by JESSE LITTLE
It’s white tablecloth, classic Italian; and it’s an Italian grocery, delicatessen, and pizzeria, but most of all, it’s a part of the Kansas City restaurant culture, Jasper’s. Jasper’s restaurant has been a mainstay in the food community for over 63 years, through three generations of Mirabiles, and who knows how many pans of lasagna.
Now located at 103rd and State Line, Jasper Mirabile Jr. is now keeping the tradition of fine dining at Jasper’s. His experience and his training are cornerstones of the restaurant’s continued success. From studying at the University of Nevada’s Hotel and Restaurant
School and Kansas State University, he traveled to Europe to hone his skills in the cooking schools of France and Italy. At that point, he was ready to join the “family business.”
Joining his father in the namesake restaurant that had built a reputation recognized with the coveted Mobil Four Stars and the AAA Four Diamond awards for fine dining, Jasper continued to gain recognition and acclaim.
The Mirabiles’ Sicilian heritage has been combined with Jasper Jr.’s travels to the Tuscany and Piedmont regions of Italy to provide today’s menu. That said, many of the original menu’s dishes are still best sellers, from the Shrimp Livornese appetizer to the Strawberry Borghese cake.
Jasper Jr. was the first Kansas City chef to appear at the James Beard House in New York three times. The James Beard House, the home of the legendary American Master Chef, serves as the performance space for the James Beard Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to “celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone.” It is one of the pinnacles of achievement in America’s culinary culture.
Following along the path of James Beard, Jasper Jr. has also authored two cookbooks: The Jasper’s Cookbook and Jasper’s Kitchen Cookbook. The titles represent the simple goodness of the recipes found inside. A third cookbook is in the works, and it, obviously, will again center on classic Italian cuisine, On the Cannoli Trail. Many of these recipes are also offered on his weekly radio show, “LIVE! From Jasper’s Kitchen” (KCMO 103.7 FM and 710 AM).
Jasper’s has always seemed to be a step ahead of the changing dining preferences, as his brother showed when he opened Marco Polo’s Groceria in 1984. The public was looking for more casual and faster-paced dining, and the delicatessen and pizzeria offered just that, but with the signature quality of Jasper’s. Later in the ’90s, the move was made to the Watts Mill Shopping Center, their current home, from the original location in Waldo. This was, again, a realization of a more casual, suburban culture that still demanded great Italian cuisine.
Jasper Jr.’s knowledge of food and of the marketplace are once again being demonstrated with his new monthly “1954 Supper Club KC,” where he shares authentic recipes and cooking demonstrations that feature farm-to-table fresh produce. He sees these local food artisans as a return to a time before modern transportation delivered food to a chef’s kitchen. It only takes a short demonstration course in the Mozzarella Theater 2.0 or a 1954 Supper Club cooking lesson to understand the chef’s passion and desire to share what he has learned.
Awards have continued to come to Jasper Jr. as Jasper’s has been named one of America’s Top 25 Italian Restaurants and one of the Top 10 Italian Restaurants by USA Today; one of Travel and Leisure’s Top Italian Restaurants; and, for 27 consecutive years, a winner of the North American Achievement of Dining Distinction by DiRoNA, Distinguished Restaurants of North America.
Jasper’s remains one of Kansas City’s most popular dining attractions, and Jasper Jr. honors his father’s counsel, “Travel often and come back inspired and influenced by what you see — but more, by what you eat.”
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