This Kansas City Italian restaurant elevates its dishes to a higher level. The James Beard award-winning chef and his team are inspired by regions in Italy and bring the freshest quality to each plate. Make a reservation today!

A persimmon and carrot salad with burrata and pomegranate seeds is a seasonal favorite.
Photo Courtesy of Jenny Wheat, Styling by Janie Jones

Speaking Italian

STORY Chef Daniel Pliska

Farina Ristorante and Oyster Bar in Kansas City has gained a following for the “modern Italian” creations of its owner, James Beard award-winning Chef Michael Smith. Chef Michael prides himself on using the finest ingredients in his top-tier Italian restaurant at 19th and Baltimore.

Award-winning Chef Michael Smith is known for his culinary creativity.
Photo Courtesy of Ron Berg

His menu is inspired by the various regions of Italy, and Chef Michael applies deft cooking techniques to bring out the best in fresh foods at their peak season.

The menu sections at Farina are laid out in classic Italian fashion, starting with Antipasti (before the pasta), Insalata (salads), Pasta Atipica (not traditionally known pastas), Four Kings of Rome (refer- ring to classic Roman shaped pasta such as spaghetti, rigatoni, tagliatelle, and bucatini), Secondi (the main course served after the pasta course) and Dolce (sweets).

Lovers of Italian food will find plenty of familiar favorites among the offerings. But adventurous diners will be rewarded with the more exotic items that Chef Michael and his kitchen staff prepare. These include the grilled octopus with apricot, cherry, and rosemary-chili pesto; corn agnolotti with Oregon morel mushrooms and corn sauce; and prosciutto-wrapped quail with smoked oyster mushrooms, artichokes, Swiss chard, and demi-glace.

Chef Michael, who began working in kitchens at the tender age of 12, has trained and worked in esteemed restaurants in the South of France and the midwestern United States, including a stint as a sous chef for the acclaimed Charlie Trotters in Chicago. His debut in Kansas City restaurant ownership came in 2002 at 40 Sardines, which quickly soared to a lofty reputation. That was followed up by Michael Smith Restaurant, now closed, and later, right next door at 19th and Main, Extra Virgin, a Middle Eastern Spanish-style tapas restaurant that still operates today. He opened Farina in 2019.

Sardinian black rice with calamari and sweet red pepper sauce delights diners with rich Italian flavor.
Photo Courtesy of Jenny Wheat, Styling by Janie Jones

A great menu calls for a great beverage program to complement the food, and Farina excels with its award-winning wine program curated and directed by General Manager Nancy Smith. The extensive list has been recognized by Wine Spectator and received the magazine’s coveted Award of Excellence in 2019 and every year since. The restaurant is known for its barrel-aged Manhattans and Negronis, Mezcal cocktails, and tequila drinks of all kinds. Another special beverage is the espresso martini, which Chef Michael says is making a comeback.

A meal at Farina Ristorante and Oyster Bar would not be complete without one of the delectable desserts. Created by pastry chef Ali Woody, the dessert selection includes classic Italian specialties with unique twists. One customer pleaser is the Panna Cotta Flight with amaretto-apricot, berry-basil, and cucumber-melon. Another favorite is the Chocolate Hazelnut Tiramisu. Tiramisu, which is translated as a pick-me-up due to its espresso syrup-soaked lady fingers, does not normally contain hazelnuts, but that addition creates an intriguing variation on the dessert. Another unusual dessert on a recent menu is the Mixed Berry Trifle with black raspberry sorbet, butter cookie, and Marsala-soaked peaches.

Italian food is indisputably one of America’s favorite cuisines, and the options range from simple pizza and pasta restaurants, to Italian restaurants that rise to more extravagant levels. At the most exalted level, where a meal becomes an experience, you’ll find Farina Ristorante and Oyster Bar.

Explore the menu, make reservations, and learn about Chef Michael Smith’s new book, Farina, at

Chef Daniel Pliska is a certified executive chef and author. He teaches culinary arts at Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield.

Read more Find Dining by Daniel Pliska and some recipes from his too! 

Article originally published in the November/December 2023 issue of Missouri Life.