city fare
Aug. 27, 2004

A traditional Italian mainstay
by Lisa Waterman Gray

Johnny Cascone’s in Overland Park has served Italian food to appreciative diners for 15 years. Part of a family restaurant dynasty, the original Cascone’s opened its doors in North Kansas City 50 years ago. Sinatra would like the Old World atmosphere the Cascone family presents, and in return he is so honored as Sinatra’s voice and songs croon to patrons daily through the restaurant’s stereo system.

Johnny Cascone's classic lasagne. (photos by Jessica Chapman)

On a balmy Sunday evening my teenage daughters, Jessica and Stephanie, preferred to dip rather than butter their bread, so we ordered Olive Oil Dipping Sauce ($2.95). Our breadbasket soon emptied as we mopped up the delectable combination of oil, red pepper, roasted garlic, basil, Parmesan and salt. More bread arrived. Although spending a few extra bucks didn’t hurt our pocketbook, I would have preferred not to have had paid for the extra bread.

We then shared two appetizers: A small bowl of sweet, red sauce accompanied three, lightly breaded one-inch-wide gooey cheese “sticks” on the Fried Mozzarella ($5.95) platter and our second were four large Stuffed Mushroom Caps ($6.95) filled with mildly seasoned crab and shrimp meat, topped with a white herb butter sauce. My husband, Mark, found them bland but I liked their subtlety.

Complementary salad or soup preceded our entrees. Caesar salads ($4.50, a la carte) featured large, crunchy croutons, Parmesan sprinkles and a slightly sweet dressing, atop Romaine. The house salad featured mixed lettuces, cherry tomatoes and carrot, and red cabbage gratings, all dressed with an overly sweet Italian vinaigrette. My chicken soup was the best choice, from its perfectly seasoned broth to the barley-shaped pasta, large carrot pennies, celery bits and succulent chicken.

Pork neck bones flavor the slow-simmered sweet red “sugo” sauce found in many Johnny Cascone’s entrees. Italian grandmothers have made it for generations. Vegetarians should look for menu items with marinara sauce, which has no meat, such as eggplant and seafood pasta dishes.

Sugo smothered the thick spaghetti noodles on the Chicken Parmagiana platter ($14.95). Melted cheese topped the melt-in-your mouth breaded chicken breast, which, in turn, was topped with the spaghetti. It was an enormous portion for one person.

Johnny Cascone’s signature entrée, Chicken Limonata Elaina ($15.95), combined a breaded chicken breast with a nicely balanced white wine and lemon butter sauce. Mild Parmesan flavored the slightly bland but creamy Alfredo sauce that topped a side of Fettuccini noodles.

Frank’s Pasta ($14.95) honors co-owner Frank Cascone. Although I relished the flavors of sautéed spinach, bite-sized tomato pieces, about a dozen shrimp and fettuccini tossed in a light garlic butter sauce with a hint of lemon flavor, I took half the dish home with me — no doubt a common occurrence among Cascone’s patrons.

I enjoy pasta as much as the next person; heck - go back far enough on my mother’s side of the family and I’m Italian. But I have never eaten half a pound of pasta at one sitting.

My husband’s Bistecca Modiga ($21.95) included a 10-ounce filet encased in breadcrumbs and covered with melted Provel cheese. Lightly grilled, skin-on Italian potato wafers popped with herbal flavor. The size of this entree came closest to making sense as a meal for one person.

If you have a small stomach, you want to enjoy multiple courses without gorging yourself, or if your pocketbook is stretched a little thin, consider asking for split dinner service ($5). Split service at lunch is $2. Or enjoy $10.95 early dinner specials from 3 to 6 p.m., which include soup or salad, customer’s choice from four entrées and spumoni ice cream (no split dinner service).

Johnny Cascone’s serves more than 30 wines by the glass (average $4.75-$5). Most are Italian with 10 whites and several dozen reds. The restaurant also has an Italian beer, Moretti, on tap.

We took part of our entrees home and shared a single serving of tiramisu ($5.95), another benchmark of Italian cuisine. Within minutes we had devoured the liqueur-soaked ladyfingers, layer of subtly sweetened mascarpone cheese, dollops of fresh whipped cream, drizzles of chocolate sauce and powdered sugar sprinkles. Jessica, who is nuts about tiramisu, proclaimed it a good rendition.

Lunch offerings at Johnny Cascone’s include melt-in-your mouth roast brisket of beef ($8.49) served with chunky mashed potatoes and gravy, chicken fried steak ($8.49), grilled liver with onions ($8.49), chopped sirloin steak and a dozen pasta offerings. My Italian Combo lunch special ($7.95) paired a four-inch square of ground beef and Ricotta dense lasagna with a side of spaghetti and a flavorful two-inch meatball.

Our waitresses watched our water glasses, breadbaskets and plates carefully during both visits. Our evening waitress only made one mistake. She forgot to offer freshly grated Parmesan. And what’s an Italian meal without fresh Parmesan?

Johnny Cascone's

6863 W 91st St., Overland Park, KS 66212


Lunch: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Dinner: Mon.-Thurs. and Sun., 4-9 p.m.
Fri-Sat., 4-10p.m.

Ratings: (out of four stars)

FOOD **1/2

Key: $-under $10 • $$-$10 to $20 • $$$-over $20

fork, knife, spoon


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