Mangia in the River Market

Il Lazzarone pizzeria brings Naples to KC with a second location.



That’s Amore

     A lover of pizza since his New York childhood, restaurateur and chef Erik Borger set up shop in his garage to perfect his technique of making Neapolitan pizza exactly the way it’s made in Naples, Italy. As his obsession grew, so did his desire to open his own pizzeria, and in May 2014 he opened il Lazzarone in downtown St. Joseph.

     The name “il Lazzarone” comes from a class of Italians that while poor, were rich in their thorough enjoyment of life, pizza, wine and laughter — a lifestyle Borger adopted for himself and all who visit the eatery. A year later he’s bringing a bit of Naples, the birthplace of pizza, to KC with a second location in the River Market next to Quay Coffee.

Authentic Creations

     Many pizzerias might claim to serve “authentic” Neapolitan pizza, but il Lazzarone has the credentials to prove it. Sanctioned by the Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana, a group dedicated to protecting the value of pizzas crafted according to old world Neapolitan traditions, il Lazzarone is the only official eatery in Kansas and Missouri to earn this seal. Borger hopes his new KC location can join the list of 605 sanctioned pizzerias worldwide, 85 of which are in the U.S.

     The AVPN is all about preserving history. Among its stringent requirements:  the dough can be made only with highly refined type “00”  wheat flour, water, sea salt, yeast and nothing else. The sauce must be made from San Marzano or Pomodoro tomatoes and applied to the dough in a clockwise motion. And every pizza must be made by hand by the pizzaiolo.

A Rustic Haven

    Double the size of its first location, with 120 seats, il Lazzarone on Delaware Street features a rustic-industrial décor of exposed wood and brick, subway tiles, and chairs fashioned out of reclaimed wood and rebar. Just in time for spring, an outdoor patio seats 100, while the 60-seat bar offers a 30-tap selection of brews that pair nicely with pie, as well as craft cocktails by two mixologists.

     The centerpiece, though, is the imported wood-fire oven — the work of Acunto Napoli, a family-owned company known for producing traditional  ovens in Naples since 1892. Weighing in at 6,000 pounds, the behemoth, double-domed beauty reaches 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and cooks up to 10 pizzas simultaneously in the APVN’s required 60-to-90-second time restriction. The result is a tasty creation that’ll have you dreaming of Naples: a delectable, aromatic personal pan-sized pizza made of the freshest ingredients cradled in a slightly blistered, flame-kissed crust.

Wood-Fired and Wonderful

     Il Lazzarone tosses up 16 from-scratch pizza combinations, including the two AVPN-sanctioned selections: the Marinara and the Margherita. The latter is piled with crushed San Marzano tomatoes from the base of Mount Vesuvius, extra-virgin olive oil, mozzarella, basil and sea salt. Customize your pie with add-on meats, veggies and finishes.

     But don’t neglect il Lazzarone’s other menu items. Start with the mouthwatering, oven-seared bruschetta with balsamic glaze or fresh salads like Cavolo Riccio, which blends  kale, sliced apple, walnuts, feta cheese, lemon and extra-virgin olive oil. End with the sinfully sweet fritto Nutella — fried dough topped with creamy Nutella and hand-powdered sugar.

     Check out il Lazzarone in the River Market at 412 Delaware St., Kansas City, Mo., or the St. Joseph location at 1628 Frederick Ave., St. Joseph, Mo. For more information, visit illazzarone.org.