Chicken parmesan on a bed of pasta. Photo by Glen Vaughn-Petersen

Big Belly’s on Wornall is cooking up something new

“What makes the food unique is that there is something for everyone.”

By Glen Vaughn-Petersen

Old World Italian cuisine pairs with down-home American fare at a new restaurant in Waldo at 89th and Wornall. 

Big Belly’s Italian-American Kitchen opened in October by Josh Drake, a local restaurateur and caterer. Before Big Belly’s, Drake was the owner of Pinsa Pizzeria in Lee’s Summit.

The menu is wide-ranging when it comes to offerings. “I would say what makes the food unique is that there is something for everyone,” says Jessica Gattenby, district manager and catering coordinator. 

District manager Jessica Gattenby poses with a plate of Rattlesnake Pasta, a Cajun-inspired dish.

Head chef Ken Viereck and sous chef Rikki Miller have crafted a variety of choices that include flatbread pizzas, steak, salmon, pork chops, chicken strips, sliders and more.

This reporter tried some noteworthy dishes. For appetizers, the mozzarella logs, a super-sized take on the classic fried mozzarella stick with marinara sauce, are quite delicious. They are served in sets of three. 

For a main course, the classic chicken parmesan served on a bed of pasta or with two sides is perfection on a plate.

 For something sweet, I tried the apple pie egg roll topped with vanilla ice cream, an unexpected but delightful treat: apple pie filling fried in a hand-rolled egg roll shell. This is a dessert version of chef Viereck’s popular and original Italian egg rolls, which are filled with various meats and cheeses before being fried.

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The restaurant resides in what was formerly Rainbow Laundry and Dry Cleaners before it was renovated into Game Day event space a few years ago. Big Belly’s added curtains, table cloths, a new red and black paint scheme, and kitchen equipment. Italian music and scenery play on two wall-mounted televisions while diners sit at comfortable booths or cherry wood tables and chairs. A large bar that separates the kitchen from the restaurant will one day serve beer and wine, says Gattenby. When that happens, a corner stage will host bands and stand-up comedians. 

Big Belly’s also caters, and has been nominated for Caterer of the Year by WedKC. “We are very proud of that, as we have not been in the wedding and catering space as long as other companies,” says Gattenby. “But we’re making a big impact.”

Big Belly’s is working on creating a new and welcoming atmosphere to establish themselves amongst other neighborhood mainstays in the area. 

“We really strive to make everyone feel as if they’re part of our family,” notes Gattenby. “We love the Waldo community and have loved becoming a part of it. We have many regulars already despite being open for just under three months.” 

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