KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After a series of misfortunes, a local restaurant owner is now celebrating a new beginning.
Wednesday marks the first dinner service for Ragazza Food and Wine at its new location in Midtown Kansas City.
"When people think about Ragazza, they think about our meatballs and lasagna," Ragazza owner Laura Norris said. "Now, I want them to know that we have room for you to actually eat here."
Norris did her best to replicate the look of the original Ragazza in Westport.
"We tried to be sure that we could keep it as cozy as our last spot, which is hard when you expand," Norris said.
The new space used be an organic grocery store but it was destroyed along with several other businesses in a fire almost two years ago.
Norris anticipated making a seamless move from Westport to the new location back in September, but it didn't happen that way.
The renovations to the building took longer than expected, and a car into the building at 43rd and Main didn't help.
Then, a fire at an underground warehouse last October damaged much of the storefront that was being kept in storage.
"It was like one step forward, two steps back kind of thing," Ragazza chef James Landis said. "Luckily, I had lots of friends that helped me by keeping me employed."
Landis is one of the employees who rode it out with Norris.
"I think it's kind of a testament to Kansas City," Norris said. "All the help that they received kept almost our complete full staff for six months."
Landis now has a state of art kitchen to cook up their signature Italian dishes.
"All my years - I've been doing this for over 20 years - I never walked into basically all brand-new equipment," Landis said.
In the dining room, customers will sit in one of the 23 tables instead of eight.
Norris is adding swordfish to the menu and the cocktail list is expanding.
She has also installed wood panels in the corner of the dining room that allows her to section it off for wine dinners. The area seats up to 36 people; Much more than she could at her old location and with two new televisions, she'll be able to host watch parties here.
"I'm a politically engaged person too, so return parties are gonna be a big deal here," Norris said.
The once non-profit staffer turned restaurateur said she won't be leaving the space any time soon.
"I plan to be here for 15 years - that's my goal," she said. "I just turned 50, so I feel I'll be done by then and I'll retire."