Stu Pospisil: Knives out for a look back at Omaha’s steak house history | History

Try Omaha Steaks’ Steakation themed loft in downtown Omaha.

Omaha, the Nation’s Steak Home.

“Nowhere in all the world will you discover higher steaks! These main steak homes are able to serve you … if you come to Omaha.”

So proclaimed a two-page promoting unfold within the June 9, 1957, World-Herald that appears launch level for a glance again at greater than a century of locally-owned steak eating places.

Three of them from 1957 are nonetheless with us 65 years later — Johnny’s Café (its roots relationship to 1922), Gorat’s (1944) and Cascio’s (1946).

Stu Pospisil

Stu Pospisil

A glance again at them will likely be this column’s dessert.

Omaha’s first restaurant to promote itself as a steak home, in 1917, was Louie Ahko’s. He had been a restauranteur since 1909 whose institution on Douglas Avenue was destroyed by fireplace in 1916. He reopened in 1917 at 1417 Harney St. as a “new and totally up-to-date chop and steak home.”

Persons are additionally studying…

Henry H. Smith’s Steak Home opened in 1929 at 514 S. sixteenth St. Smith had been serving steaks at Smith’s Sea Meals Home at twenty fifth and Farnam Streets, and he opened a second steak home at 2407 N St. in 1930. After Smith died in 1940, Omaha Knights hockey star Phil Besler purchased the restaurant when it was at 1512 Howard and renamed it for himself.

Omaha dines subscription promos

Enroll at present! Go to 

Comento’s Café, at 801 S. Seventh St., opened about the identical time as Smith’s, Cascio’s co-founder Al Cascio recalled in a 1979 World-Herald article. Owned by Salvatore Commendatore, identified in Omaha as Sam Comento, it lasted till 1947.

For years, the “Omaha Corn Fed Steaks” neon signal was a beacon for Trentino’s and later Angie’s at 1112 S. tenth St. Opened as a burger joint by the Firmature and Salerno households in 1933, it upgraded to steaks by 1938. Trentino’s was bought in 1976 and renamed Angie’s (by way of 2007). It reopened as Fortunate’s ten-O-one for a few yr. The constructing is now the Bluebarn Theater.

Earlier than filet mignon grew to become a high-priced meal, railroad contractor Louis Marchio used the lower to make his “Marchio Polo” dish of sautéed slices of filet with spaghetti, mushrooms and tomato sauce.” His Italian Cafe, 4443 S. thirteenth St., was open by 1932. The household bought it to Arlan and Rose Broome, who owned it from 1976-1985, rebuilding after a fireplace in 1980.

Photo 1 (copy)

The Piccolo’s Pete’s signal.

Piccolo Pete’s, 2202 S. twentieth St., (1934-2015) started as a tavern whose identify got here from a well-liked tune. “Omaha’s most stunning beer backyard” first marketed steak dinners in 1937. Proprietor Anthony Piccolo Sr. married into the Caniglia household, when he married Grace. The restaurant’s piccolo participant neon signal was put in within the Nineteen Sixties.

Italian Gardens at 1228 S. Sixth St. recovered from being firebombed two days earlier than Benna Marcuzzo was to open the household tavern in 1934. It closed in 1968 and the constructing loved later life because the Continental delicacies Café de Paris.

Sam Nisi’s “internationally identified” Sparetime Café, the place diners might choose their steaks (as highlighted within the Saturday Night Submit), opened in 1939 at Fifth and Pierce Streets. The household moved the Sparetime to 703 S. 72nd St. (the previous Angelo’s Studio Inn, 1956-1962), bought it in 1971 and repurchased the unique web site in 1978. It closed in 1982.

Different multi-decade steak homes that opened within the Nineteen Thirties included Cantoni’s Grill, nineteenth and Leavenworth Streets (1936-1982) and Little Frank’s (1938-1974), which began at 2918 N. sixteenth St. and moved to Seventh and Pacific Streets.

After World Warfare II and meat rationing, the subsequent wave included Caniglia’s Pizzeria and Café (later the Authentic Caniglia’s Italian Steakhouse, 1946-2005) at 1114 S. Seventh St. Cirino and Giovanna Caniglia launched Omaha to pizza.

Jack Holmes Steak Home, 5002 Heart St., was a favourite of the Omaha Knights hockey crowd. Frank and Marguerite Vairo opened it in 1946, then bought after a yr to Holmes. He continued its charcoal-broiled steaks (it claimed to be the primary on the town) and barbecued meats over “hickory embers” from 1947 to 1963. Nuncio Pomidoro then operated it for 3 years as Nuncio’s.

Johnny’s and Jerry’s Drive-Inn (1949-1955) at thirtieth Avenue and Bedford Avenue has been one of many few Black-owned steakhouses and maybe the primary. It had a full-time orchestra and was one in every of North Omaha’s jazz hotspots.

