Charles Ferruzza the restaurant critic and radio personality who was a titan of Kansas City food culture, died from complications following a stroke on Tuesday, January 28, 2019. He was 62 years old.
Ferruzza was the voice that brought so many deserving restaurants and gifted chefs out of the shadows. He was a student of local history, documenting the rise and fall of our local scene and spotlighting countless hidden gems along the way.
In his tenure as the food critic at The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt-weekly, Ferruzza delighted in sharing his off-the-beaten-path finds with his readership. “Esther’s African Cuisine seems to do everything wrong — by conventional standards,” he wrote in 2013 of Esther’s African Cuisine. “And that’s why I like it so much.”
Ferruzza always had big opinions, and he wasn’t shy about sharing any of them. He reveled in exposing Kansas City’s noisiest restaurants, disparaging fake holidays celebrating cupcakes and lamenting the ubiquity of low-budget Chinese buffets. A hospitality industry veteran himself, Feruzza wouldn’t hesitate to educate his readership of the etiquette of dining out: “God wants you to tip,” he insisted. But Feruzza could also wax poetic about Family Affair while contemplating becoming a “weekend vegetarian” and celebrate the success of an immigrant restauranteur living the American dream. (Ferruzza himself was proudly Italian-American.) His indomitable personality and institutional Kansas City knowledge is part of why he was tapped as a local expert on the late Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations for a 2012 episode on Kansas City.
Ferruzza’s writing was often conversational: He had a way of making you feel like you were right there with him at the dinner table, sharing the experience and laughing along with his stories. He always had plenty to share. He was an out and proud gay man, and was happy to represent LGBTQIA interests in his own way—like reminding readers that a drag queen may haunt what is now the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.
Born in Indianapolis, Ferruzza graduated with a degree in journalism and arrived in Kansas City in 1980 after stints in Philadelphia and New York City. Before joining The Pitch, he wrote for the now-defunct Johnson County Sun. He was also a frequent guest on KCUR’s Central Standard as one of the city’s resident food experts.
Ferruzza spent decades covering food and culture in Kansas City, and his voice will be missed.