A few months ago, just before the COVID-19 shutdown, an Italian-American couple opened Viona’s Italian Bistro in downtown Overland Park. The restaurant, which serves Italian dishes from old family recipes, replaces Ambrosia Cafe at 7933 Marty St. Ambrosia Cafe closed last fall.
Since opening the restaurant in February, Benny and Kika Morina have managed to grow their customer base, even with only deliveries and takeout orders.
“We got lucky, and I guess we have to thank the community because there’s a lot of folks during that lockdown who supported us even more,” said Benny Morina. “We had people ordering pretty much every other day because they wanted to make sure we stay here and don’t go anywhere.
“I think with their help and their commitment, that’s how we survived. Those two and a half months had been pretty tough.”
Named after the couple’s oldest daughter, Viona, the restaurant offers fine dining with a casual atmosphere, though most orders are still curbside pickup. The dining area features paintings of Italian cities, a mural painted by a local artist and music from famous Italians and Italian-Americans.
Tables are also spaced apart, and seating at the bar is not permitted for the time being. Employees are still required to wear masks. Customers can also dine outside on the patio.
The menu specializes in southern Italian cuisine; pizza and lasagna are popular, but Morina said they’re becoming known for their seafood pasta dishes as well. All baked goods are made from scratch on site. Benny Morina does most of the cooking.
Born and raised in Palermo, Sicily, Benny said he modeled his cooking after his grandmother, who was a famous chef back home.
“I wanted to pursue her dreams and have my own restaurant,” Morina said.
The Morinas previously owned a restaurant in Texas before selling the business and moving with their three daughters to the Kansas City metro area a couple of years ago. They’ve had their eye on downtown Overland Park for some time before making the move to open the bistro.
“We wanted to be here; we thought it’s going to be good for us, because of the clientele,” he said. “I’m a big fan of mom-and-pop shops. I think the more local places we have, the better it gets, because people are just tired of chain restaurants.”
Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.