A brief history of Omaha steakhouses, past and present

Omaha’s history with steak dates back a century. Now, as the oldest restaurant in Omaha, Johnny’s Cafe, celebrates its 100th anniversary, we take a look back at the steakhouses of old and tell the stories of those still serving red meat.

Now Closed

Trentino’s

Years: 1933-1976

Address: 1001 Pacific St. 

The Pirruccello family moved to Omaha from Sicily and opened Trentino’s. It later became Angie’s. 

Original Piccolo Pete’s

Years: 1933-2015

Address: 2202 S. 20th St.

Grace Caniglia married Tony Piccolo Sr. and together they founded Piccolo Pete’s in 1934. Their son, Tony Jr., ran the steakhouse, and then daughters Donna Sheehan and Dee Graves took over in 1999. They operated Piccolo’s until it closed in 2015.

In 2021, Scott Sheehan, Tony’s grandson, reopened a new version of Piccolo’s in Papillion, near First and Washington Streets. He also runs a Piccolo’s food truck.

Marchio’s

Years: 1939-1985

Address: 4443 S. 13th St.

Louis Marchio, an Italian immigrant, ran Marchio’s in Omaha for decades. His grandson Jeff Marchio runs Marchio’s Grill in Fort Collins, Colorado, using some of the family’s recipes. It is now Howard’s Charro.

Original Caniglia’s

Years: 1946-2005

Location: Seventh and Pierce streets

Sicilians Cirino and Giovanna Caniglia introduced the city of Omaha to pizza. Cirino started an Italian bakery on the site in 1920, and it was also the location of Caniglia’s Pizzaria.

Mr. C’s

Opened as drive-in in 1952, became Mr. C’s in 1970-2006

Addresss: 5319 N. 30th St.

What began as Sebastiano and Mary Caniglia’s drive-in called Caniglia’s Royal Boy eventually morphed into the enormous Mr C’s, which at its height could seat 1,400 diners both inside and out.

Ross’ Steakhouse

Years: 1956-1996

Address: 909 S. 72nd St.

The family who owned Ross’ decided to close rather than sell it to a non-family member.

Eli Caniglia’s Venice Inn

Years: 1957-2014

Address: 6920 Pacific St.

Nuncio “Eli” Caniglia opened Caniglia’s Venice Inn, and his sons, Jerry and Chuck, started working there as children and ran it until it closed.

Anthony’s

Years: 1967-2022

Address: 7220 F St.

Anthony “Tony” Fucinaro Sr. started his namesake restaurant in 1967. An adjacent lounge, the Ozone, opened in 2005. A fiberglass steer on the roof made Anthony’s an Omaha landmark. It announced its plan to close in early 2022.

Angie’s

Years: 1977-2007

Address: 1001 Pacific St.

Angie’s closed after owners Jim and Karen Bonofede ran the steakhouse for more than 30 years. The site had been home to a restaurant since the 1930s. 


Open

Johnny’s Cafe

Opened 1922

Address: 4702 S. 27th St.

Frank Kawa opened Johnny’s as a bar in 1922, and turned it into the icon it is today. Members of the Kawa family, including Frank’s son Jack and his daughters, Sally Kawa and Kari Harding run it today.

Gorat’s

Opened 1944

Address: 4917 Center St.

Louis S. Gorat and his wife, Nettie, opened the restaurant in 1944. Their son, Louis N. “Pal” Gorat, and his wife, Shirley, took over the restaurant in 1960. In 2012, the Gorat family sold the restaurant to Gene Dunn, who remodeled it, restored its historic sign and updated its menu. Dunn sold the steakhouse in 2019 to current owners Jimmy and Tammy Chen.

Cascio’s

Opened 1946

Address: 1620 S. 10th St.

Brothers Joe and Al Cascio opened the steakhouse at its current location in the 1940s after running the Rinky Dink Bar and Grill. Most of the dishes the brothers came up with more than 75 years ago are still on the menu today.

The Drover

Opened in 1968 as Cork and Cleaver, rebranded in 1979

Address: 2121 S. 73rd St.

The Drover became known for its salad bar, one of the first in Omaha, and still attracts customers from across the country with its whiskey-marinated steak. It closed temporarily but then re-opened after a fire in 2018.

Brother Sebastian’s Steakhouse & Winery

Opened 1977

Address: 1350 S. 119th St.

Owner Loren Koch, inspired by Spanish monasteries in California, opened Brother Sebastian’s in Omaha with a “rustic abbey” theme. Servers wear dark robes and, in the parking lot, guests are greeted with Gregorian chants, and each small dining room has its own fireplace. The restaurant burnt down in a 1996 fire, and it reopened 8 months later with the same look and feel.

Jerico’s

Opened 1978

Address: 11732 W. Dodge Rd.

For years, the late Chuck DiDonato ran Jerico’s, known for its prime rib and dining rooms full of Nebraska Cornhusker memorabilia. He purchased the restaurant in 1989.

By Sarah Baker Hansen

Sarah Baker Hansen launched her own food website covering the food scene of her hometown, Omaha, in 2020. She works as the Director of Public & Media Relations at Emspace + Lovgren. For eight years, she was the food critic at the Omaha World-Herald. She started the periodic Food Prowl series, wherein she created teams of tasters and found favorites in a number of categories. The series resulted in close to 40 “best of Omaha” winners, including Reuben, fried chicken, ice cream and more. She won a 2015 Great Plains Journalism Award for best review and a 2017 Great Plains Journalism Award for best feature.

12 Comments

Thank you so much for the trip down memory lane and for letting me know that Brother Sebastian’s is still open, I had no idea!

My dad was a sheet metal man for one of the sign companies in Omaha back in the day!
He had a part in many of these restaurant signs! Thanks for this story!

Al Caniglia’s Top of the World at Woodman. Cantoni’s on 19th and Leavenworth. Ted’s Steak House in Florence. Farmer Brown’s in Waterloo.

Left off Kenny’s Restaurant o. 72nd and Dodge. Originally started as Green Gables in the 40s and rebrands Kenny’s in the 50s. Owned by Kenny and Edie Jensen and co owners Betty and Joe Edward’s. Closed in the 90s when the property was sold to developers.

You’re missing Italian Gardens on 6th and Poppleton. Louise Salerno parted with her sister, Helen Firmature from Trentino’s and opened Italian Gardens around 1963. It was a steakhouse with hand-cut steaks and Italian food. Italian Gardens closed around 1970. My great-grandmother Louise Salerno was in the restaurant business for 67 years.