Italian Gardens To-Go brings recipes from iconic restaurant to Overland Park

Italian Gardens was a landmark restaurant in Kansas City, Mo., for almost 80 years. People knew that when they went to “The Gardens” they would be treated like family while they ate delicious food at an affordable price.

The restaurant closed in 2003, but happy customers can once again enjoy the same food that made Italian Gardens a Kansas City icon at a new restaurant — Italian Gardens To-Go, 7335 W. 119th St. in Overland Park.

Italian Gardens To-Go opened in June and is serving up Italian favorites that people take home and enjoy: spaghetti, lasagna, fettuccine Alfredo and sandwiches, like the Italian steak with cheese, chicken parmigiana, chicken spedini and Italian hoagie, just to name a few.

“What we are trying to do here is keep the name and tradition alive by selling great Italian food at a reasonable price,” said John David DiCapo, owner of Italian Gardens To-Go.

The new restaurant is serving Aunt Theresa’s recipes — the same ones used from day one at Italian Gardens.Customers of the original restaurant knew John David’s father, Carl DiCapo, who worked at and operated Italian Gardens with warmth and a vast knowledge of the restaurant industry for 46 years. On the first two days Italian Gardens To-Go was open, Carl greeted the customers and shook hands. “One lady hugged me and said, ‘Carl, I’ve been waiting 20 years for this. Thank you so much,’” he said. “...I’m so excited (about the new restaurant). I can’t believe it.”

The tradition of Italian Gardens Carl DiCapo’s uncles, Johnny Bondon and Frank Lipari, were the original owners of the restaurant. It started out as one room in 1925 and grew over time into a 350-seat landmark that was enjoyed by Kansas City residents along with several celebrity guests.Carl said his uncles were the very finest restaurateurs who believed in serving delicious food with exemplary service at a moderate price. This philosophy continued for nearly eight decades.“They weren’t customers,” he said, of the people who visited the restaurant. “They were like part of our family. We treated them like they were coming into our home.” The former restaurant was located in what was then the bustling heart of downtown Kansas City, Mo., at 1110 Baltimore. And Italian Gardens developed a strong relationship with the Jewish community as the Italian and Jewish populations grew together in Kansas City. (The story goes that Italian Gardens was the site of at least one seder dinner.) In addition, John David’s grandmother was Jewish, and Italian Gardens To-Go now sells mandel bread made from her recipe.

The new chapter: Italian Gardens To-Go Customers who enjoyed Italian Gardens are now being treated to restaurant-quality food and gracious service in a drive-thru format. Italian Gardens To-Go sells appetizers, salads, pizza by the slice, Italian specialties and sandwiches for individuals. (Be sure to try a meatball or Italian sausage stuffer sandwich for $1.) The restaurant also sells family-style pasta by the bucket with sides for $24.99 (serves four to six people); family-style lasagna with sides for $34.99 (serves six to nine); or an Italian dinner for two with sides for $21.99. “What we’re trying to do is get the family together by selling family meals,” John David said. Italian Gardens To-Go hopes to expand to other locations and continue to thrive at 119th and Metcalf. “I’m very happy where I’m at: to be in Johnson County, see customers I grew up with and to be welcomed into their community,” he said. Italian Gardens To-Go is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. For more information, visit igtogo.com or call 913-696-9901.


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