Article by Mary Napoli and Photography by Martin G Meyers
Joe and Rene Cascio have revived the family business with Cascio’s Chateau, a venture which pays homage to the family restaurants that preceded it.
The Cascio family has spent decades providing locals with incredible food in an amazing atmosphere. Chances are you have pulled up a chair at one of the family’s successful restaurants to celebrate a special occasion, go on a first date, or enjoy breaking bread with those dear to you. Inspiring memorable moments and creating traditions for their guests has become a Cascio family tradition.
Joe and René Cascio have revived the family business with Cascio’s Chateau, located on historic Louisville Avenue. Their newest venture pays homage to the dearly loved family restaurants that preceded it—the original Chateau, owned by Victor Cascio, father to Joe and a beloved Monroe icon, and Cascio’s Tavern, which locals have sorely missed since its doors closed a few years past.
Joe Cascio was born into the restaurant business, as was his father before him. The family business began in the 1940’s when matriarch Josephine Cascio served her traditional Italian fare at the Spaghetti Garden near DeSiard’s Five Points. Her children followed suit as adults and found success with their own ventures, namely the Italian Village, the spectacular Paragon Club, and the Chateau. Joe learned every aspect of the business from his father, Victor, and Uncle Tony, but found his partner in business and life with his charming and beautiful wife, Rene. Together, they have passed their knowledge on to their three sons, Joe David, Carter and Ben.
Cascio’s Chateau seems to encompass all the magic of the original Chateau and Tavern, but Joe and Rene have somehow managed to exceed the already high expectations with this dining experience. Located in the space that many locals will remember as the Brandy House, this dining destination is stunningly chic and undeniably elegant. Rene has gone to great lengths to design the richly colored space to provide a comfortable atmosphere among the extensive Tiffany glass lighting and handsome woodwork.
“Eddie and Joseph Hakim provided us with such a beautiful palate in this location. We had such a lovely, interesting space to work with, and we knew it would be a special place,” explains René.
Although the location is new, the menu features many dishes that have stood the test of time and carried over from the original Chateau and Cascio’s Tavern. Guests will recognize the Artichoke DeSiard, made with fried artichoke hearts topped with fresh white lump crab and hollandaise sauce, the classic “Josephine” Italian salad, the Cascio’s wedge salad, and the ever-popular Chateau Crawfish Enchiladas. The longevity of Cascio’s success in multiple restaurants is its well balanced menu, which includes ample choices of tempting appetizers, salads, pasta dishes, grilled steaks and pork, burgers, nightly specials and delicious desserts.
Chef Matt Fisher leads the kitchen in offering traditional dishes, as well as creating new and exciting menu items. Fisher, who has roots in Louisiana and Florida, favors imaginative, savory dishes and has a particular passion for fresh seafood. His culinary talents shine through in his inventive additions to a menu already stacked with tried and true favorites.
Lunch at Cascio’s Chateau offers guests beautiful salads, satisfying sandwiches and po-boys, and smaller versions of dinner favorites, such as house-made lasagna and chicken parmigiana served over angel hair. However, there are several scrumptious lunch items that are only available for the mid-day meal. One of the most popular dishes is Cascio’s southern fried chicken, made from a decades-old recipe that very few hands have mastered. Served with a thick slice of buttery cornbread and flavorful collard greens, this dish is one to remember. New to the restaurant’s roster is the summer chicken salad, a dish that Rene Cascio was passionate about perfecting. Tender shredded chicken is combined with apricots and cranberries and served with fresh seasonal fruit. Marbled rye toast points accompany the salad and balance the sweetness of the fruit. This delightful chicken salad has become so popular that it is offered in containers for guests to purchase.
Cascio’s Chateau offers a wide variety of items to please almost any palate, but the fresh seafood and steaks steal the spotlight.
Joe Cascio understands the importance of a quality cut of beef and takes pride in offering prime grades to customers. Cascio’s serves beautiful barrel-cuts of filet mignon, as well as a 12-ounce prime grade ribeye. This special ribeye is not to be confused with a prime rib. This beef has been raised on a special diet that produces an incredible grade of marbling that any steak lover would be impressed with. The fine grained beef features a smooth texture and deep flavor that is instantly recognizable.
“The natural marbling of the prime grade ribeye produces a buttery texture that practically melts in your mouth. As far as I know, we are the only restaurant in town that offers a prime ribeye,” says Joe.
All steak are available with an array of toppings including Bearnaise sauce, fresh lump white crab meat, gourmet bleu cheese, or the “Imperial” topping of Louisiana Gulf shrimp and fresh lump crab meat. Despite these tempting toppers, Chef Fisher prefers a more traditional approach.
“When it comes to steaks, I’m a purist. An excellent cut of beef is at its best when it is seasoned and grilled. Compound butter also brings out the flavor,” he explains.
Cascio and Fisher are clearly passionate about consistently offering the highest quality food available to their customers. The restaurant serves only fresh gulf fish–never frozen. The vast majority of available restaurants offer fish from across the globe that has been processed and frozen. It is easier, has an infinitely longer shelf life and is far more cost effective than ordering fresh filets. The Cascio family, however, understands there are no shortcuts to quality. The restaurant receives fresh fish multiple times a week, and the types vary depending on what is most fresh.
“Trout and snapper are very popular (with guests), but we adapt the menu to create dishes around the freshest possible options,” says Chef Fisher.
