The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 25, 2012

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Another lunch at The Gypsy Cafe in Pittsburg must wait for truck to roll in spring

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Globe Staff Writer

PITTSBURG, Kan. — It might not be politically correct nowadays, but I remember as a child hearing stories of children who played too close to a quiet, country road being warned that they might get taken by the gypsies as their caravans passed through.

Based on the lunch I ate last Monday, I most certainly wouldn’t mind being kidnapped by The Gypsy Cafe, as long as chef Ron Betzer and window man Steven Mariucci promised to feed me a steady diet of their specialties.

The only trouble is, Friday was their last day for their new food truck to be open for the season, and they won’t be back until spring. Meanwhile, they have their eyes on local real estate with hopes of purchasing a bricks-and-mortar location from which to serve Italian-style grinders, pasta and pizza for lunch, as well as French and Italian fine dining at supper time.

I’m crossing my fingers for them, as what I’ve had so far has been among the best fare to be had in these parts, and it’s about darn time.

I ordered the pasta special, which changes daily and on that day was one of my favorites, pasta puttanesca. Mom ordered a chicken cordon bleu grinder — I’m glad they call them that as opposed to “sandwich,” which seems a feeble word for such deliciousness — and hand-cut french fries. While we waited, a steady stream of customers pulled into the lot and approached the window with cash in hand.

One wanted to prepay for an order he planned to pick up later, just to ensure that the cafe didn’t run out. Another told me that a co-worker had ordered the chicken parmesan sandwich the day before and raved about it.

“She didn’t just like it, she said she wanted to put it on the floor and roll in it, it was so good,” he said with a laugh.

As I visited with Steven, who also owns Mariucci’s Boutique & Salon on North Broadway, and Ron, who has been cooking since age 8 and has traveled the world collecting recipes and a love of ethnic ingredients like oil-packed olives, it was apparent this was no ordinary food truck.

It offers fried calamari, Caesar salads and handmade pizzas topped with the likes of roasted peppers, meatballs or anchovies. Daily specials have included polenta — a cornmeal-based food that can be served soft or fried and topped with Italian sauces or other ingredients — and veggie lasagna.

You just can’t get that stuff anywhere else locally — surprising for an area that boasts lots of Italian last names like mine. The mere thought of it all made my mouth water, and what we ordered didn’t disappoint.

Unfortunately, it looks as if I’ll have to wait until spring to get any more. I’m marking off the days on my calendar — and even then, who knows where we’ll find them? The two wouldn’t share even the tiniest morsel with me of where they might put up shop, but I guess that makes the wait all the more mysterious and fun.

We’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled and watch out for the gypsies.

FOLLOW ANDRA STEFANONI on Facebook at facebook.com/andrajournalist and on Twitter @AndraStefanoni.