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I tried this ‘weird’ pizza my first day in Kansas City and keep going back for more

Editor’s note: Welcome back to our series Let’s Dish, Kansas City, showcasing some of our favorite restaurant meals. Click here to sign up for our new newsletter. And scroll down to learn how you can participate.

My first Kansas City dining experience came after a long day of moving.

After arriving from Texas late on a Thursday in October, I woke up the next day, made a pit stop at Starbucks and headed to my new apartment in the West Bottoms to meet the movers.

Hours later, I was exhausted and hungry.

Luckily, I found Fortunati Pizza just across the street, near Hy-Vee Arena. It’s an easy place to miss, with its small building, unassuming Fortunati sign outside and a tiny neon pizza sign in a window corner.

Fortunati’s 12-inch baked potato pizza has a sourdough crust topped with house-made white sauce, mozzarella, bacon, potato slices and sour cream and onion flakes.
Fortunati’s 12-inch baked potato pizza has a sourdough crust topped with house-made white sauce, mozzarella, bacon, potato slices and sour cream and onion flakes.

There’s not much inside, either. But you will find the magic of a great pizza there. One in particular caught my attention: baked potato pizza, something I’d never seen.

Too many carbs? Yes. But I was too hungry to care.

The pizza is topped with white sauce, mozzarella, bacon (I’m talking thick-sliced; no crumbs or bits here), sliced potatoes and a sour cream n’ onion dust.

It works perfectly with the sourdough crust and has become my go-to order. It’s truly the best way to eat baked potatoes.

Unfortunately for my waistline, I can eat the 12-inch pizza in one sitting because there’s nothing like the comfort this pizza brings after a long week at work or when I am feeling too lazy to cook.

Justin Norcross, owner of Fortunati Pizza, plates a 12-inch baked potato pizza. He opened the restaurant last summer.
Justin Norcross, owner of Fortunati Pizza, plates a 12-inch baked potato pizza. He opened the restaurant last summer.

Justin Norcross, who helped open the restaurant last summer, said he learned about potatoes on pizza from his friend Nick Vella, who owned Observation Pizza on the West Side before he died in 2020.

Norcross said Vella’s family is from Malta, an island nation in the Mediterranean. Potatoes on pizza is normal in the country, as it is in Italy.

“I used to make fun of him and tell him, ‘You don’t put potatoes on pizza; that’s just weird,’” Norcross said. “He would say, ‘You’re just an American and wouldn’t understand. It is a thing.’”

Norcross’ skepticism soon vanished.

“The second I tried it, I was like, ‘I see you,’” he said. “This was good. It was outside of what I thought was good pizza.”

The interior of Fortunati Pizza is pretty nondescript, except for this mural by artist Jake Schlenck.
The interior of Fortunati Pizza is pretty nondescript, except for this mural by artist Jake Schlenck.

It is among only six pizza options on the menu that also includes a spicy sausage variety with vodka sauce, and a Pep Boi topped with pepperoni, hot honey and jalapeno. The restaurant also sells custom-made pizza. Norcross said the menu may change as the business grows. The baked potato pie is $18 for a 12-inch and $22 for a 16-inch.

The restaurant came about after Norcross started making pizzas for friends and family at the start of the pandemic. He and his business partners later introduced Tuesday and Thursday night pizza parties at their bar, Lucky Boys. The pizza was such a hit that they decided to open the pizzeria two doors down.

Fortunati Pizza is tucked away in the West Bottoms at 1623 Genessee St.
Fortunati Pizza is tucked away in the West Bottoms at 1623 Genessee St.

“It just evolved into this thing where we were like, let’s do this,” Norcross said. “Let’s take this thing we started out of desperation and put it in front of people.”

The name Fortunati is a play on the bar’s name — it means “lucky” in Italian. It is located at 1623 Genessee St. and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.