtown Kirksville. Many decades and businesses later, the renovated building with its original barrel ceiling and bow trusses now bustles with the energy of the students and patrons of Kirksville seven days a week. The facility is also disabled-accessible.

The layout has a wide-open feeling but parts of the space have different levels that create their own environments. For parties and events, various areas can be partitioned to afford more privacy. The back half of the restaurant can accommodate up to 100 guests and other areas can be sectioned off for smaller parties of 40 to 60 people. Il Spazio has hosted wedding rehearsal dinners, company parties and college “meet and greet” receptions. Since the floor plan is open, there are many options for customizing a party or event. Other features include comfy couches, fireplaces and board games that add to the casual but upscale atmosphere. When you book a party or event here, you will not be charged a room fee. With groups of 35 or more, a limited menu can be styled to your group’s taste. Newton mentions that he “intended that the whole visual experience should combine to set off the beauty of the food.”


Newton describes his menu style as “American bistro,” with influences from around the world. Hungry patrons are hooked on his Baja fish tacos and delightful pork chops with cranberry cream sauce. Entrées range in price from $10 to $21 and examples include breast of duckling, shepherd’s pie, burgers and various sandwiches, some of wich are served on grilled focaccia. Steaks and seafood are well represented on the menu. Traditional cuts of beef, ostrich medallions covered in maple thickened red pepper soy and Worcestershire sauce and other selections tempt carnivores. Salmon filet topped with mustard dill sauce, seared Ahi tuna encrusted with black and white peppercorns and Mahi Mahi covered with a ginger glaze are most notable among the seafood choices.

Other items from the menu include il Spazio’s famous Italian wood-fired pizzas. The 10-inch pizzas include some creative variations. There is a Greek pizza with sausage, artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, feta and mozzarella cheeses. The chicken Alfredo pizza is topped with creamy Alfredo sauce and is another interesting twist on tradition. More variations include a pesto pizza, Thai pizza, chicken Denali pizza and a garlic smashed potato “sKinZ” pizza. The one that will really get your attention is the Spam and Doritos pizza that as the menu explains, came from “a little pizzeria and is surprisingly delicious.”

The Italian theme would not be complete without pasta and other Italian fare, and il Spazio excels here as well. Chicken Parmesan smothered in marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese headlines the menu, and midway down – past the lasagna and fettuccine Alfredo – is a Thai chicken pasta. It comes with apologies about not being Italian, but iis just a tasty dish with a Thai coconut curry sauce. Southwest chicken farfalle and Cajun pasta are also great culturally influenced pastas. Not to disappoint any full-blooded Italian, the anchor on the list is meatballs on a bed of angel hair pasta.

At the full bar, fine beers from Schlafly, Boulevard and Sam Adams can be enjoyed in addition to a large sampling of mostly Californian wines with a touch of Missouri vintages on the list. On weekends, live music drifts through and mixes with the voices of students and patrons. Host an event or party here and come find your seat in a place where you could get to know everybody’s name.

Il Spazio is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner and is expanding to Macomb, Illinois, and Portland, Oregon.

(Tony Carosella is a contributor from Wing Haven, Mo.)

For more information, contact:

il Spazio

215 West Washington

Kirksville, MO 63501

(660) 665-8484

[email protected]

At a Glance

Type of Facility:

Restaurant, Event Venue

Group size this facility is able to accommodate:

Up to 100

Type of cuisine:

American Bistro

Number of private dining rooms available:


Special Features/Amenities:

Different levels throughout the restaurant can be partitioned off to create more privacy. The open floor plan allows for customization. Comfy couches, fireplaces and board games add to the casual but upscale, unique atmosphere.

Is the facility disabled-accessible?


Price Range:

$7 to $21

About the author

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