Ciao Italian Kitchen to open in former Press space at the Waterfront

WICHITA — After almost 30 years of working in the restaurant business for others, Guillermo Perez-Munoz is opening his own place in the former Press space at the Waterfront.

“Why not?” he says, not allowing the previous failures of Piztros, Sabor and Press to deter him.

“We can analyze them — all of them,” Perez-Munoz says of why those businesses didn’t work.

The key, he says, is keeping his focus on food.

“In this area, it’s about families.”

So he’s opening Ciao Italian Kitchen, a 130-seat restaurant that will feature what Perez-Munoz calls the ultimate comfort food.

“We are an Italian kitchen first and foremost,” he says. “Every home is designed around the kitchen, so that’s what we’re doing.”

An extensive menu will include Italian favorites such as pizza, calzone and lasagna along with items such as surf-and-turf dishes.

Perez-Munoz isn’t planning any dishes from his native Puerto Rico, but he says as the business progresses he’ll probably “put some flare into it and bring some crazy pastas.”

Perez-Munoz came to Wichita to manage several Jimmy’s Egg locations for Whitney VinZant and then helped develop menus and kitchens for VinZant’s other restaurants, including Mike’s Wine Dive and Gaslamp Grille & Lounge.

His experience at the Gaslamp ended his relationship with VinZant, Perez-Munoz says.

“I have nothing to do with the VinZant group anymore.”

Jeanie Katzenmeier, who has been in the restaurant business for 23 years, will manage Ciao Italian Kitchen.

Combined with Perez-Munoz’s career, she says, “There’s a lot of restaurant experience.”

Ciao is one of several new Italian restaurants, including Luca in Old Town Square, Bocconcini Italian Eatery near Central and Oliver and Italian Bistro in the Market Centre at 155 N. Market.

Perez-Munoz says the east side is starved for Italian, though.

“I am convinced that this is an underserved market.”

He plans to open in late September or early October.

“We’re building this from the food up,” Perez-Munoz says of great food at good prices.

“We’re not hoping to make a quick dollar. We want pennies. . . . And those pennies will pile up.”