Café Europa, once a Crestwood Shops staple, finds a new flagship home
Some moves are a long time coming. The owner of Café Europa, Ben Cascio, has long wanted to find a larger location to help bring a bolder vision for his shop to life.
“Café Europa has been woven into the fabric of the Crestwood Shops for so long,” he says. “At the same time, we always struggled with how small the building’s footprint was. Our customer base has been so important in sustaining us, especially through the pandemic, that we knew any new location would have to be within shouting distance. But we also knew that it was tough to do all the things we wanted in such a small space.”
That loyal customer base came through for Cascio in his search for a larger building. A group of regulars who knew Cascio was on the hunt mentioned to him that they knew of a spot just down the street. It turned out to be exactly what the Café Europa team was looking for.
The original location in the Crestwood Shops is now closed, but the “new flagship” location boasts the same great food, an improved market and even more grab-and-go options. Even better, it’s just down the road—you can find them at 4928 Main Street. They now have their own parking lot, a dedicated patio space and plenty of room indoors to expand their operations.
If you’re unfamiliar with Café Europa, you should get acquainted. Pre-pandemic, they presented what Cascio calls “casual fine dining,” featuring lots of farm-to-table options, seasonal dishes and fresh pastas. When restaurants needed to start social distancing, they shifted to a gourmet market model, with an impressive selection of imported goods and local faves, as well as freshly-made carryout items. With the new space, they are able to do both of these things—and Cascio has big ideas for new wrinkles in the already impressive formula.
“We were so glad to be able to include other, sophisticated staples that we’re sure our customers will love,” Cascio says. These include a coffee and tea bar, a wider variety of market items, a cookie/dessert bar and, coming soon, a liquor license. Cascio credits Café Europa’s knowledgeable staff and customer base alike for helping guide the café in new directions. “We always want to make sure to teach our staff about every new product,” he says, “so they can pass that knowledge along. We want our customers to be comfortable in preparing the items they pick up from us, whether those items are old favorites or something completely unknown to them.”
Of course, Café Europa is also a perfect spot to grab a quick, tasty meal. Legacy dishes like their fried chicken, pot pie and famous lemon cake – it’s literally famous; people order it from all over the country – have made the trip down the road. But straying off the beaten path can also be rewarding.
On my recent visit, I decided to try out the Palermo Panini Sandwich. It’s piled high with high-quality salami, prosciutto and pepperoni, then topped with marinated onions and provolone cheese. The whole thing is then pressed down, adding some lovely griddle marks and bringing out the best in all the flavors. The balsamic-based marinade of the onions helps cut through the saltiness of all that Italian sandwich meat, striking an excellent balance. I planned on bringing home part of lunch for leftovers. I did not stick to my plan.
We also tried out the Chicken Salad on Greens, which was delicious. The chicken Café Europa uses is texturally perfect and tastes amazing, and it’s cut into sizable chunks instead of shredded. Not quite as heavy as the meat mountain that was the Palermo Panini—if you’re trying to go a little healthier, Café Europa’s salads are a great option. With housemade dressings and high-quality ingredients, you’re still going to have yourself a tasty meal.
In the coming months, Cascio hopes to continue to evolve and play in Café Europa’s new space. They’re opening another location in Town Center in the near future, and he’s already planning plenty of new desserts and how he’ll approach things once they obtain their liquor license. We’re looking forward to raising a glass of Tuscan wine with our next dessert order. Cin cin!
Café Europa is located at 4928 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64112. It is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. It is closed Sunday.