Cashus Italian Cuisine in West Burlington offers a menu “to die for”
WEST BURLINGTON – Leave your preconceptions about Brussels sprouts and lasagna at the door when you walk into Cashus Italian Cuisine.
The restaurant, located in the Westland Mall, 500 S. Gear Ave., offers an eclectic range of homemade Italian cakes and dishes ranging from the traditional to the more adventurous.
“Someone said you need lasagna,” Bobby “Cashus” Singleton said Monday as he carried a plate of lasagna rolls prepared by chef Kora Seitz from the kitchen to a table. “So I added it, but it’s not traditional.”
Instead, a rich and creamy spinach Florentine sauce replaces the red sauce, and the chicken, not the sausage, comes with seasoned ricotta, broccoli and shredded cheddar cheese.
It’s a combination that works.
“I had the lasagna (Saturday) and it was excellent,” said Phil Pool, owner of Omni Photography. “The Brussels sprouts are to die for. They have a pecan glaze. I’m not a big fan of Brussels sprouts, but I could eat these things like popcorn.”
After:Lee County’s new rural business sells fish, beef, cheese and more
Pool has dined at Cashus Italian Cuisine three times in the past two weeks and returned on Monday to snap photos of an assortment of entrees and appetizers requested by Cashus and Seitz, who plan to use them on their site. Web and refresh menu.
The photo shoot went off without fancy decor or fanfare, allowing the food to speak for itself.
“I just need pictures of the food,” Cashus said. “People are not going to eat tablecloths.”
The key to most dishes is the sauce.
“Chef Kora specializes in sauces,” Cashus said. “Italian cuisine is 70, 80% sauce.”
They worked together to create the menu, and Seitz, who has spent much of her life in Texas, tamed her use of spices and dabbled in sauces.
The restaurant’s signature sauce is Florentine, but there are also alfredo dishes coated in butter and parmesan cheese rather than saturated with cream.
“Roasted Garlic Parmesan is our version of Chicken Alfredo, just amped up,” Cashus said, explaining that the dish has a healthy amount of garlic and Havarti cheese, “which gives it a whole different feel.”
Weather permitting, the pasta is made there from A to Z.
“Ninety percent of what we do is from scratch,” Cashus said. “Our food takes a little longer, but that’s because we care a little more.”
In addition to seven dinner entrees and six lunch options, Cashus Italian Cuisine also offers six entrees, the most popular of which is bruschetta.
“It’s a very popular appetizer for us,” Cashus said. “We like the reaction. That’s what we’re looking for. You can tell it’s fresh, the parmesan is shaved and people are really enjoying it.”
After:Hawaiiowan Café offers an eclectic mix of Hawaiian, Asian, French and Italian cuisine in Burlington
Cashus and Seitz opened the restaurant in West Burlington about four months ago after a stint at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Burlington, where Seitz, who went to culinary school in Texas, had worked as a chef for Cashus. Now the two are partners.
“It works because … she loves the freedom to create and be in this kitchen,” Cashus said. “And I like to socialize and network and build relationships with guests.”
That doesn’t mean Cashus is never in the kitchen. His specialty is cakes. Really big cakes that cost $10 a slice, and each slice can easily feed three people.
“It’s a great little restaurant, fabulous desserts,” Della Schmidt, president and CEO of the Greater Burlington Partnership, said of Cashus Italian Cuisine.
A total of 11 cakes are on the menu, and although the selection is limited at any time, whole cakes can be ordered in advance.
“The most amazing part afterwards is the cake,” Pool said, explaining that he can eat maybe half a slice and take the rest home to enjoy later.
After:‘Pig without peer’: Columbus Junction brothers turn rare Hungarian pigs into national delicacy
From dishwasher to restorer
Cashus, a Chicago native, studied culinary arts in San Francisco, but he wanted to learn more about the inner workings of the restaurant industry.
“I wanted to learn how to function in a kitchen,” he said. “I would go to those high-end restaurants and talk to the chefs and managers to see if I could just watch and learn, and in return, I would do some work.”
He was paid in knowledge and food.
“I didn’t get money, but I got food and that was my rent,” he said. “I brought food home for my roommates and let them eat. That’s how I survived.”
After three years of couch surfing and gaining a solid understanding of running a kitchen, he turned to the front of the house and set his sights on an Olive Garden in Minnesota that was hiring cooks. chain and dishwashers. He already knew how to cook and didn’t want to get stuck in the kitchen, so he became a dishwasher and worked his way to the front of the house.
“At that time, they had a reputation for the best service in the restaurant industry at this point, so I started as a dishwasher,” Cashus said. “In seven years I had worked my way up to becoming a certified trainer and had opened 13 stores for them by the time I left.”
After:Renovation of buildings in downtown Burlington reveals rich history, and even buffalo teeth?
From Big City Olive Garden to Small Town Iowa’s Own Restaurant
After living near Minneapolis for about 15 years, Cashus met a woman from southeast Iowa who had grown tired of Minnesota winters and was moving to Mount Pleasant. Cashus moved with her and opened his first restaurant in Batavia, a town of about 430 people just west of Fairfield.
It was a small restaurant in a cafe-like setting with about five tables. The setup allowed Cashus to chat with his customers while preparing their food.
“I knew it provided a good service to this community,” Cashus said.
But owning a restaurant in a city of this size came with its own obstacles.
“Distributors wouldn’t ship to me because they felt my market was too small, so I had to learn to do everything from scratch,” he recalls.
He successfully established the restaurant as a dining destination and was selected by the Iowa Restaurant Association as the recipient of the Coralville Faces of Diversity Award in 2019.
But running a restaurant, even a small one, can be stressful.
“That’s where I died,” Cashus said. “I died in this restaurant.”
He suffered what he would later learn was his first heart attack while cooking on a Friday night. He attributed this to dehydration, so he went home, drank fluids, and went to bed.
Cashus woke up the next morning feeling fine and went to work as usual. After the lunch rush of the day, he collapsed.
He briefly awoke to see his 11-year-old son Dominick, who was playing video games in Cashus’ office, standing over him with the phone before losing consciousness again.
He woke up after paramedics arrived to find his son had put in some cash, turned off all the kitchen equipment and locked the doors.
“He did everything right,” Cashus said of his son.
Cashus also learned he needed a triple bypass.
It took Cashus about eight months to recover and return to his restaurant, and before long he had to adjust his business to survive the pandemic.
He partnered with local farms and butchers to source meat and began serving baskets of $5 take-out burgers and hand-cut fries.
This first Cashus Italian cuisine made it through the pandemic, but a challenge from a friend prompted him to move the restaurant to Burlington.
“Batavia was just too small,” Cashus said. “Someone said your food is great here, but will it work in a larger demographic. A friend of mine bet me $1,000 that I wouldn’t open a restaurant in Burlington and that I wouldn’t succeed.”
And so he did, operating Cashus Italian Cuisine out of the Comfort Inn and Suites for about a year before he and Seitz decided to partner up and find a new location.
The two aren’t sure where their restaurant might take them in the next year and are considering a possible move to downtown Burlington in the future.
But for now, it’s the perfect place to hang out at night before heading down the hall to see a movie.
Cashus Italian Cuisine is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Michaele Niehaus covers business, development, environment and agriculture for The Hawk Eye. She can be reached at [email protected]