Anthony’s, the Jewel on Grand, is as Italian as it gets. Anthony “Butch” Spino and his sons, Vito and Anthony III, are alpha males with voices deeper than Brando; hair thicker than Pacino; and swagger cockier than Travolta.
This modern day rat pack, Vito Spino, Michael Todd (high school friend), and Anthony Spino III, who now resides in New York but still oversees marketing, keep Anthony’s customers coming back for more. Butch Spino and his wife Teresa leave the kitchen early these days as they tip toe into semi retirement after 37 years of feeding the masses in downtown Kansas City. Butch and Teresa opened Anthony’s in 1978 by converting Butch’s parent’s tiny soup kitchen into a destination dining venue.
Many couples return to the restaurant annually decade after decade to celebrate wedding anniversaries, birthdays and Valentine’s Day. It’s hard to kindle one’s romance in these four walls that ooze Italian and ladled on Frank and Dean until you succumb.
That’s what happened to Anthony III when he met Denise Rehrig, senior broadcast producer at Good Morning America during her family’s holiday dinner at Anthony’s. Anthony and Denise live in the upper East side Manhattan and have decided to take sabbaticals from their busy careers to travel the world together for their one-year anniversary. That’s amore.
Cigarettes, Martinis and Plastic Plants
Enter Anthony’s lounge and you can almost see Dean tipping a martini back at the end of the bar. Rat Pack pictures are larger than life as are the personalities of the family, waitresses and bartenders. The pink lighting, vintage cigarette machine, nude statuette, Roman busts, Venice wall frescoes and the 30-year-old plastic hanging plants transport you into the ’60s.
Enjoy a Lemon Drop, Michael’s Manhattan (Maker’s mark, Bourbon, Sweet Vermouth, Bitters), Ralph’s Rocket (American Harvest Vodka, OJ and Cranberry Juice) or a Major Paige (Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka, Club Soda) while you wait for your table. Make sure to look at the picture of Pop’s (Anthony Sr.) behind the bar smoking his Benson Hedges Gold cigarette.
If you don’t want to think, order Teresa’ Traditional lasagna ($9 at lunch). More than 500 hungry corporate professionals devour the lasagna every week for lunch in Kansas City, so you can’t go wrong with the lasagna. It’s meatless but divine. The secret sauce that only Michael and Vito are allowed to prepare the spices for each morning is light, sweet and airy enough to leave you room for Tiramisu, cannolis or a post dinner cappuccino.
If you’re feeling adventurous order the fried catfish or veal parmesan. Customers claim the Alfredo sauce is addicting and others claim that the fried chicken served on Sundays beats Stroud’s pan-fried chicken hands down.
Get there early for lunch when the button back booths and seats fill to capacity (150). Two people can enjoy a meal and drink for $15. Prego!
Anthony’s isn’t the only Italian joint in the neighborhood for a good meal and a stiff drink. There’s also the Quaff owned by Joe Bonino, the Caddy Shack owned by Joe Moretina, or City Market Cascone’s owned by George Cascone. When asked which establishment Frank Sinatra would chose if he were in town, Vito replied, “I don’t know about Frank but Dean would be drinking in our lounge. Were all about Dean here at Anthony’s.”
The logo for the bar is a Venice gondola, which symbolizes love, romance, and that Anthony’s survived three plus decades by running a very tight ship. You’ll also find either Michael Todd, who took over for Anthony III when he moved to New York, or Vito on duty. At no point is the restaurant left unmanned by someone not in the “family.”
The family ties are as thick as the charm Michael and Vito serve the ladies alongside their meal and drinks. These gentlemen make a girl remember what it feels like to be called babe or darling by an Italian Stallion in a crisp white shirt, tie and vest. Hoo-rah!
The 80-Something Waitress on Wheels
Gentleman, the love flows both ways thanks to Anthony’s feisty senior wait staff. Flo Pace and Linda Compton have waitressed at Anthony’s for more than two decades and Rosemary Bartolomi, now 83, for three decades. Rosemary jokes that she’s the oldest thing in Anthony’s and will serve the last supper here. Michael, likes to tell new customers that’s she’s 96 to get a reaction.
Bartolomi began her waitressing career in 1963 at Luciano’s but has been a staple at Anthony’s since 1979. At the end of her day shift, Bartolomi takes a nap and then heads to what her kids call her second job –- gambling at the boats. Her husband, Hugo, 89, doesn’t seem to mind being a kept man and his wife’s endless energy.
Only two significant things have changed since Butch and his wife Teresa turned their grandparent’s 13-stool soup kitchen into a full service restaurant and lounge (1) the walls went from Italian green to Italian red (2) an outdoor patio got added after the smoking ban.
With restaurants coming and going in Kansas City like Jersey wives, thank God Anthony’s isn’t budging and it’s certainly not going to change.
ANTHONY’S RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE
701 Grand Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64106