Cascone’s: 60 Years Strong
It’s a family business unlike most. The walls of the foyer are packed with family photos. Everything from the familiar kind remembering family reunions, weddings, formal studio sessions to more personal things like a framed birth announcement. If the number and age of these pictures didn’t give it away, you will know this place has some staying power when you taste the food.
Celebrating 60 years in business is almost unheard of for a restaurant. Cascone’s has survived ups and downs of the economy, many bouts of road construction, a move and more importantly a few waves of competition from big-name, chain Italian restaurants.
Co-owner Frank Cascone credits consistency, quality and customer service. “We don’t reach. We do what we do best,” he said, noting culinary fads have never caused their menu to stray from its roots. This attitude seems a fundamental part of the business as brother Jimmy Cascone told me, “We never forget where we came from, so we don’t get to wrapped up in where things are right now.”
For Cascone’s that philosophy works, because the food really is fantastic. I’ve been dining there somewhat regularly since I moved to Kansas City 10 years ago. My monthly lunch was part of large work-related meeting with a set menu of four items to choose from. The decision was never easy between savory chicken parmigiana, rich fettuccine Alfredo, top-notch chicken Caesar salad or their famous lasagna. But dining during lunch or dinner, you will find a plethora of options that go beyond your most familiar Italian dishes.
I’m a fan of their pork neck bones simmered in sugo, and the fried chicken dinner is just as good as Stroud’s, in my book. During a recent visit, my dad enjoyed the fried shrimp dinner, and Cascone’s steaks are among their best selling dinners. One item I can never seem to pass up is Cascone’s Italian nachos. I don’t think of it as “old school” Italian, yet it’s one of my favorite picks from the menu. Fried wontons are layered with Italian sausage, cheese and toppings. Laced with Alfredo sauce, it creates a combination of heavy, intense flavors finished with the freshness of tomatoes, green onions and a “pop” of banana pepper. The crispiness and decadence is addictive! Literally, I can’t seem to stop eating them until the plate is empty.
For a lighter, but still flavor-packed appetizing experience, try the Sicilian oil and garlic dip. While dipping oils with bread service have become common-place in many types of restaurant, this $3 treat tastes like it came straight from heaven! Ample cloves of softly roasted garlic marinate among roughly chopped basil and other herbs are just waiting to be scooped onto the soft bread. I tried it for the first time when preparing to write this and I don’t think I will ever go back without ordering it. It is just too good!
Cascone’s sugo is another must-have. Simmered with those wonderful neck bones, the complex and satisfying sauce is cooked for five hours in a steam kettle. Apparently, I’m not the only one who loves it. Prepared in 40-gallon batches, the restaurant goes through at least that amount each day. Frank and Jimmy point to it as one of the tightly-held family recipes, along with the ravioli, lasagna and cannelloni.
If you haven’t tasted the lasagna from Cascone’s, you’re missing something spectacular. Layers of pasta, ground beef and cheese are topped with your choice of sugo or a hearty meat sauce. Most places, lasagna is never in my top picks, but it’s simply hard to pass up at Cascone’s. Jimmy tells me it’s the four kinds of cheeses that make it so delicious.
The ravioli doesn’t use the same cheese mixture, but the creamy, light filling is the focal point of this popular dish. With al dente edges surfaced by your favorite sauce, this handmade pasta-purse is another best-seller. The ability to do this simple, straight-forward dish so well is a testament to the restaurant’s quality.
Lesser known, but perhaps a hidden treasure on the menu is the homemade gnocchi. These little dumplings made from ricotta, eggs and flour are both decadent and light. Perfectly paired with Cascone’s red-and-white-combo vodka sauce, the quality and texture of the pasta are definitely not lost after being dressed.
If you wanna try something popular but more complex, skip the too-sweet lobster ravioli and dive face first into the monstrous bowl of “Crazy” Alfredo. Traditionally rich fettuccine Alfredo is enhanced with chicken, Italian sausage, shrimp, savory sun-dried tomatoes and tangy pepperocini. It’s an experience for sure!
But be sure to save room for the cannoli or house made tiramasu for dessert. I’m a sucker for great tiramisu, but it’s hard to get the traditional Italian dessert done well. Here you will find an airy confection with the forward flavor of light marscarpone and just enough coffee and licquor.
In case you’re the kind of person that saves ordering dessert for special occasions, you are in luck. Cascone’s is celebrating it’s 60th anniversary all year long, so order away! Most importantly, after the confetti settles, Cascone’s will still be serving the spectacular food that’s kept them thriving for 60 years.