Top 5 Facts About Cag's Open Hearth Restaurant
A prime lot that once stood in the shadows of an old railroad trestle that was a spitting distance from Idle Hour Country Club became a "tradition of elegance" for many Macon residents. During Cagliostro’s 17 year reign, he set the bar for fine dining and exemplary customer service in Macon with his fine dining restaurant Cag's.
1. Angelo Cagliostro Begin His Career As A Chef For The Army During WWII
Brooklyn, N.Y. native Angelo Cagliostro was stationed here in Macon after the military used Camp Wheeler as an infantry replacement center from 1940 to 1945. Cagliostro, a pure bred Italian Yankee, was chef for the 331st Officers Mess in WWII. At the height of the training effort, the camp contained 17,000 trainees and 3,000 cadre personnel. While in service at Camp Wheeler, Cagliostro met and married his wife, Lt. Mildred Thompson who was an Army Corps. nurse. After his military career, Cagliostro left a restaurant he was managing in NYC to come back to Macon to run the Elks Club.
2. Cag's Open Hearth Opened in 1965
In 1965, after his time with the Elks Club, Cagliostro opened his own restaurant named Cag’s Open Hearth near Will and Betty Woodford’s former restaurant known as the Whistle Stop Café. The Whistle Stop Cafe once was a very popular hangout for Mercer and Wesleyan students located at the intersection of Napier Avenue and Forsyth Road. From tablecloth dining to take out dinner service, Cagliostro offered the best dining tradition in Macon during his 17 years in business.
3. Cag's Open Hearth Receives National Attention in 1974
After 10 years of executing one of the finest menus in town, Cag’s famous Neptune Casserole received high acclaim in 1974. Ford Times Cookbook listed Cag's Neptune Casserole in their nationwide publication as well as naming Cag’s one of four top restaurants in Georgia alongside Pitty Patts in Atlanta, The Cloister at Sea Island and Tassey's Pier in Savannah. (We've included the famous Neptune Casserole recipe below)
1 Cup Wine Bechamel Sauce ( a white roux made with half milk and half white wine.)
16 cooked medium shrimp
8 oz cooked lobster meat
1 cup chopped mushrooms
6 oz flaked crab meat
Mix all the ingredients with the sauce and divide into 4 individual casseroles and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 325F for about 30 minutes until sauce starts to simmer. Use cooked seafood because raw seafood will cook in the oven it can add more moisture, making the sauce runny.
Photo - Kathy Eremchuk Johnson
4. Cag's Set The Bar High For Fine Dining in Macon
During Cagliostro’s 17 year reign, he set the bar for fine dining and exemplary customer service in Macon. Couldn’t make it out for dine in service? No problem. Cagliostro offered his entrees for take-out. Your order was cooked and placed not in to-go boxes, but on white china wrapped with cellophane. When you were finished with your meal, Cagliostro would tell customers to leave the dishes by the back door if no one was there; and yes everyone would return the dishes. Cagliostro would keep his restaurant door bolted, which allowed his staff, bartenders and the Maître’d to make sure that each customer was greeted and taken care of immediately from the time the door opened ensuring that patrons were not standing around waiting.
5. Cag's Best Traditions Could Not Be Replicated
After the death of Cagliostro and the 1979 attempted burglary that resulted in the death of Charlie Threace, the restaurant’s long time handyman, Cag’s Open Hearth shut its doors for good in April 1982, but not before 1,000 Cag’s patrons bought $30 memberships for Cag’s “gourmet dining club” that boasted a 2for1 dinner offer that was never fulfilled. Because Cag’s was located on prime real estate that backed up to residential neighborhoods, the building did not sit vacant long. Restaurateur Dick Price wanted to avoid any competition and opened up Park Place in the old Cag’s building across the road from his Main Street restaurant, which was located in the Rivoli Crossing Shopping Center. When Park Place opened, Price would not honor Cag’s dining club memberships that were purchased and two months after Park Place opened, Price closed the restaurant one Saturday night and vanished. That very same year Macon native John Erbele hoped to revive the fine dining experience with his restaurant The Villa, and Erbele even honored the “gourmet dining club memberships” previously purchased by Cag’s patrons, but unfortunately The Villa's went out of business leaving the the corner for fine dining empty.