One other strip for steaks was growing alongside Dodge Avenue, and later branched off on 72nd Avenue as Ak-Sar-Ben Thoroughbred horse racing started drawing out-of-state bettors. Oh, that parade of buses each weekend from Kansas Metropolis within the Nineteen Seventies into the Eighties.

The primary was Inexperienced Gable Inn (1933-1950), which grew to become Kenny’s, 7205 Dodge St. (1950-1988), the latter operated by Kenny and Edie Jensen and Kenny’s sister Bette Edwards. The Jensen’s father, O.C., ran the Elmwood Dairy on the Crossroads land and obtained the Kenny’s nook (the positioning of the longer term metropolis library) in an change with a Realtor whose household couldn’t pay its milk invoice in the course of the Despair.

Already on Dodge at 76th Avenue had been the Wishbone (1936-1957), which was transformed for Todd’s Drive-In; at 78th Avenue, Frank Vocelka’s Membership Home Inn (1933-1959); and at one hundred and tenth, Cliff’s (1946-1971). The New Tower Inn’s Eiffel Tower Room with its “scorching corn-fed steaks;” opened later within the Nineteen Fifties. A brief-timer was the Florentine Café (later Gardens) at 200 S. 72nd St. (1946-1948), which billed itself as “Omaha’s Most Lovely Italian Restaurant.”

Down 72nd Avenue previous Kenny’s, Eli Caniglia’s Venice Inn was subsequent at 6920 Pacific St. (1957-2014). Amongst those that entertained within the Cascade Lounge — it had a sunken bar, stage and indoor waterfall — had been comedians Rowan and Martin. Davey “Nostril” Daring was the in-house comedian eight months a yr who introduced within the headliners on the Ak-Sar-Ben member reveals.

Ross Lorello left Ross’ Villa at 111 N. thirteenth St. to open Ross’ Steak Home “on the strip” at 909 S. 72nd St. (1956-1996). Its options included a stained glass mural and imported Italian marble fountain. Keep in mind the 2 big Hereford heads on the Ross’ signal? These went up in 1964. Product of fiberglass, every was 10½ ft between the horn suggestions and 9½ ft excessive. The letters spelling “Ross’” had been 8 ft excessive and the signal required 1,000 mild bulbs.

011822-owh-new-anthonys-3 (copy)

Mike Gurciullo repaints the large steer atop Anthony’s Steakhouse in 2017. The steer was moved to Columbus after it bought at public sale earlier this yr.

At F Avenue was Anthony’s (1967-2022). Tony Fucinaro’s signatures included Johnny Ray Gomez within the lounge and the plastic steer that was put in on the restaurant roof within the early Nineteen Seventies. The steer bought for $45,000 at public sale to a truck cease in Columbus, Nebraska, earlier this yr.

The final survivor on 72nd Avenue is the Drover at 2121 S. 73rd St. It opened because the Cork ‘N Cleaver in 1970 and was renamed in 1977. To the delight of whiskey steak lovers, the Drover was rebuilt after a fireplace in 2018.

However steak homes within the golden period had been in any respect compass factors round city.

One of the vital beloved was Mister C’s, 5319 N. thirtieth St. (1953-2007). Beginning in 1964, Sebastiano (Yano) Caniglia and his spouse, Mary, remodeled Caniglia’s Royal Boy drive-in (initially Marshall’s) right into a 1,400-seat steakhouse with its uncountable Christmas lights and Italian dioramas, strolling musicians, minestrone soup (however not on Thursdays and Saturdays) and Mister C himself.

Vacation journal chosen the Fuel Lamp, thirtieth and Leavenworth Streets (1961-1980), as one in every of America’s excellent eating places in 1966 and 1967. It by no means reopened after a fireplace. Down the road at thirty eighth, the Fireplace (1954-1975) had its Cameo Room and Pirate’s Dan after it took over the 11-Value Grill area.

Al Caniglia had the Drawing Room, 4845 S. 132nd St. (1971-1991) and Caniglia’s World on the twenty eighth ground of the Woodmen Tower (1974-1984). Wayne Sealy was the artist-in-residence at each as a caricaturist. Don Battiato’s and A.C. Incontro’s Tomahawk Inn, 8823 Maple St. (1964-1980) had a two-story eating room.

A yr aside in opening and a mile aside, are Brother Sebastian’s and Jerico’s. Loren Koch opened Brother Sebastian’s Steak Home and Vineyard in 1977. Destroyed by fireplace in February 1996, it reopened eight months later. Jerry Foster began Jerico’s Prime and Wine Lounge in 1978. Chuck DiDonato operated Jerico’s from 1989 till his demise in 2014.

