Family pride, honoring history and maintaining a tradition of great food with exceptional guest service are values that describe many KC Originals member restaurants, and V's Italiano Ristorante is no exception. In fact, they exemplify those things exceptionally well. We spoke with Greg Hunsucker, Jr., a third generation member of Vita [V] Totta's family, who recently turned 30 and who has spent 20 years of his life working at the historic venue in Independence, MO. Starting with bussing tables and helping out in the kitchen he has worked his way up from waiter to General Manager along with getting a degree in Hospitality Management from the University of Missouri.
As Greg talks about his family, and the restaurant, the pride and personal investment in this place is evident. Of course, he may be at the helm day to day but he is quick to point out that he is supported by his Dad, Greg Sr., numerous other family members of previous generations, and the daily involvement [despite being retired] of Grandma V [now 83] who still spends numerous hours greeting guests at the establishment that has born her name for nearly 53 years.
The original "V's Cafe" opened in 1963 as a lunch counter with seating for 35 serving food based on family recipes brought from Sicily and flavored by V's high standards and personal touch. Quickly popular demand for her culinary artistry required a move to a larger space in 1966. That in turn was also outgrown and in 1971, V's husband Jay, a professional architect, designed and built the current building that offers an interior filled with old world charm to showcase V's traditional Italian family cuisine. A casual dining room accented with grape vine trellises is accompanied by an elegant cocktail lounge. Next to the front entrance is small outdoor courtyard with a gurgling stone fountain and grape vines planted by great grandpa Totta - now carefully tended by the 3rd & 4th generation family.
And the food is an experience of Italy. Greg told us that the sausage served at V's is created from the recipe handed down from great grandpa Totta which prompted us to try a bowl of their house specialty soup that features a generous portion of that sausage in a savory chunky tomato broth. The individually baked servings of the house Lasagna are also guaranteed to make any visit to V's more than worthwhile. A recently introduced updated dinner menu has added a Cioppino [seafood stew] that has become an overnight sensation as well as the addition of dad Greg's Riccotta Fritters for dessert. Once created only on special occasions for Totta family and staff parties, this rich and decadent offering is also a great hit now enjoyed by regular guests.
There is hardly anything on the V's menu that is not sure to catch your fancy, but if you want to try a sampling then lunch time [Monday to Friday] is your best bet. They offer an amazing Italian buffet with a dazzling array of foods [including multiple pasta entrees] at a very economical $11.95 per person. "This promotion is one of the most popular we offer and it's a great way to get a real flavor for what V's is all about" says Greg. And quite naturally, almost from the beginning V's has offered not only lunch and dinner service but also caters parties and events in house [they have 3 private dining rooms with room for up to 150 guests] but also off site. In fact, V's is partnered with, and a preferred caterer for, the new "Venue" event space in Leawood, KS that enables them to serve much larger parties.
We asked Greg to sum it up and he told me that "it has been an amazing journey as part of an amazing family," and he "can hardly believe it has been 20 years of working with wonderful people" sharing the restaurant with so many loyal and happy guests. Sounds to us like he is already signed on and ready for another 20 years!