By Lisa Lance
Mama mia! If you’re looking for the perfect setting for your next event, think Italian. Italy’s tradition of excellent food and warm hospitality can be found in restaurants throughout the state.
Buca di Beppo
For the quintessential Italian experience in Kansas City, visit Buca di Beppo at 310 West 47th Street. Known for its lively atmosphere and family-size portions, Buca di Beppo boasts authentic Italian décor and a variety of event rooms.
“In terms of meeting spaces, we add Old Italy charm,” says Chris Busenhart, partner. He says each space is decorated in the style of the 1940s and ‘50s, and is arranged so “meetings are fun, yet professional.” Busenhart says there is space for presentations and the facility can easily accommodate the transition of a meeting into lunch or dinner.
The total capacity of the restaurant is 410 people and eight rooms are available for events, each a different size and type of space. For smaller groups, consider the table for 12 in the kitchen. The “Pope’s Room” is a round alcove with a large, round table that can seat 18 people. The “Wine Room” has a capacity of 38. The “Cardinal Room,” dedicated to the Cardinals and Bishops of the Catholic Church, can seat up to 48 people. The “Sophia Loren Room” seats 55, and the “Pagliacci (which means ‘clowns’ in Italian) Room” seats 60. The “Poster Room” features a ceiling decorated with posters of Italian and American films and seats 80 people. The restaurant also offers a small patio seating area in the summer months and a full-service bar and lounge.
“Food is meant to be shared by the entire table, a perfect way for co-workers and colleagues to experience a fun, energetic and welcoming Italian family-style dinner,” says Busenhart. “If you’re looking to build camaraderie among your group, there’s no better place than around the Buca di Beppo table.” Most portions are offered in small or large sizes, with some items also available in a single-serving size. The dinner menu offers a selection of appetizers, ranging in price from $6.99 for a small order of garlic bread to $19.99 for the large Buca Trio Platter, a sampling of three different items: crispy shrimp, fried calamari and pan-fried fresh mozzarella. Salads range in price from $8.99 to $17.49. Pasta dishes, such as traditional lasagna, chicken cannelloni, linguine frutti di mare and spaghetti with meatballs, range in price from $8.99 to $29.99. Entrees such as eggplant parmigiana, chicken marsala and veal limone range in price from $11.99 to $31.99. A selection of pizzas, side dishes and desserts is also available. In addition to the regular menu, the restaurant offers banquet packages, outside catering, and customized menus and bar packages for events.
For authentic Italian cuisine in Springfield, try Gilardi’s. Located at 820 E. Walnut, Ristorante Gilardi’s has two different options for group events. One private space can seat up to 35, and the other can accommodate a larger group of up to 55 people. The restaurant does off-site catering as well.
What is the main attraction of this family-owned restaurant? The food. “Whether you come in with two people or with 50 people, the quality of my food doesn’t change,” says chef-owner Nicola Gilardi. He says people who come to the restaurant for an event often become regular customers. Gilardi attributes the customer loyalty to the meticulous staff and freshness of the food.
Appetizers start at $4.95 and include items such as portobella alla sorrentina, tortino di spinaci and calamari alla griglia. Salads range in price from $5.95 to $6.95. Main course selections, such as Gilardi pasta, filetto gorgonzola and stinco di agnello alla Nicola, range in price from $12.95 to $29.95. The restaurant also offers a selection of wines by the bottle or by the glass.
Dr. Walter J. Gaska, president of St. John’s Clinic in Springfield, has utilized the restaurant for several events, from physicians’ meetings at the medical center campus to the clinic’s administrative Christmas party held at the restaurant. He says he repeatedly chooses Gilardi’s because of the quality and service. “It’s always quite easy for him [Gilardi] to handle any type of party,” says Gaska.
Located at 5201 Southwest Avenue in The Hill neighborhood, Favazza’s Restaurant is in the heart of St. Louis’ own version of “Little Italy.” “It’s a slice of St. Louis because everyone wants to go to The Hill when they come to St. Louis,” says manager John Favazza. He says groups often tour The Hill, eat at Favazza’s and go to the neighborhood’s bakeries to get “the Italian experience” while visiting the city. He also cites the restaurant’s proximity to attractions such as the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Anheuser-Busch brewery tour as an advantage of the restaurant’s location.
Favazza’s has several options for special events. The main restaurant has a large private room that can seat up to 150 people, a lower dining area with a capacity of 50 and two additional dining rooms that can seat 50 and 60 people. Favazza’s Rose of the Hill, a separate facility, can accommodate large events of up to 500 people.
Favazza’s offers self-service and full-service catering, special banquet menus and party-sized trays. The wide range of menu options is listed on the restaurant’s Web site (www.favazzas.com) and can accommodate nearly any size event. The basic lunch buffet includes dinner salad, two entrée choices, two side dishes, relish assortment and sliced cheeses, Italian bread, coffee and tea and choice of dessert. It ranges in price from $13.95 to $16.95 per person, depending on the number of guests. A sit-down dinner menu includes salad and garlic bread, guests’ choice of entrée (filet mignon, chicken marsala and rigatoni alfredo are just a few of the options), side dish, choice of dessert, plus coffee and tea. It ranges from $27.95 to $32.95 per person.
Favazza takes pride in the family tradition of the business. The Favazzas – John, his brother, Tony, and Tony’s son, Mark – along with cousin Mike Antinora and brother-in-law Quentin Dunk, are all involved in the operations of the restaurant. “The owners, family members, are here every day,” he says. “Someone calls and will get one of us at all times.”
Doug Mertzlufft, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Guarantee Electrical Co., says his company held its 2007 Christmas party at Rose of the Hill, and he was very pleased with the food and service. With about 450 attendees, the event had a retro theme, and he says Favazza’s was very accommodating. “They bent over backwards to work with us on it,” says Mertzlufft, noting that the service staff even dressed up in retro pink Santa hats for the occasion.
Food, family traditions and fun…whether you’re in St. Louis, Springfield or Kansas City, you’ll find the perfect Italian spot for your next event. MM&E
(Lisa Lance is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.)
Buca di Beppo
Chris Busenhart, Partner
Nicola Gilardi, Chef-Owner
John Favazza, Manager