JOCO Dining: 1889 Pizza Napoletana adds note of sophistication of revamped NorthWood center

1889 pizzas are baked for 90 seconds in a wood-burning oven imported from Italy.
1889 pizzas are baked for 90 seconds in a wood-burning oven imported from Italy.

By Charles Ferruzza

I’m sorry that it’s taken me nearly a year to find my way into the artfully-appointed 1889 Pizza Napoletana, the stylish pizzeria created by Kelli and Jason Kolich in Kansas City, Kansas.

The venue is located in the NorthWood Shopping Center, the once-dowdy shopping strip that formerly housed a Maj-R Thrift and Discount Store and the eccentric China Tom’s restaurant. The new incarnation of the strip center is considerably more glamorous and this expensively-mounted pizza restaurant, with its sleek tile floors and glittering chandeliers, adds an alluring note to the upscale transformation.

There are wood-burning ovens in the exhibition kitchen that appear to be covered in shiny copper pennies – yes, the material is copper, but nothing you can take to the bank. The ovens burn fragrant white oak and leave the hand-pressed crusts slightly scorched, which imparts an additional sensual note to the ten signature pies offered here (patrons may also custom design their own pizzas from the featured ingredients).

It’s a snazzy place – and a touch snooty as well for customers raised on more plebian chain pizzerias – where the marinara is made with San Marzano tomatoes, the mozzarella is creamy and fresh, the prosciutto has been aged 600 days and the olive oil is, unsurprisingly, extra-virgin.

What was surprising was the inclusion, in the Caesar salad, of “rosemary focaccia croutons” that – at least on the evening I sampled the lightly-dressed creation – were those industrial-strength tasteless compressed cubes of toasted bread that give all croutons a bad name.

The pizza more than makes up for that disappointment, particularly “The Butcher” a generously-laden affair topped with meatballs, Scimeca’s Italian sausage and pepperoni. I shared the modestly-priced pie with a friend one night (all the pies here are 12-inch in diameter) thinking we’d have at least one slice left over to take home. No such luck. There wasn’t a crumb left.

There’s a pulled pork pie on the menu baked with smoked provolone, caramelized onion and sweet coleslaw – a fitting culinary homage to this neighborhood’s best-known restaurant, Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue, practically next door – and a trio of meatless options.

The restaurant’s title comes from a historical footnote — 1889 is reportedly the year that the first pizza Margherita, prepared in the colors of the Italian flag, was named for the country’s queen consort, Margherita of Savoy (there’s no record of the queen, who also had a Cognac-flavored cake named for her, ever eating her namesake pizza).
1889 Pizza Napoletana, 2876 W. 47th St., Kansas City, Kansas. 913-608-5889.

"The Butcher," one of 1889's 12-inch pizzas.
“The Butcher,” one of 1889’s 12-inch pizzas.