In Waterloo, Farmer Brown’s Supper Membership was the unique identify for the steakhouse going sturdy since 1965. Earlier than Farmer Brown’s the constructing was residence to Seltz’s (1963-1965) and Zimmerly’s. Throughout the village was Harr’s (1971-2007), which Sol Haar moved from Fremont.

With Buffett favorite Piccolo’s now closed, other area restaurants hope to fill the gap (copy)

Longtime Warren Buffett favourite Piccolo’s has closed since final yr’s Berkshire Hathaway assembly. That meant that reservations for an additional Buffett selection — Gorat’s at forty ninth and Heart Streets — crammed up even sooner than standard this yr. New this yr at Gorat’s will likely be a root beer float — a tip of the cap to Piccolo’s, the place Buffett typically loved the deal with.

Former bootlegger Louis Gorat and his spouse Nettie opened Gorat’s at 4917 Heart St. on Columbus Day 1944. Louis Jr. — “Pal” — and his household ran it for years till they bought to Gene Dunn in 2012. Omaha billionaire Warren Buffett has been a frequent diner, as he was at Piccolo Pete’s.

Cascio’s Steakhouse (copy)

In April 1946, Cascio brothers Joe and Al, seen right here in 1993, opened the steakhouse at its present location.

Al and Joe Cascio opened Cascio’s Grille at 1620-22 S. tenth St. on Might 1, 1946, in a constructing that housed a drug retailer and upper-floor residences. Al had been profitable working the Rinky Dink Bar and Grill at 1916 S. Sixth. Joe had a tavern at 1703 S. tenth. The current restaurant is far bigger than the 200-seater that was destroyed in a four-alarm arson fireplace in March 1978.

Johnny’s Café dates to the Prohibition-era soft-drink parlors (wink, wink). From our archives, which do differ with household legend, Frank Kava (Kawa) opened his first one in 1922 at 4516 S. twenty fourth St. throughout from South Excessive College. By 1927 he had moved nearer to the thirsty packinghouse staff at 4636 S. twenty seventh St. and “the reputed South Omaha ‘beer baron’” was nonetheless there as of 1932.

Johnny's Cafe (copy)

It’s best to go to South Omaha’s Johnny’s for the steak. However you also needs to go to have an Previous-Normal within the kitschy bar the place bar stools are saddles and a bull’s head on the wall has glowing purple eyes. For the historical past lesson on Omaha meals within the restaurant’s foyer. For the unbelievable décor within the eating room. And don’t overlook the onion rings, my private favourite.

Between then and December 1934, Kawa moved his enterprise (now in a position to promote liquor legally) throughout the road to atop the George Hoffman packing plant constructing. Johnny’s Café — the identify is claimed to have been on an indication already on the constructing — began with a small bar, 4 tackles and a lunch counter. He expanded the restaurant thrice earlier than his demise in 1955, with the packing plant nonetheless working under it. Sons Jack and Tom upgraded Johnny’s to a proper restaurant in 1966.

In its tribute story to Kawa in 1961, the South Omaha Solar wrote that Kawa was “the person usually credited with pioneering Omaha’s popularity as a steakhouse city.” Need early proof?

Wrote New York syndicated columnist Dale Harrison (who had labored in Omaha) in Might 1939: “Went for dinner to Johnny’s Cafe in South Omaha, for it neighbors the good stockyards and I might not journey to date with out feasting on Omaha Porterhouse. New York has wonderful steaks, for the selection cuts are shipped east, however none may very well be higher than that I had at Johnny’s at half the New York worth.

“Consuming, I used to be disturbed by two cowboys who obtained nice enjoyment from discharging .38 caliber pistols underneath my chair, the flames leaped foot from the barrel. A policeman wandered in, noticed the gunman, smiled tolerantly, and wandered out. I coaxed the westerner to let me fireplace his gun, and once I had it in hand I blazed away merrily at his ft; whereupon he shouted in alarm: ‘Hey! You’ll burn my legs!’ To which my sneered reply: ‘It makes a distinction whose legs get scorched, doesn’t it?’ I might hardly end the meal, so choked was the room with gunpowder fumes.”

Right here’s to Johnny’s, celebrating its centennial yr. And to all the opposite Omaha-bred steak homes previous and current. Depart the weapons at residence, they usually’ll provide the knives.

Pospisil: Truck traffic through Florence business district a decades old issue

That concept to maneuver site visitors from thirtieth Avenue has been bandied about for the reason that Nineteen Thirties.

Stu Pospisil: Visits with Santa traditionally a big deal for Omahans of all ages

Many Omahans of a sure age bear in mind visiting Santa at Toyland within the Brandeis division retailer. The custom dated to the 1900s when J.L. Brandeis and Sons had been the proprietors of the Boston Retailer.

