By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
Outside the historic, Mediterranean-style building is a fenced patio lined with rosemary where people are dining al fresco. We enter under a bright red awning that reads, “Life’s a ball,” in lowercase letters. Inside the ambiance is black, white, red, and fun all over. Pristine Alabama white marble and mirrors cover the walls. The humorous focal point is a large painting on the right wall of a faceless woman dressed in black and white polka dots with a head made of spaghetti. Below is a bright red banquette and rectangular white tables topped with the marble. On the opposite wall is a TV mirror, and round marble-topped tables dot the dining room surrounded by white swivel chairs with red leather seats. The bar is situated on the back wall lined with white leather barstools. Cashio’s is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Cashio’s Meatball Market is owned and operated by the Cashio family, whose roots reach to Sicily, but Mary Susan Cashio is a native of Vestavia Hills. Growing up her Sundays were spent around the table, where her “Grandma Angel’s” meatballs were the highlight of the meals. After graduating from the University of Alabama and moving to New York City, she yearned for her family’s succa sauce and eventually decided to move back to Birmingham to open a restaurant to serve the food she grew up loving. Grayson Taft serves as head chef and “master of meatballs.” Taft also brings his pastry skills to the kitchen, which show in his tiramisu, cannoli, and seasonal crème brulee, and general manager Stephen Butler brought 20 years of restaurant experience with him from his hometown of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
As we take our seats at the window table, we are provided menus and black markers. There are no preset plates here. We mix and match our options as we please. From the appetizer and salads section, we bubble in Bruschetta and Mozzarella Balls and Prisma Sauvignon Blanc, and from the meatballs and sauce section, we choose one type of meatball and one sauce, Cashio’s Classic Beef and Classic Cashio’s Family Recipe Sauce with Bucatini. Among the sandwiches, we select three sliders paired with Stella Artois beer. And for dessert, we bubble the cannoli, tiramisu, and chocolate martini.
The tray of bruschetta arrives filled with five crisp pieces topped with diced fresh red tomato and firm slices of mozzarella, drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette. It pairs well with eight golden balls, oozing with hot, melting mozzarella and served atop a bed of lettuces drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette and Cashio’s Family Recipe Sauce for dipping. Our entree of three large beef Cashio’s Classic Beef Meatballs rests atop ribbons of bucatini, topped with Cashio’s Family Recipe Sauce, with two slices of bread. The balls are moist, finely textured, beefy, and full of flavor. The pasta is cooked to perfection.
Both the amount of sauce served and the sauce’s mild flavor do not overpower the star of the plate—the meatballs. The slider buns are freshly made, and each has its own style. The chicken and pesto is highly recommended, and the three-cheese sauce and catfish meatball slider are also incredible. But vegetarians do not miss a thing as the veggie ball heats up the plate dressed in this spicy sauce. Both our sides are made of pasta shells. The pasta salad is a dark and delicious, acidic a mix of onions, olives, and balsamic vinaigrette. And the mac and cheese is a bowl of white creamy, cheesy heaven. The chocolate martini is the perfect pairing for our dessert of a crisp and creamy cannoli and a dreamy, never-had-better tiramisu.