The KC Italian Food Legacy that is Nicky’s Pizza

During my quest for the perfect neighborhood bar I was barraged by recommendations for Nicky’s Pizza North of the River. I didn’t choose Nicky’s as my favorite neighborhood bar and frankly doing so would have sold it short. It is far more than a neighborhood bar and certainly more than a pizza joint. Nicky’s is much more a legacy of KC style Italian food and recipes carried by generations of Nick’s family. As a matter of fact, Nick’s 79 year old grandmother comes in twice a week to make the beautiful meatballs that have been sort of a not so secret, secret item at Nicky’s.

The navigation system in my Nissan took me on the most ridiculously, circuitous route possible to get to Nicky’s. In fact, Nicky’s Pizza is located just off of 291 and I-35, a bit northwest of Liberty. Upon arrival we were greeted by a friendly hostess and the KU game on one of the three TV screens above the bar.

We were hungry and began ordering too much food as soon as we were seated. In addition to pizzas we ordered two appetizers. I ordered the salmon flatbread minus the bacon and my husband and son ordered boneless wings. The wings arrived with generous helpings of ” in house” made bleu cheese and ranch dressing. They disappeared quickly. The salmon flatbread was prepared with cream cheese, pesto, roma tomato, salmon and a lemon aioli. I wanted to devour it but felt myself getting full fast. Just as I was catching my breath, Nick brought out two meatballs that were only slightly smaller than baseballs. At that moment my resolve for not eating “land animals” wavered slightly. I inhaled the tangy scent of the tomato sauce combined with the hearty smell of the veal, pork, cheese and fresh herbs. My husband however, came to my rescue and ate both.

Nearly everything at Nicky’s Pizza is made in house from scratch unlike many of the chain restaurants that offer similar foods. The bread which is not baked in house, is made by Roma Bread, a nearly 100 year old Kansas City bakery. I feel certain that when we go to well known chain restaurants we don’t think about the origin of the foods we consume or the fact that they came shipped in a can or a box from an assembly line thousands of miles away. When we eat Nicky’s Pizza we are consuming a sauce that has been cooked from scratch using a recipe that was conceptualized by Nick Haug who grew up watching his mom and grandmother make pizza sauce in their homes. In my book that is meaningful and worth paying for.

Pizza Legacy

When I learned that Nick’s 79 year old Grandmother came in twice a week to make meatballs, I knew I had to meet her and invited myself back. I’m so glad that I did. Rose Cuccia is simply adorable. Her recipe includes beautiful, fresh meats, cheeses and herbs which she delicately mixes and rolls by hand to create the perfect, tender meatball.

Rose grew up in Northeast Kansas city, married at 17 and has been cooking since. She exudes love and adoration for her children and grandchildren. All that familial love and food has been carried by her children into other area restaurants and now of course, into Nicky’s Pizza.

Nicky’s new menu is due out soon. In addition to the delicious items you can find today, there will be additions like a new pizza, an additional sandwich, lasagna, mostaccioli and those beautiful meatballs.

The next time you find yourself hankering for some pizza or pasta ask yourself if that chain restaurant stuff shipped from an assembly plant is worthy of your while. After that, get in your car and go to Nicky’s. You will be greeted by pleasant smiling faces and the guy that owns the place will visit your table just to make sure that everything is perfect. That is worthy of your while.