Exactly eight weeks ago, on a Monday morning, I posted about Kitchen Pass Restaurant in Joplin closing and the birth of a new local pizza eatery called Midtown Pizza Kitchen, at 1212 South Main Street. Well, last night, I had the pleasure of attending the soft opening, or family and friends night at Midtown. Before I go into detail, I will simply begin with this, partners Jason and Suzanne Miller and Duke Walter has an absolute winner on their hands!
My wife was unable to attend with me, due to lack of childcare and the two year old acting sickly. So, I met my friend Matt Hutchison there. Upon first entering the former home of Kitchen Pass, the first thing that struck was the amazing art on the walls, and over our heads. Interesting pieces abounded. Suspended from the ceiling, there were, for lack of better words, shovel lawn darts! There were also plenty of paintings and mixed media works lining the walls, including a quite unique and colorful piece created from freezer pops.
|The ceiling art pieces. Photo taken from Duke Walter's Facebook page.|
We were greeted by Duke, and despite a full house, really didn't have a wait for a table. The atmosphere was great. The clientele for the evening were a hodge podge of local culinary personalities, some from the art community, and friends and employees of some of the other Miller-owned eateries. Invitees included people from both beer distributors, many restaurant owners, executive chefs, cooks, food distributor representatives, and many more.
Matt and I were excited to see Sierra Nevada's Hop Hunter IPA on tap, and had to indulge while we perused the great menu.
From the beginning, we formulated a plan to order several things and split & share. We decided we had to try the arancini. There were three of the risotto balls, nestled into a nice bed of the house made sauce. Many of the Midtown ingredients are imported, and I would guess the sauce is created from the famed San Marzano tomatoes. I do not know that for a fact, but I would wager a guess. The dish looked gorgeous, with just the right amount of color from frying, the shaved Parmesan, and crisp basil leaf. And the taste followed suit; the crunchy, thin exterior gave way to a perfect, creamy texture of risotto. The risotto was obviously cooked perfectly, to start with. The mushroom duxelles within the core was savory and a nice compliment to the flavorful risotto.
With the past dishes, you get a salad. We decided to order a second salad, so we each had our own. The Caesar salad I selected was amazing, and refreshing. Often, Caesar dressing is overused in salads and really weighs down the dish. In this case, it's a housemade lighter dressing that seemed more like a vinaigrette, but with all the flavor of a creamy Caesar dressing. The sweet character of the sundried tomato julienne was perfect with the dressing. The polenta crutons really set up a nice balance of crisp surface and chewy interior. I loved the salad!
Even though EVERYTHING looked and sounded great on the menu, I had to go with pizza. I had the Jimmy Pestos. A fantastic combination of basil pesto, prosciutto, Parmesan, mozzarella, provolone, generous dallops of herbed ricotta, and sundried tomatoes. I don't even know where to start. The textures kept it interesting; with the creamy ricotta, the texture of the tomatoes, and stringy melted cheeses. The crust was great. It had just the right crisp to the bottom, chew to the crust. The flavors balanced well, with the garlicky, herbacious notes of the pesto and acidity from the sundried tomatoes cutting through the fats of the cheeses.
Matt picked the Wild Mushroom. Over the top of a garlic cream sauce, perch local wild mushrooms, ricotta, spinach, prosciutto, and fresh arugula. Great earthiness from the mushrooms, the bite of the garlic, saltiness of the prosciutto, and richness from the cheese makes this a solid choice, as well. The crust seemed to be a more crispy style on this selection; also fantastic.
There was a plethora of conversation to be had, and we definitely joined into our share. While chatting with Jeremy Canada and his family at the table next to us, they shared a pepperoni pizza slice with us. It is what you would want in a classic pepperoni pizza: salty little pepperoni rounds, with just the right spice and little cups of grease, the tomato sauce was amazing, and the kind of cheese that strings across the table when you pull away from the rest of the pie. Very enjoyable!
We were pretty stuffed by this point, but had to try some dessert. Matt picked a salted caramel gelato, topped with a chocolate-dipped biscotti. I stole a spoonful for myself. Creamy, rich, and filthy with little caramel-filled chocolate candies. I ordered up a couple of cannoli to go... and I did, in fact, leave the gun. The cannoli shells were a perfect crisp texture, without being soggy from the filling, as you will often find in lesser cannoli. The filling was a nice custardy texture, highlighted by a slight cinnamon flavor. A great cannoli, and my wife nearly didn't get hers... if you know what I mean!
In total, it was a fantastic night! While visiting with us, Jason Miller admitted to having a few kinks to work out, but having only a FEW on a soft opening is an accomplishment. With anything the Millers are involved, great care and attention is given to every detail. Along with Duke Walter, this newest addition to Main Street, and especially as an anchor to the Midtown area, the Millers have another winning concept. I'm looking forward to eating at Midtown Pizza Kitchen, again, soon.
And as for that question Jason keeps getting hounded with...
Let's just say, you will be able to try Midtown for yourself, VERY VERY SOON! *wink*
And to see just when that is, follow Midtown Pizza Kitchen on their Facebook page.
Also check out their Urbanspoon page by clicking the Icon below:
Midtown Pizza Kitchen is open for business, Monday through Friday from 11am to 10pm.
They have a great Kid's Menu, now:
And selling 7" personal size pizzas: $7 for up to 3 toppings, and $9 for specialty.