Ever since Resorts Casino Hotel opened its doors in 1978, Capriccio has been offering diners gourmet Italian cuisine. And there’s a reason it’s still there.
Capriccio is one of the most consistently satisfying Italian experiences in the city. So many Italian restaurant concepts have come and gone over the last 35 years, but Capriccio reigns as the oldest casino restaurant in Atlantic City because if Resorts management took it away, its customers might revolt.
“Ever since Resorts has been here, it has always been an Italian restaurant,” says Mark Sachais, vice president of hotel operations. “I obviously haven’t been here the whole time, but I know the food has always been great and it’s a concept that has never gone out of favor with our customers. It’s always been a favorite and has developed a very loyal following over the years.”
One of the amazing things about Capriccio is that little has been done to the restaurant’s décor since it debuted. Sure, there have been some minor tweaks and adjustments, but the restaurant’s classic, classy, elegant décor complete with marble, towering pillars, soft color palette and white linens remain unchanged, and the waiters and managers still dress formally to remind diners they are somewhere special.
“The ocean view is amazing and the atmosphere is just great,” Sachais says. “With a friendly and professional staff, it’s just a business model that has withstood the test of time. The room just has so much character. You don’t feel like you’re walking into an old, worn-out restaurant. You feel like you are walking into a beautiful place with a lot of history.”
Restaurant Chef Steve Klawitter, a Resorts employee for 20 years, has been running the culinary side of Capriccio for about nine years, continuing to produce excellent food from a kitchen that has been helmed by some of South Jersey’s finest chefs. Klawitter’s job — like his predecessors — is to please longtime fans of the restaurant while attracting some new ones.
Capriccio’s latest offering is a dynamite tapas menu served in its beautiful bar. Featuring about a dozen items priced between $12 and $15, the creative menu offers smaller Italian plates than people may be used to inside Capriccio’s dining room. However, Klawitter is quick to note that these aren’t just smaller portions of the regular dining room; most are brand-new creations.
“There’s only one item that’s on both menus,” says Klawitter, noting the gnocchi with ground sausage, broccoli rabe, roasted peppers and mushrooms in a garlic cream is the only duplicate. “It’s just a smaller version but people love it so much that I thought I should have it on both. Like the rest of the tapas menu, it’s all homemade and prepared fresh. I think the tapas menu is a great way to utilize the bar space. The menu is paired with wines and hopefully we can get a crowd in there.”
There are some familiar ingredients on the tapas menu. For example, Capriccio’s famous veal ossobuco ($54) with red wine, tomato and demi-glace over saffron risotto on the regular menu is offered differently on the tapas menu. So is the calamari ($16), which is served on the regular menu with red cherry peppers, garlic chips and basil and drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar.
“On the tapas menu, we have (short rib) ossobuco sliders, shredded and placed on a slider roll with pickles, red onions and roasted peppers,” Klawitter explains. “And the calamari is the same, fresh-cut calamari that is lightly fried, but served with a different, peperoncini butter sauce.”
Of course, there are some unique additions, too, such as the pesto-marinated shrimp dusted in seasoned breadcrumbs with oven-roasted lemon and Romano cheese; arancini made with Arborio rice, mozzarella, bits of fresh tomato and beef; a fried meatball made from veal, pork and veal; grilled margarita pizza; clams casino; and lightly-breaded sautéed asparagus topped with melted mozzarella and fresh tomatoes.
“We wanted to make sure the tapas menu offered items that you can only get in the bar,” Klawitter says.
“I think the overall strategy at Resorts is to enhance the guest experience across all aspects of the operation, and we thought the tapas menu was clearly an opportunity to take the front bar, which was an underutilized asset, and provide a fine-dining experience without the fine dining prices,” Sachais adds. “We think tapas is a trendy thing that has the ability to drive some incremental, new business.”
The tapas menu should also be a way to tease diners and lure them into the dining room on another occasion. And they won’t regret it. Certainly pricy but worth it for the right occasion, the Capriccio dining room experience begins with the maitre’d Jorge Romero, continues with excellent service from his wait staff and keeps getting better from there.
“Servers have been here for so long that they all have special requests from customers,” Sachais says. “But I think that’s prevalent throughout Resorts. Everywhere you go here, there’s that sense of family and closeness, and it’s those people that have helped Resorts — and Capriccio — stand the test of time.”
Klawitter admits there are some staples he can never take off the menu, including the ossobuco; the Seafood Zuppetta ($45) with lobster, scallops, shrimp and crabmeat simmered in olive oil, red onion, garlic, crushed red pepper and served over linguini; the veal Saltimbocca ($36) layered with prosciutto, fresh sage and mozzarella placed on mushroom polenta with fresh spinach and finished with white wine; and the Italian long hot peppers ($16) stuffed with sweet sausage, aged provolone and mozzarella cheese.
“There are crowd favorites that have been here a long time that have a certain wow factor,” Klawitter says. “But we do our best to change the menu and keep things trendy, too.”
The latest menu changes, for example, added quite a few meat dishes due to customer demand, including a 16-ounce sirloin ($57) with pepper bacon, roasted red onion, fennel and potato in a white wine demi; a second ossobuco, this one made from short rib, is topped with toasted pine nuts, horseradish, mushrooms and tomatoes and served over polenta; and a center-cut veal chop ($48) crusted with gorgonzola cheese, with Madeira wine, broccoli rabe, spaghetti squash and potato custard.
Being one of the best Italian restaurants in the city means making some of the eight pasta dishes with homemade pasta made on premises, including the gnocchi and the homemade ravioli ($25) stuffed with chicken and prosciutto served with asparagus, pesto, tomatoes, parmesan and bread crumbs.
“We infused some American influences into the main menu, but the focus is clearly Italian,” Klawitter adds. “People just love this place.”
A less-expensive Capriccio
Aside from the relatively inexpensive tapas menu, Capriccio is offering two other ways to eat there on the cheap. For starters, Capriccio will offer a great menu for this year’s Atlantic City Restaurant Week from March 3 to 9, where a three-course dinner can be had for $33.13. But you can always feast on Capriccio’s “Candlelight Dinner for Two” for $75 year-round. The three-course menu includes a choice of soup of the day or Capriccio salad, then diners choose from five entrees such as linguini with clams, red or white; chicken Francese; veal parmesan with linguini; orecchiette pasta Bolognese; and a 6-ounce filet mignon with smashed olive oil potatoes, Italian parsley, red pepper, onion and celery leaf. Then choose from three desserts: dark chocolate bread pudding with marshmallows and banana-scented Anglaise; vanilla, chocolate and espresso gelato or raspberry, lemon and blackberry sorbet; or Meyer Lemon Semifreddo partially frozen, sweetened lemon and wild berry sauce.
Brunch at Capriccio
Offered 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Capriccio’s Sunday brunch for $44.95 is an amazing experience — and one of the few Sunday brunches in the city — that includes a full array of breakfast, lunch and dinner items. The brunch is a hybrid of upscale buffet and table service. Order eggs Benedict and cheese blintzes from your server, but also indulge in the buffet, which includes a giant dessert station; an omelet station with made-to-order eggs; a carving station with prime rib, honey-glazed ham and more; a waffle station with an assortment of toppings; dinner items that include everything from filet mignon to lamb and seafood medley; breakfast staples such as french toast; a raw bar with oysters, clams, shrimp cocktail, caviar, ahi tuna, sushi; an antipasti bar with meats, cheeses, salads and more; and an Asian section.