Cascio’s Steakhouse: 76 Years of SizzleNov 01, 2022 08:15AM ● By Tamsen Butler
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Cascio’s Steakhouse is often recognized not just for the quality of its food, but for its place in Omaha’s history. Opened in 1946 by two brothers of immigrant parents, this restaurant has managed to stay open as so many other restaurants of that era closed their doors.
“We’ve been open for 76 years,” said Alfie Cascio, current owner, and the grandson and great-nephew of the original owners. “It’s the last Italian steakhouse of the original 19; I’m the third generation of owners.” His father, Larry, owned Cascio’s Steakhouse before passing it along to him.
Even as other historic restaurants have struggled to stave off closure, the Omaha staple perserveres thanks to a combination of winning qualities. “It takes hard work and dedication—and a good wife who is supportive even though I’m never home,” Cascio said.
The restaurant opens at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday, but Cascio typically arrives around 7:30 a.m. “We have to grind every day,” he said.
A dedicated group of employees is crucial to a restaurant’s success, he added. In an industry with a notoriously high turnover rate (one that rose exponentially during the pandemic), Cascio’s Steakhouse boasts some long-time employees with careers that span decades. “Two guys who have been here—one for 36 years and the other for 44 years—started when they were young and have been here ever since.”
Cascio appreciates his employees and said they are the backbone of the restaurant. “I wouldn’t be able to do it all without my general manager, Lacey Sheibal,” he added. “Be fair to your employees and they’ll be fair to you. They’re my family. Everyone gets along.”
Cascio’s also gained six or seven employees from Anthony’s Steakhouse and Lo Sole Mio after their respective closings. He admitted he was shocked when Anthony’s shuttered its doors. “When Tony [Fucinaro, Jr., who was the owner of Anthony’s Steakhouse] told me he was closing, I told him he was full of it—there was no way they’d close.”
Integrating the new employees into the way things are done at Cascio’s took some time. “Since they brought different cooking styles, we had to spend time teaching them our way,” Cascio said. “I spent about five months in the kitchen, prepping and cooking.”
The restaurateur was happy to bring on the additional employees. “It’s hard to find good workers,” he said, adding that his employee roster fell to about 30 at the height of COVID. “I like it to be around 40 to 45 employees, and right now it’s around 40.”
Like most restaurants, supply-chain issues and shortages hit Cascio’s hard. They import their pasta from Italy, and during a wheat shortage, some varieties remain unavailable, much to some customers’ chagrin.
Luckily, Cascio’s has earned a solid group of dedicated patrons.“We have a loyal clientele base, and there are around 50 to 60 customers who come here daily for lunch and don’t miss,” said Cascio. “It’s restaurants without a true foundation of customers that fail.”
The owner said that if you treat your customers right, they'll return the favor. He recently donated 30 gallons of Cascio’s Italian dressing to a Shriner’s event, “And the next thing I knew, they booked two parties,” he shared.
The area around Cascio’s Steakhouse has recently experienced a revitalization, attracting new clientele. “The neighborhood is changing,” Cascio said. “They’re fixing up houses and apartments. It’s really growing. People can walk to our restaurant now from their homes, so that helps, too.”
Recent renovations are also changing the restaurant’s look by transforming the lower level into an event venue.
The last time the business underwent any changes was during COVID when it repainted the upstairs. “The downstairs really needed some renovations,” said Cascio, adding that an ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp was included in the renovations, which began in April 2022 and was completed around September.
The lower-level renovations created an ideal environment for wedding receptions and other large gatherings. “It’s all cosmetic,” Cascio said.“We brought in new bars, ripped out the carpet, and gave it a more industrial look.” The upgrades give the space a modernized feel that enticed some brides and grooms-to-be to book the venue even before renovations were complete. The first couple to have their wedding reception in the new event space was Cascio’s daughter, Bailey, and her now-husband, Seth.
While Cascio continues to future-proof his restaurant, the tranquil days of retirement are calling. “In 10 years, when I turn 60, I’m done with 46 years in the restaurant business,” he said. The question of who will take over the restaurant is not yet determined, but he’s certain it won’t be one of his children.
“The kids have all worked here, and they know how hard it is,” he said. “They know all about working holidays and weekends. That fourth generation wants to do their own thing, and I don’t blame them.” Cascio has a lot of pride in the life paths his children chose—even if they didn’t lead to the restaurant industry and back to Cascio’s.
“Maybe a cousin or niece will take over,” Cascio mused. “I’d love to keep it in the family.”
For now, Cascio’s Steakhouse continues to provide the food and ambiance for which it’s become famous in Omaha. As the neighborhood and the city’s restaurant scene continue to evolve, Cascio’s remains a constant.