Late-night channel surfing once led me to Union Pacific, Cecil B. DeMille's 1939 saga about the construction of the transcontinental railroad. But real life gave me the opportunity to create my own epic: my architectural firm recently designed a restaurant outside Kansas City's Union Station, once the second-largest railway station in the United States.
The restaurant, Lidia's (101 22nd St.; 816-221-3722), is the newest venture by Lidia Bastianich and her son, Joseph, the owners of Felidia, Becco and Frico Bar in Manhattan. The location is the Freight House, an abandoned brick building near the railroad tracks. The Freight House Arts District, an area of spectacular redevelopment, is home to a burgeoning creative community, and a $250 million science museum is currently under construction there.
Bastianich was determined that her restaurant pay tribute to both the past and the future of Kansas City. My team and I followed her lead by restoring the shell of the Freight House to its original state while also giving it a clean, contemporary feel: there's an exposed pitched roof, plus light fixtures from a local artist who uses found materials, mainly industrial metal, in his designs. The menu, with such items as air-dried beef salad with truffle oil and saltimbocca (thin slices of veal seasoned with sage), features the northern Italian recipes that have made the Bastianich empire so successful.