Dining

Kansas City Food Stars: Jasper Mirabile

Jasper has cultivated a love affair with traditional Italian food and Kansas City spanning nearly 60 years.

Jasper Mirabile is on a quest—a sweet, delicious quest. He’s on a mission to find the world’s best cannolis—or, as he puts it, he’s “on the cannoli trail.” The results of his search will be included in his third cookbook.

Mirabile’s cannoli quest is just one gem in a huge collection of food-driven anecdotes. As he shares his impressive history and family legacy, you can’t help but be struck by two immediate thoughts: 1) You just might be talking to the nicest guy in the business; and 2) Does he ever sleep?

Because for Mirabile, Italian cuisine isn’t only in his blood. It drives him and his business to reach new heights of success, whether at his combined restaurant and Italian market; through his radio show, “Live From Jasper’s Kitchen;” or by promoting other local chefs, farmers, artisans and business owners through demonstrations, the Slow Food Kansas City group or by other means.

Photos by Paul Andrews.

Mirabile grew up in the family business of cooking and started when he was 6 years old, guided by his beloved Nonna as she prepared her favorite Sicilian recipes. As he grew older, Mirabile made annual trips to Italy with his father to find new recipes and sources of culinary inspiration. Years later, during a trip to Naples, Mirabile watched as a man made fresh mozzarella in the dining room—and a new concept was born.

“I suggested making it tableside and he laughed at me,” Mirabile says. “I took a bunch of pictures, came back to the hotel, called my nephew and told him to build me a mozzarella cart. In the summer of 2008, we introduced tableside mozzarella and our mozzarella kits.”

That story is the ideal embodiment of Mirabile’s attitude toward his business. Never content to simply stick with what works, he’s always on the search for new products, recipes, inspiration and techniques to share with his beloved customers. And at the heart of his passion? Local ingredients that are the staples of everything he makes.

“We’ve always been big supporters of everything local,” he says. “Louisburg Cider Mill, Pendleton Asparagus, flour, butter, dairy, pork—people don’t realize what’s in our own backyard, and they’re now realizing that we have everything you can find in big cities and small towns.”

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