When Nero’s debuted at Caesars Atlantic City nearly 20 years ago, it was one of the best steakhouses in a town with just a handful of options.
So needless to say, Nero’s has changed, adapted and certainly kept pace with its competition. Now named Nero’s Tuscan Steakhouse, the restaurant transcends typical steakhouse fare to offer New American cuisine that is heavy on great cuts of meat, but certainly has something for everyone.
“Over the years, there have been so many changes. Morton’s came in. Our gourmet Italian restaurant Primavera closed, and Atlantic Grill opened right next to Nero’s. So the need for two steakhouses just wasn’t there,” Executive Chef Keith Mitchell says. “So we maintained the core of what our guests wanted, but we made it more creative. And I think we really evolved to become an amazing restaurant not just for our players, but for locals.”
Without compromising Nero’s reputation, the restaurant incorporated some of Primavera’s most popular dishes when the Italian restaurant closed about two years ago.
So those looking for Italian will find it, including the signature crispy veal chop primavera ($46) topped with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese; linguini and clams ($26) with local clams, white wine, toasted garlic and chilies, served red or white; rigatoni Bolognese ($26); and handmade ricotta gnocchi ($26) with fresh tomatoes, basil and parmesan.
“It made some sense marrying the two restaurants,” Mitchell says.
“Even though we have Italian and other great options, we are still a steakhouse,” says Restaurant Manager Betty McHugh, who has worked at Caesars nearly 25 years. “We added Italian, but people still want steak. What makes it great is that people can have the best of both worlds here, but the main attraction is the steaks and meat.”
What separates Nero’s from some other steakhouses in town is Mitchell’s desire to offer as much local produce and source as much local seafood as possible.
“In the summer, we probably used 75 percent of local produce for our dishes,” Mitchell says. “And we change seasonally. So when there are fresh carrots, we have them. When beets are at their peak, we have them, too, and the same goes for squash, tomatoes, corn … you name it. And we’re working with local fishermen to acquire the best fish and shellfish we can find.”
That includes the seared Cape May scallops ($15.95) with golden raisin, pine nut/caper salad and white wine sauce for an appetizer; baked clams ($15.95) with roasted sweet peppers and pancetta; and the crispy fried local oysters ($17) with warm sweet corn edamame hash, tarragon and bacon aioli.
Then there’s the items made in house, including homemade burrata mozzarella ($10.95) simply served with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and fresh basil; and artisan pastas served as specials.
But the focus is still on the meat, with standouts including the 20-ounce dry-aged prime T-bone ($51), the 14-ounce New York strip ($51) and the Colorado lamb chops ($47).
“We were holding to prime, but we realized guests were looking for a great value and a great cut of beef — prime didn’t matter — so we went to smaller producers and farms to find what we were looking for,” Mitchell says. “The New York strip, for example, comes from a small farm in Nebraska that has all grass-fed cattle with no chemicals. And you can taste that grassiness in the meat.”
Unlike most local steakhouses, Nero’s offers rubs and marinades for their meats at no extra charge, including sun-dried tomato pesto, balsamic red pepper glaze, caramelized cipollini onion and gorgonzola cheese, and the signature Tuscan, a mix of Italian seasonings dried in house including marjoram, thyme and basil.
“And what we really enjoy is offering customers things that are different every time they walk in,” Mitchell says. “So this weekend, we are bringing in some duck and venison for specials. I think when you come here, it’s hard not to find something you will like.”
The experience of Nero’s is what really puts it over the top. Whether you sit on the patio side of Nero’s that offers an ocean view or inside the dining room, which is a masculine, almost royal classic steakhouse, the ambiance is only overshadowed by the service, including the hospitable McHugh and servers who have been at the restaurant since it opened, such as house favorites Roger Morales and Donna Lindblad.
“I think when you come in here, you get that feeling that everyone knows everyone and people keep coming back,” McHugh says. “People are at each other’s tables talking because they see each other every week. And if you’re a first-time diner and I don’t recognize them, I ask them and we give them extra special attention. We will send something out to make them feel special to make sure they come back again. And a big part of that is our servers; most of them have been here since we opened. And they do such a fabulous job. People come here just to see me and our staff. It’s like family.”
Looking for the best buffet brunch in Atlantic City? There’s no better than Nero’s Sunday brunch. Served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $49.95, the brunch includes a carving station with lamb chops, prime rib and a fresh fish; a waffle and crepe station with fresh toppings; an omelet station featuring omelets made to order, including specialty omelets of the week; sushi; caviar; bagels with lox and whitefish; a raw bar featuring oysters, crab legs, shrimp and more; and various breakfast and dinner entrees including filet mignon. Plus, Bloody Marys and mimosas are included in the price. “It’s all you can eat and drink,” Restaurant Manager Betty McHugh says.