Casa Di Napoli is one of those Atlantic City restaurants that many may take for granted. It’s hard not to. The Italian staple has been at the Showboat Casino-Hotel since it opened in 1987 and has always been known for providing an upscale yet traditional ethnic experience.
And while there have been many Italian restaurants to open over the years, Casa remains one of the most reliable go-to options in town. Why should you give it another look? Two words: Carl Colucci.
The Atlantic City veteran chef, who has helmed some of the best kitchens in town including the former Le Palais at Resorts Casino Hotel and various restaurants at the former Trump Marina and Golden Nugget Atlantic City, is back in an Italian kitchen where he belongs, churning out some of the most authentic Italian cuisine you will find in town.
“Carl is amazing,” says Food and Beverage Manager Aspasia Bournousouzis. “To him, it’s all about making everything from scratch, and that’s the way it should be.”
Bournousouzis isn’t exaggerating. Colucci and his staff make all of the restaurant’s pasta in-house, including the spaghetti in the spaghetti and meatballs ($21); the ricotta ravioli ($27), sometimes made with osso bucco or even butternut squash as specials; the bucatini for the Bolognese ($22), made with veal, beef and sausage; and even the spinach fettuccini, also offered as an occasional special.
“As I do with most places that I go to, I try to incorporate a little more traditional cooking with a from-scratch approach,” Colucci says. “It’s about making as much stuff in-house as possible, using my training to make the restaurant something special, something more personable.”
That also means making all of the sauces from the bottom up, whether it’s the demi for the roasted lamb chops ($39) with goat cheese Mezzaluna and lamb Bolognese; the ragu for the chicken or veal parmesan ($31, $34); or any of the Italian sauces on the menu in the 100-seat restaurant.
“Casa has always been part of the Showboat brand and it has never changed in the sense that it has that old-world Italian feeling as soon as you see the wrought iron, but it’s all very classy, very upscale despite it being very rustic and making people feel like home,” Bournousouzis says. “And that translates to the menu, as well. That’s why you see dishes that everyone knows. It’s a very traditional menu because that’s what people like. They want fresh pasta and chicken parm. But it has to be authentic.”
For starters, popular items include the crispy-fried calamari ($14) with hot cherry peppers and marinara; arancini ($16), which are traditional rice balls made with a twist at Casa since they are stuffed with crabmeat instead of cheese; and the classic mozzarella en Carozza ($14), fresh mozzarella stuffed inside Italian bread and pan-fried.
The pizzas ($13, $14) also are popular among groups who like to share appetizers. There are three different styles offered in the eye-catching, gas, brick oven, but Colucci is particularly excited to soon offer a version that will include mascarpone cheese, ricotta, prosciutto and arugula salad on a new menu that will debut within the next month. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Colucci also personally makes the dough for the pizza daily.
Other must-try Casa items include the orechiette pasta ($24) with broccoli rabe, toasted garlic, dried red pepper and house-made Italian sausage, the bronzino ($38) with potato puree, broccoli rabe and caper berries; the salmon ($33) wrapped in prosciutto with black pepper risotto, spicy black mussels in a chianti reduction; the red snapper ($39) with crabmeat puttanesca and homemade pasta; grilled veal chop Paillard ($49) with potatoes, onions, melted leeks and fresh lemon; and the 16-ounce ribeye ($42) with Italian long hot peppers and roasted tomatoes.
As noted, Casa, managed by Jeffrey DeClement, will roll out a new menu that will include items Colucci has been wanting to add since he joined the staff last April, including seafood risotto with scallops, shrimp and crabmeat made a little differently because it will have a little bit of vegetable broth for a different flavor profile from a classic risotto; pepper-crusted salmon with a yellow beet sauce; rack of lamb with goat cheese ravioli and lemon zest simmered in a lamb ragu; and striped bass with roasted cauliflower, a raisin sauce, capers, chardonnay and herbs.
“Up until now, I took the existing menu and tweaked things to make it more of my style,” Colucci says. “But I am able to add some new things to the new menu that we have been running as specials for a while.
Unlike many gourmet restaurants in town, Casa’s entrees are served with a starch and vegetable so diners don’t get nickel and dimed with a la carte ordering.
“It’s pretty unusual for gourmet restaurants in town these days,” Colucci says. “But I think a lot of what we do is unusual, particularly because we are making everything from scratch. We are one of the only casinos left that has a butcher, so we take advantage of that. And we also have an amazing pastry chef and kitchen that makes all of our desserts in-house. They even make our own focaccia bread. No one does that anymore. We take great pride in what we do.”
Desserts at Casa Di Napoli
Don’t’ leave without trying the desserts ($8) made by Executive Pastry Chef Deb Pellegrino and her staff, including a great take on the classic tiramisu with mascarpone mousse filled with a pocket of coffee sauce and lady fingers; the chocolate hazelnut crunch bar with a chocolate buttermilk cake, hazelnut mousse and hazelnut meringue; New York-style cheesecake with a graham cracker crust; cannoli, including house-made cannoli shells fried fresh with homemade cream, pistachio, lemon and chocolate; and the cookie platter with ricotta cheese cookies, biscotti, chocolate amaretto chip cookies and more.
Casa prix-fixe deal
Want to try Casa Di Napoli on a budget? No problem. Offered 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Mondays to Wednesdays, the $39, three-course meal includes a choice of Caesar salad or soup of the day; entree choice of shrimp fra diavalo with jumbo shrimp sauteed in a spicy marinara sauce over fresh pasta, red snapper puttanesca with fresh pasta or chicken parmesan; and either tiramisu or hazelnut crunch bar. The menu changes seasonally.