From the time customers come in the front door of his new restaurant until when they leave, Julian Viso has one goal — make sure they come back. It’s working.
Viso, executive chef at Mio An Italian Trattoria, looked around the restaurant Monday night, noting that nearly every table had repeat customers, some who brought along friends and family, eager for them to try it out, too. As customers left, many stopped to talk to Viso and his wife Jill, praising a dish or just saying thanks for a nice evening. One woman had returned to celebrate her 85th birthday and a young couple planned to hurry back, making a reservation for four for Friday night.
“We are on the floor greeting our guests and listening to what they say about the menu,” Julian Viso said. “People will give you their ideas, their thoughts. You just have to ask.”
Mio opened in early September in Parkway Plaza, 4800 W. 135th St., Suite 170, Leawood. It is the first restaurant to open under Specialty Cuisine Concepts, which the Visos founded in April to open five Johnson County neighborhood restaurants featuring different cuisines. The theme for each will be “authentic, fresh and wholesome.”
Mio seats only about 75 people and also has a small menu featuring Italian cuisine from different regions — soups, salads, pastas, and entrees like grilled salmon with pesto sauce and grilled vegetables, and grilled steak with veal demi glaze and rosemary-infused roasted potatoes. Tom Harley, formerly with Mission’s MelBee’s and downtown’s Kansas City Café, is chef at Mio. The restaurant’s Italian wines come by-the-glass, as well as by-the-bottle in selections of $25, $45 or $100.
Mio is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday.
Julian Viso, who was born in Venezuela, had been a chef in Beverly Hills, Calif., while in college and after graduating spent 24 years as an investment banker, nearly half of the time on the road traveling to more than 30 countries. He now wears a white chef’s jacket.
And those business ties left over from his former career? They’re hanging on a rack in back of the restaurant and Mio’s servers pick out one to wear for the shift with their white buttoned-down shirts.
“The ties also remind them that they represent us. They have responsibilities of our guests and to the house,” Julian Viso said. “It’s not just about earning their tips but about building long-term relationships with our guests.”
Specialty Cuisine Concepts is currently negotiating locations for its next two concepts — Sabroso Latin Cuisine and Las Tapas Spanish Café. Carl Brandt joined the company in July as director of operations. Brandt’s long food industry career includes stints with the famed Gilbert/Robinson Inc. restaurant group, Loch Lloyd and the National Golf Club.
“We’re getting away from the corporate and going back to the old-fashioned way, treating people like they are guests in our home,” Brandt said. “We embrace our guests and our guests embrace us.”
Moving from Mission Farms
After five-and-a-half years of “creativity and fun” in Leawood’s Mission Farms, ARTichokes will close its shop and become a mobile operation. The art gallery/art studio plans to close Dec. 31 at 10557 Mission Road. Then it will travel to its customers, holding team building classes at corporate offices, birthday parties at restaurants, homes and other venues, pop-up events around town, and private classes and group classes and workshops for children and adults.
Sisters and owners Becky Pashia and Laurie Barling said they wanted to cut the overhead that comes with having a storefront and they also were concerned that parking would be an issue with new restaurants in the center. Pashia plans to continue to serve as an art consultant, as well focus more on her own artwork.
“I think people forget that I’m a painter and that’s how the whole thing started,” Pashia said. “I took an art class when I was 15 and she said to bring your favorite food to paint. So I brought an artichoke. That’s where the name comes from. I wanted ARTichokes to give artists exposure and for the everyday person to be able to come and be creative. We will keep doing that out in the community.”
- Casa Agave Mexican Cuisine in Lawrence and Leavenworth has opened a third location. The restaurant is near the Kansas Speedway at 1340 Village West Parkway, Kansas City, Kan. Its menu includes chicken, pork, and steak entrees, as well as vegetarian options, quesadillas, salads, fish tacos, and dinner plates such as the Estofado (squash, zucchini, broccoli, onions and portabella mushrooms over rice in a grilled spinach tortilla and topped with chicken or shrimp).
The space formerly housed Granny’s Chicken Ranch.
- Starbucks plans an early 2013 opening for its 1,800-square-foot shop with drive-thru in Ranch Mart South, 3807 W. 95th St., Overland Park.