Benson Theater renovations bring memories of other area movie houses

The Benson and the Hanscom are solely two of the greater than 70 theaters that sprung up outdoors downtown Omaha in the course of the first half of the twentieth century. The bulk opened — and closed — in the course of the period of silent movies. 

Omaha's auto history boasts 2-cylinder, 2-horsepower motorized carriage that topped out at 15 mph

Omaha’s first auto membership, fashioned in 1902, included 20 of the town’s 25 auto homeowners. Their first exercise was a highway rally to Blair and again.

Ballroom dancing, Ol' Blue Eyes and 'Bubbles' at the Chermot in Omaha

Have a look again on the historical past of the Chermot Ballroom and a few of the huge names that performed there.

New Tower Inn's distinctive look, location made it a popular nightlife destination

The New Tower’s entrance foyer had a Normandy fortress motif with nice stone partitions, heraldic crests and wood-burning hearth. The huge beams and lofty ceilings carried over into the Crest Eating Room. 

Closed now for nearly 30 years, Peony Park was a center of fun for generations

A era of Omahans — and newcomers to the town — probably are unaware that Peony Park, the foremost amusement spot from the Nineteen Thirties by way of 1994, was at 78th and Cass Streets. 

Discovering the history of Omaha's oldest cemeteries

Pardon the pun, however one other of my deep digs has turned up forgotten burial grounds throughout Douglas County.

Curo Springs in South Omaha a fountain of local history, legends

The celebrity of Curo Springs was so far-reaching that in pioneer days — each fall and spring — folks from 100 miles away (some crossing the Missouri in crude boats) would come to load up with the water.

Books abound on Omaha's rich history

Listed here are some books regarding Omaha and Nebraska historical past, many by native authors, to take a look at.

A familiar story: Flooding of creeks in Omaha proved troublesome during pioneer times as well

They had been the dual banes in Omaha’s pioneer years. Considered one of them got here again to life in the course of the nighttime deluge that hit the world final weekend.

Remembering when back-to-back windstorms damaged old Ak-Sar-Ben hangar

The Omaha Chamber of Commerce was ready to take away its $35,000 hangar — inbuilt modular sections — till the town was able to construct a municipal airport. Then got here back-to-back windstorms.

Omaha's racing history centered around Ak-Sar-Ben

Analysis has turned up a juicy nugget — the whereabouts of the burial web site of Omaha, the Triple Crown horse in 1935. Trace: there are folks resting each night time on prime of it.

Keystone remains one of Omaha's most unique areas

Keystone has change into the identify utilized to the world bounded by 72nd and ninetieth Streets, Maple Avenue, Army Avenue and Fort Avenue. It has expanded since Keystone Park was platted in 1907.

One man's quest mistakenly linked Omaha to the Oregon Trail

Ezra Meeker’s campaign is credited for reawakening consciousness of the Oregon Path within the early twentieth century. Within the course of, he erroneously linked Omaha to the path and others took his phrase for it.

1920s ads touted Venice as a 'summer resort,' but it ended up as the Nebraska city that never was

An Omaha actual property agency had the concept within the heyday of the ’20s that it might promote 1,500 cottage tons platted away from the lakes and the Platte River. So what occurred?

A glimpse at Omaha’s Black history pre-1880

Try a glimpse of Omaha’s Black historical past earlier than 1880.

How the Old West Omaha was won: 1874 property line feud ends in shootout

The Dan Parmelee-Tom Keeler feud, which included an Previous West shootout on the outskirts of previous Elkhorn in December 1874, left Keeler useless and made information nationwide.

Big screen under the stars: Area's drive-in theaters were popular entertainment, now experiencing revival

Within the Nineteen Fifties and Nineteen Sixties, Omahans had their choose of drive-in film theaters. Automobiles with households and vehicles with teenagers — some watching the movie and others, properly, you realize — aspect by aspect, wired audio system hanging inside a automotive door.

In 1890s Omaha, 'No Man's Land' was one of the oddest places in Douglas County

Clontarf by no means was included as a village, however functioned like one and wielded political clout bigger than its 47 acres. There was a lawless ingredient, too.

In Omaha's suburbs of 1880s, failed factory town of Mascotte could have used a lucky charm

‘Mascotte was a giant joke but it surely appeared good whereas it lasted.’ The village had a manufacturing unit, railroad depot, lodge, common retailer, college and about 40 cottages. By 1915, it was all gone. 

Omaha history: The demise of Dead Man's Curve, McArdle Mill and the Arch where lovers kissed

West Dodge Street has been rebuilt time and again. And alongside the best way, the Previous Mill space has misplaced its mill, its hazardous Useless Man’s Curve and probably the most stunning bridge within the county. past/stu-pospisil-knives-out-for-a-look-back-at-omahas-steak-house-history/article_da8c1430-2f81-11ed-bd0b-9beb00aaacd1.html