Pandolfi’s

If you haven’t heard of Pandolfi’s, I suspect you are not alone. But that may change now that the owners have decided to start dinner service on weekend evenings. Deli by day, Pandolfi becomes a white table cloth restaurant at night.

Even the entrance is different in the evening. Located just to the right of the deli is a door that leads diners into a narrow hallway and the host’s table. To the right is a small sitting area that was, in fact, part of a funeral home in a previous incarnation. To the left is what is usually the deli (and not a part of the old funeral home!) The counter and kitchen are blocked off by a curtain, making it feel like a totally different space. With its soft colored walls and pretty little flowers gracing each table, it’s quite charming. When full, the small room can be quite loud but in a lively, rather than obnoxious way.

We began by ordering drinks, which turned out to be not the smoothest of exercises. Though the restaurant has an adequate beer and wine list, they only have a smattering of cocktails. As a result, those wanting hard liquor went with what was on hand, not what they would normally have ordered. But the pours were generous, which made up for the lack of choice.

The menu is also small, but large enough that some decisions had to be made.

We started with an assortment of crostini, which turned out to be the weakest part of the meal. Far from memorable, the toppings were rather pedestrian. The ricotta was billed as being homemade, but tasted more like a dry feta and was crumbly, not creamy or smooth. And the bread (which also made an appearance in the bread basket) was a basic sliced French baguette.

After that tentative start, things improved dramatically. The Caesar salad came with warm polenta croutons which melted in your mouth as you bit into them,and the arugula salad, while fairly standard, came with a huge round of goat cheese.

With the exception of an undercooked and bland penne pasta with pesto and shrimp, the entrees were quite delightful. The vegetarian lasagna was not at all traditional, rather the serving was round, with perfect thin layers separating the ingredients. It was as delicious as it was attractive.

The scallops were fabulous. Sweet and plump, sitting atop spaghetti squash and a light blanket of saffron beurre blanc sauce, it was as satisfying as what you’d find at some of Kansas City’s more upscale and expensive dining establishments. The short ribs with polenta may not have been as exciting, but they were fall-off-the-bone tender and paired well with creamy polenta.

The six of us shared two desserts,which didn’t make it around the table twice. The tiramisu was rich and properly liquored up, while the zeppole (tiny doughnuts) were just the right size for popping in your mouth after first dipping them in chocolate sauce. They are the the Italian equivalent of Mexican churros, similar to what I’ve had at Mestizo.

Service was competent and it’s clear they are working hard to make sure everyone has an enjoyable experience. The chef made the rounds and offered his thanks for coming. Despite a few less than perfect dishes,  none of us cared. It was such a pleasant evening; we’d all go back in a minute.

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