Dining With Denise Neil

Popular small-town Kansas Italian restaurant has new owners from Wichita — and a new name

Courtney’s Place in Toronto, Kansas, has new owners from Wichita.
Courtney’s Place in Toronto, Kansas, has new owners from Wichita. File photo

Wichita real estate agent Patrick Kennedy and his wife, Deborah, plan to retire to Toronto, Kansas — a tiny town 85 miles straight east of Wichita — in a couple of years.

They’ve already bought a house there, and they’ve bought a couple of buildings they want to revamp and give new life — including the town’s old liquor store and an old meat market building built in 1900.

Now, they’ve partnered with another Wichita businessman, Josh Kirkhart, to take over Courtney’s Place, a well-known Toronto Italian restaurant that had become a small-town Kansas dining destination before it closed in late June.

They plan to change the name of the restaurant to Pasta & Pasture, and although they’ll keep much of the restaurant’s old menu, they’ll add steaks.

They hope to have it open by the end of August.

The Kennedys and Kirkhart, who owns Auction ICT in Wichita, say that Courtney Neill, who first opened the restaurant in 2004 and ran it until she closed it in June, has agreed to help out in the restaurant’s kitchen. They’re also planning to hire a chef.

Besides adding to the menu, though, they don’t plan to change a whole lot. The interior is nice, Patrick Kennedy said, and the hours — Thursdays through Sundays — seem to work for the area. They’re still discussing exact hours but plan to open later in the week and offer a buffet on Sundays.

“It was working well,” Patrick Kennedy said. “It wasn’t broken, so we’re not going to fix it.”

Patrick Kennedy said that he and Kirkhart, who once had a restaurant in Haysville, had long talked about teaming up to open a bar or a restaurant in Wichita. When they learned that Courtney’s Place was for sale, it sounded like a perfect opportunity.

His goal, Patrick Kennedy said, is to help spark a small renaissance in the town of about 300 that he plans to soon call home.

“Toronto is trying to revitalize and come back,” he said. “It had pretty much gone into obscurity. We’re all for trying to build Toronto back into the community it was.”

Patrick Kennedy said he’s also approached Toronto city leaders to ask about what businesses people most want in the town so that he can begin looking for tenants for his other buildings.

In 2004, Neill opened the restaurant at 120 W. Main as a pizza place and bakery in a building on Toronto’s main drag that was originally erected in 1886. In 2010, she and her son turned it into a nice sit-down restaurant with candlelight, table cloths, piano music and a menu of chicken Parmigiano, manicotti and lasagna. The restaurant started to draw visitors from across the state.

When she closed in June, she said that owning and cooking for the restaurant had gotten to be too much, and she was tired.

I’ll keep you posted on an opening date for Pasta & Pasture.

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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.