I was riding on a bus from New York City to Atlantic City one day when I overheard two older women talking, loudly, about ravioli.
"It's a pasta," said one. "And it's square, like a big postage stamp. And it's got a filling in the middle of it."
"What kind of filling? Pork? Beef?" asked her friend.
"I don't know, some kind of meat. Maybe there was some cheese in there, too."
"Is it like a kreplach?"
"Yes, that's it. It's an Italian kreplach. But different from the Chinese kreplach."
"What's a Chinese kreplach?"
"They call them wontons."
Call them whatever you want, the boiled dumping - either square or round - that most of us recognize as ravioli is a dish that dates back to at least the 16th century (ravioli with boiled chicken was served to the papal enclave in Rome in 1549) and probably long before that. A staple of Italian-American restaurants since the 1900s, ravioli's popularity got a massive boost when Ettore "Hector" Boiardi, the real chef behind the Chef Boyardee brand, began promoting a canned version of the pasta that's still sold in supermarkets today (often on sale for less than a dollar a can).
There are many Italian restaurants in Kansas City - Jasper's, Villa Capri, Accurso's, to name a few - that sell the soft pasta pillows smothered in tomato sauce. There are snazzier variations as well: the goat cheese and caramelized onion appetizer ravioli at the Westport Cafe & Bar, the smoked chicken ravioli (available as a lunch portion only) at the Providence New American Kitchen at the President Hotel, the shortrib ravioli at the Boot in Westport, and the Sonoma goat cheese ravioli at Seasons 52.
Where do you, Fat City readers, go for your fix of this dish? It can be fancy or traditional, expensive or cheap. As long - and no disrespect to the late chef Boiardi - it doesn't taste like it came out of a can.