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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

REVIEW: Italian food in Wichita sucks

Wren Johnson

I am an Italian traveler that came to Wichita, “The Land of No Pasta.”

Before I hate on all your favorite “Italian” restaurants, let me establish my pasta credentials.

I grew up in Kansas City and from the moment I was born up until I started working at age 17, every Sunday my entire family would go to my grandma’s house and have her delicious homemade pasta.

My grandma is Italian; she knows her pasta. My tastebuds know pasta.

Also, Kansas City has lots of Italian people with lots of superb Italian restaurants. There are literally Italian neighborhoods and an Italian festival that happens every year. Like I said before, my tastebuds know pasta.

If all this isn’t enough in credentials, I went to Italy in the summer of 2019 and the pasta was life-changing.

When I say my tastebuds know pasta, you better believe I know what I’m talking about.

Albero Cafe

When I first moved to Wichita, I drove past Albero Cafe. I assumed it was Italian based on the name. When my parents came to visit me, we decided to check it out. I got some penne pasta with meatballs.

I didn’t enjoy eating it, but I wasn’t gonna send it back. My mom got a sandwich and it was so fatty that she did end up sending it back. My dad basically just ate meatballs and he’s a fiend for meatballs so you know that he liked what he got.


DeFazio’s is now permanently closed, fitting for what I’m about to say about this place.

Back in 2020, I asked a friend about good Italian restaurants, and he recommended DeFazio’s.

I ended up getting penne pasta with meatballs, which was easily the worst pasta I have ever had — I only ate the meatballs.

Their sauce tasted like it was out of a can. Literally, Walmart-brand pasta sauce tastes better than the sauce I had there. I ended up taking a few bites of the pasta and sending it back.

Pasta Express

Fast Italian food shouldn’t be a thing, but I decided to give Pasta Express a try. It was no exception to the Wichita pasta theme: overcooked, over-sauced, bland out of a can sauce. It was so bad that I almost threw up after eating it. I ate it all only because I was starving.


Despite countless Italian heartbreaks, I wasn’t finished yet. My girlfriend and I went to Angelo’s because I know a guy who worked there.

Long story short, the pasta was as predicted: oversauced and over-cooked.

Out of all the places I’ve been to I was surprised to hear this place has such a loyal fanbase.

Napoli Italian Eatery

Wichita has one saving grace when it comes to Italian restaurants: Napoli Italian Eatery.  It’s a little more expensive, but it’s legit.

They have authentic Italian dishes, and the pasta is cooked to perfection.

Despite being at the top of the list, Napoli comes nowhere near Italian restaurants in Kansas City or Italy, but it’s good enough.

After many disappointing meals, I’ve learned to accept that I’m the only Italian person in this city that understands pasta. If there’s an Italian restaurant where I’m not the only Italian person in the building, let me know.

View Comments (8)
About the Contributors
Victor DiMartino
Victor DiMartino, Reporter
Victor DiMartino is a second-year reporter for The Sunflower. DiMartino is pursing a degree in creative writing with a certification in digital animation.
Wren Johnson
Wren Johnson, Illustrator/Designer
Wren Johnson is an illustrator for The Sunflower. Johnson is a third-year communications major that loves chickens. In her free time she likes to read, draw, and hang out with friends. Johnson uses she/her pronouns.

Comments (8)

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  • F

    FrankFeb 14, 2023 at 7:02 am


  • AnonymousFeb 12, 2023 at 9:30 am

    Try Genova’s in Newton.

  • AnonymousFeb 11, 2023 at 3:38 am

    Try Genova’s in Newton. So good!

  • A

    Anne KeazerFeb 9, 2023 at 2:33 pm

    While not in Wichita, but in Mulvane, Luciano’s is good. Pricey, but good.

  • K

    Kaufman-Marsh SheriFeb 9, 2023 at 10:06 am

    Have you tried Luciano’s in Mulvane?

  • A

    Antonio Surname-withheldFeb 9, 2023 at 1:55 am

    Wherever people go, they bring their culinary sensibilities and adapt to the new environment, creating in some cases food fusions, and in others mere imitations of original dishes — exact reproductions often being impossible due to lack of proper ingredients. Additionally, as cultures progress, and old generations die, the latest generation will quite nearly fail to maintain whatever standards were once the norm.

    So in the case of Angelo’s, a decade-long operational stoppage occurred, shortly after the deaths of the husband-and-wife founders, one of whom was native-born Sicilian. The business was only revived thanks to a crowd-funding effort spearheaded by a longtime fan, who held fond memories of the pizza & the pickled eggplant.