Cascio’s famous “Snapper Tony” is a menu staple that remains a favorite from the days of the original Chateau. The often-requested dish is served fried or pan seared and topped with fresh lump crab meat and butter sauce. In addition to the snapper, Cascio’s offers other seafood dishes that have remained popular with guests throughout the years. The Trout Amandine, which is also prepared with fresh grouper, features a rich Creole Meuniere sauce and toasted almonds. The Blackened Redfish with Tony Sauce includes crab meat, red bell peppers and green onions combined in a rich, butter-based sauce. Although the menu changes often, there is never a shortage of tempting seafood dishes, like the Mediterranean Amberjack, which is served over sauteed spinach and topped with artichoke hearts, red peppers, olives, feta and lemon zest.
“We usually feature three different types of fresh fish a week, and if we get something unusual for our menu, I get to do something really creative,” explains Chef Fisher. “Recently, I was able to offer a ceviche dish. I also made a swordfish steak with a sriracha sauce and a cucumber raita,” which was no doubt enjoyed by guests willing to eat a little more adventurously.
ans of the jumbo fried shrimp from the original Chateau will be pleased to know that this dish has also crossed over. These shrimp are butterflied and battered in a distinctive cornmeal mixture and fried golden brown. Another seafood favorite from the original Chateau was the Fettuccine a la Michael Mahaffey, which was named after the son of a friend of the Cascios. At the time, the young man had a particular idea of the pasta he wanted to order, but it simply wasn’t on the menu. Always up for a challenge, the kitchen created the dish with the particular elements that Mahaffey was craving–fettuccine alfredo tossed with sauteed crab meat, shrimp scampi and garlic and herbs.
One of the many things that Joe Cascio learned from his father was the importance of service and providing a pleasurable dining experience for each individual seated at their tables. Joe wants every guest to feel at home and comfortable enough to ask for their order to meet their desires.
“Nothing on our menu is pre-made. We make each individual order as it comes in so that we are able to create each order the way that customer wants it,” explains Joe with sincerity. “If someone wants their dish with something that it’s not usually made with, we want them to feel comfortable to ask for it. We can adjust almost anything. We want it to be special, and we want them to have what they want.”
This sort of personal service is impressive and endearing, but also very rare. The Cascios run their restaurant as though each customer has a special seat in the dining room of their personal home. Requests are welcome and encouraged, but most of the time, the delicious dishes seem perfect as they are.
No menu would be complete without a sweet end to the meal. The restaurant offers beautifully crafted desserts, such as a delicate creme brulee, incredible cheesecake and bread pudding with spiced rum and raisin sauce. The “Sin Cake” is undoubtedly the most requested dessert. This dark, dense flourless chocolate cake is decadent and rich. Traditionally, the cake is served with raspberry sauce in an intricate and eye-catching design that blankets the slice. However, it can also be served with a more inventive accompaniment–extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Guests may think twice before ordering, but it does not disappoint. Anyone who enjoys the flavor of sea salt and caramel will delight in this dessert. The subtle amount of fruity and fragrant olive oil combined with sea salt work beautifully with the deep chocolate flavor of the cake. This version of “Sin Cake” is not to be missed.
In addition to providing patrons with a fantastic menu of high quality dishes, it is important to the Cascio family to make their guests feel completely at home in their restaurant. They have created an atmosphere that is elegant, yet comfortable and chic, but not stuffy.
“We want everyone to feel comfortable to mix and mingle,” says René Cascio, “especially on Friday nights.”
To kick off the weekend, the restaurant features live music from local artists starting at 7 o’clock. Josh Madden, one of Monroe’s favorite musicians, regularly entertains guests with his enviable talents. Rene has designed the dining room to include a small dance floor near the music, which is near the bar. This encourages guests to traverse freely about the area, socialize with friends and move to the irresistible music.
“Friday nights are great because people can enjoy wonderful food and drinks with great music from great musicians like Josh Madden, Josh Love and Lisa Spann. People don’t feel anchored to their tables and can move around to see friends and enjoy really the atmosphere. You’re never too old to have a good time!” says René.
To add to the festive Friday atmosphere, Chef Fisher has created a “late night menu” only available after 9 o’clock. The dishes featured are designed to share and pair with cocktails or other libations.
“The small plates are easy to share with friends and orders can be customized for the guest’s needs,” says Fisher.
This special menu includes items like house-made andouille corndogs, decadent pimento beignets, flavorful hummus with a tomato tapenade and golden brown crab cakes. One of the most popular selections is the sliders plate, made up of a mini version of the Chateau burger, crab cake, and BLT. Guests can mix and match any combination for a trio of sliders.
Although the late night menu is only available on Friday nights, Cascio’s consistently offers amazing new specials and seasonal dishes. They also enjoy reviving old favorites like the Shrimp Diane, which fans of the original Chateau will remember is a delectable combination of angel hair pasta, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and tender shrimp in a spicy red sauce. Find their Facebook page by searching “Cascio’s Chateau” to get current information on special menu items and events.
Like the other brilliant restaurants in the family, Cascio’s Chateau is destined to add another chapter in its illustrious culinary history. With a diverse menu, intriguing atmosphere, and impeccable service, this restaurant is certain to be the favorite of another generation of Monroe residents.
Cascio’s Chateau is located at 2001 Louisville Avenue. Find them on Facebook or reach the restaurant at 318.325.0384.