FioRito Ristorante, Magnolia Cafe both open in Wichita

ByDerrick V. Stutts

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It’s opening day for two anticipated and locally owned Wichita restaurants, and I can vouch for both of them.

Over the weekend, I was able to attend the soft openings of both FioRito Ristorante — the Italian-inspired eatery by brothers Jordan and Jason Rickard at 3134 E. Douglas — and of chef Jeremy Wade’s new Southern breakfast and lunch restaurant Magnolia Cafe at 2424 N. Woodlawn

Both were great, and both bring something new to Wichita. Even better: between them, they have Wichita covered for every meal.

Here’s a look at each one:

Magnolia Cafe

Hours: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays

Wade, who also owns the Italian restaurant Napoli at 7718 E. 37th St. North, decided to branch out with this new upscale brunch restaurant, which has taken over the former Fred & Barney’s/Sweet Basil spot near 21st and Woodlawn.

The shrimp and grits from Magnolia Cafe Denise Neil The Wichita Eagle

The menu features Southern-inspired breakfast and lunch dishes, many of which are not widely available elsewhere in Wichita — things like shrimp and grits, and eggs “Pontchartrain,” which feature fried oysters on toasted English muffins topped with poached eggs and tasso hollandaise. The menu also includes lunch options like a fried oyster po’ boy and a Nashville hot chicken sandwich.

I visited for brunch on Sunday and was exceptionally excited to order the shrimp and grits — one of my favorite dishes but not easy to find locally. Wade’s version was different from many I’ve tried, though that’s not a bad thing. The cheesy grits were covered in a decadent and creamy smoked tomato sauce, and several plump tail-on shrimp rested on top. The andouille sausage added a perfect salty bite to the dish, and I was surprised to find sun dried tomatoes nestled throughout. The portion was so big, I had to take half of it home.

The colorful pork belly hash from Magnolia Cafe Denise Neil The Wichita Eagle

Business writer Carrie Rengers accompanied me, and she had the pork belly hash, which was attractively served in a small cast-iron skillet. The colorful dish featured a mixture of sweet potatoes and crispy pork belly topped with two fried eggs then dressed with a relish called chow chow. She liked it, though she was enviously eyeing my mountain of shrimp and grits.

We started with horseradish deviled eggs and also requested an order of the homemade biscuits, which had pillow-y centers that were complimented by the strawberry/rhubarb preserves served with them. One order contained four biscuits.

Cafe offers homemade biscuits served with strawberry/rhubarb preserves. Denise Neil The Wichita Eagle

The prices were reasonable, and the dining room was bright and contemporary and thankfully not filled with Southern kitsch. Service was good and the food came out quickly, which isn’t always the case during soft openings.

Magnolia Cafe also has a patio, a full bar and espresso drinks. I ordered a lovely little latte that was served with two sugar cubes on the side. Here’s the full menu:

FioRito Ristorante

Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays

The Rickard brothers, both Wichita natives, have long dreamed about opening a restaurant together, and after cutting their teeth in restaurants in Denver and Wichita, they’ve finally been able to do it. Their new restaurant is now open in the spot on the northwest corner of Douglas and Hillside formerly occupied by Two Brothers BBQ and Burger Grill.

Their menu is “Italian-ish,” the brothers have said, meaning that the dishes are all inspired by the flavors of Italy. But the Rickards, who aren’t Italian but are both creative chefs, say that rather than trying to make authentic Italian dishes, they’re striving to make food that tastes good using Italian ingredients.

I was at their soft opening on Friday and can attest that they achieved their goal of making food that tastes good. And they’ve managed to create a fun new environment in Wichita.

FioRito offers a pre-meal bread service featuring house-made sourdough and choice of spreads. Denise Neil The Wichita Eagle

My friends and I started our meal with the FioRito bread service, which features house-made sourdough bread served with spreads. We got all five spreads — including pimento cheese, a cannellini bean hummus, and stracciatella, which is the creamy soft center of burrata cheese. The bread had a crunchy crust and a soft, chewy center, and it was fun to try all the spreads. My favorite was the stracciatella. My advice: Set your carb fears aside and go for the bread service.

We tried two starters: the falafel, which were crispy on the outside but fluffy and light in the center, a feat achieved by incorporating egg whites into the dough, and the roasted cauliflower, which my friends loved, though I was enviously eyeing the big bowls of pork meatballs being served at nearby tables. Next time.

We also tried four of the five pastas, my favorite of which was the stuffed pepperoni ravioli. Stuffed pasta, the Rickard brothers say, is one of their specialties, and now I see why. The homemade pillows were bursting with meaty flavor and doused with just the right amount of a rich red sauce.

The rigatoni at FioRito features homemade pasta cooked perfectly al dente. Denise Neil The Wichita Eagle

I also couldn’t stop eating the rigatoni, which had just the right al dente chew and was inventively topped with pork ragu, sliced jalapeno and crunchy pumpkin seeds, which added a nice texture.

A highlight of the experience were the cocktails created and served by the restaurant’s talented bar manager, Tori Vess. One of her inventions — a bright green cocktail called Oh the Places You’ll Go, is a cucumber-y concoction domed by an edible cocktail bubble that bursts when lime juice is added at the table. When it pops, smoke pours out and everyone cheers.

The dining room is a bit tight, but the place had an upbeat hum, and the service was great. I’ll look forward to trying the big Douglas-facing patio later this summer.

FioRito has separate dinner and lunch menus, and the restaurant accepts reservations on its website,

Here’s the menu:

Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.