    In the case of DeFazio’s, the 1st-generation founder, Pietro DeFazio (whose mother emigrated from Sicily in 1953), cited declining health & staff shortages in his decision to close after nearly 40 years in business. Fans cite their favorite dishes as the pizza, the sausage manicotti, & the eggplant Italian salad.

    Noticing a theme yet? Yes, that’s right… Wichitans prefer pizza to pasta! Perhaps it’s no surprise that Wichita is the birthplace of Pizza Hut (which spawned, in turn, Papa John’s).

    And where there’s pizza, there’s more pizza, and oftentimes some of those pizzerias will serve pasta.

    One such example is Il Vicino, a small chain (with 7 extant stores in 3 States since 1992) founded by a trio, one of whom is a celebrated chef and top graduate of California Culinary Institute, who founded two full-service Italian restaurants in New Mexico before taking an extended sabbatical in Italy, to get a first-hand impression of how to improve his Italian cooking). Their mainstay is wood oven-fired pizza, but they also serve lasagnas, calzones, salads, tortes, wines, & of course, pasta. Similar to Angelo’s, it remains the only other local restaurant I know of that utilizes whole anchovies (not ground). That said, I cannot speak as to the quality of their pasta; I haven’t eaten there in years, & back when I did, I wasn’t ordering pasta.

    I would be remiss here — though admittedly I do digress — if I did not make mention of an upstart competitor to Il Vicino, the founders of which took a similar path of Italian immersion, although they went pedal-to-the-metal… Training under Enzo Coccia, importing a 3-ton brick oven built in Naples, and crafting with such high-quality ingredients that Il Vicino appears in contrast to be rank amateurs,
    unarmed & outclassed.

    Piatto Neapolitan Pizzeria. Truly exquisite. However, they don’t serve pasta.

    If you want pasta, then you must either be prepared to seek out the nooks and crannies, for the mainstays in Wichita immigrant cuisine are Mexican, Lebanese, & Vietnamese [only the lattermost has a strong association with pasta (i.e., phở)], or you must accept that your best recourse is to get into fusionist cuisine.

    Of the former (note, I cannot speak to quality of any of the following):

    Savute’s. I’ve never been there, but it’s a Wichita restaurant landmark, being in continuous operation since 1944, although the hours are kinda weird.

    Bella Vita Bistro. Another one I’ve never been to. Seems to be fine dining. It used to be a Turkish restaurant; I miss their hummus.

    Bronx Pizza & Pints. It’s only been open since November 2022. I haven’t had their pasta, but their pizza is good. But really, this is likely the single-most distinctly-Italian joint in town. Framed photos of 3 famous Italians hang prominently on one wall; I couldn’t tell you who they are, though. The owner-operator seems to listen to Frank Sinatra, to the exclusion of anyone else (well, thankfully it’s Sinatra and not Pavarotti!).

    Of the latter:

    Bella Luna Café: I haven’t been there since circa 1996. But they have several pasta dishes, although here there is a Lebanese influence.

    Gabby’s Peruvian Restaurant. I haven’t been there yet, but apparently Italians emigrated to Peru in the 1500s. Fast forward 500 years, and now Fettuccine is served exclusively with pesto (at least, exclusive to Gabby’s).


    Oof, I was just gonna tap a few lines out, but here I am typing a comment that quite possibly exceeds the length of your article. So guess I’ll wind this up, despite an ever-burgeoning list of suggestions accumulating on my mental stack overflow.


    a) Don’t ask random or even nonrandom people for suggestions. There are over 1200 restaurants in Wichita, and everybody has their ingroup biases, their outgroup prejudices, and their ignorances (that’s why you heard about DeFazio’s but not Savute’s).

    Instead, use Google (or your preferred Search Engine). Use the basic search page to narrow down your options, then enter your selection into the Maps. Using Maps to search for Italian restaurants in Wichita produces a ton of non sequiturs, such as Burger King. It may help to specify the dish you crave.

    b) When in Rome, do as the Romans. Enjoy the plethora of distinct Wichita dining options. You can always drive back to KC for a weekend if you just can’t wait (not that far, tbh)!

  • AnonymousFeb 8, 2023 at 10:52 pm

    Spoken like a 20-something with limited experience… and more money to spend on ‘pasta’ than any student should have. So be a good critic when you’re paying your own bills from your own salary.

  • K

    Kent McEntireFeb 8, 2023 at 7:58 pm

    Have you tried the oldest Italian restaurant which is Savute’s ?