The Casino File: Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse at Golden Nugget AC; New Gordon Ramsay at Caesars; Ocean upgrades

Salvatore Spena, general manager of Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse at Golden Nugget Atlantic City, in front of part of the restaurant's extensive wine inventory.

Chuck Darrow

The Casino File: Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse at Golden Nugget AC; New Gordon Ramsay at Caesars; Ocean upgrades

The old-school beefeteria, Vic & Anthony's, regularly shows up in surveys of the town’s best eateries.

Earlier this week, the lifestyle website Stacker reported that a TripAdvisor survey of the top 30 fine-dining salons in Atlantic City had Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse at Golden Nugget Atlantic City in third place. More to the point, no other carnivorium scored higher. Only the venerable Dock’s Oyster House and list-topping Italian outlet Capriccio at Resorts Casino Hotel outpaced it—a not insignificant feat considering the competition includes such heavy-hitters as Ruth’s Chris, Old Homestead (Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa) and Morton’s The Steakhouse (Caesars Atlantic City).

This latest ranking parrots similar polls that have found the 12-year-old Vic & Anthony’s to be a favorite of AyCee visitors. So how, in a town filled with big-time steak-centric restaurants, does this one rank among the most lauded?

“I think the overriding factor in our success is superlative food and the ingredients that we use,” offered Salvatore Spena, the room’s general manager. “But I think our service is second to none. I have the most professional staff in the city. They meet all of your expectations and exceed them every time you're here. They get to know you, what you like, what you don't like. We really enjoy taking care of our guests and making them feel as if they're the only ones in the room at that point in time.”

The staff obviously takes its cues from Spena, who has been running the show at V&A’s since last October. He described himself as an “old school” operator who, unlike many in his position, prefers working the room to staying in his office.

Spena suggested that another factor in his joint’s ongoing popularity is the restaurant’s corporate parentage. The Golden Nugget, like it’s siblings in Las Vegas and Lake Charles, La. is owned by Landry’s Inc., celebrity billionaire Tillman Fertita’s restaurant-focused hospitality-industry behemoth (its brands include Morton’s, Chart House, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse).

“It gives us the power and the backing of a very large company, but the ability to run an intimate restaurant as if it wasn't part of a large corporation,” he said. “They allow me the wherewithal to do things here in Atlantic City that a Vic & Anthony’s in Lake Charles or Las Vegas or Houston wouldn't necessarily do. We tailor our cocktail list, our wine list and certain things to our general demographic, and what our guests here enjoy.”

But comfort level and operating philosophy can only go so far in the rough-and-tumble restaurant realm. The bottom line, of course, is what comes out of the kitchen. At Vic & Anthony’s, that begins with USDA prime meats and continues through dishes that are anything but “cookie-cutter.”

Case in point: the appetizer featuring maple-glazed quail finished in a sriracha sauce. The easiest way to describe it is as an uptown chicken wing, but that would be like calling a Maybach just a “car:” The perfect blending of heat and sweet with the gamier-than-chicken quail makes this dish a must-taste.

Spena is also proud of the (almost filler-less) crabcakes and the oysters, which, like a lot of the items, are locally sourced ("Right off Margate beach,” is how he put it).

As for the eatery’s raison d’etre, there are a number of cuts available, but Spena is partial to the 22-ounce bone-in ribeye. He suggested they are best accompanied by the creamed spinach and au gratin potatoes.

Unsurprisingly, the price points are not for the budget-minded. But it’s difficult to imagine anyone walking away from the table feeling they didn’t get their money’s worth from the low-key, unpretentious room located on the Nugget’s second-level main concourse. And should something not meet your approval, Spena insisted your opinions will be taken seriously.

“It’s like [Fertita] says,” he reasoned, “There are no spare customers. Everybody means something to us. And I always tell our staff we always want to be a little bit better every day; sometimes we're gonna fall a little short, but we learn from what our negative was and we turn that into a positive the next day.”

A ‘Hell’ of a restaurant

AyCee’s dining scene promises to heat up this summer as celebri-chef Gordon Ramsay is bringing a slice of his TV empire to Caesars.

As first reported by our buddy Scott Cronick in Atlantic City Weekly, the Terror Of the Tube will be opening an outlet of his burgeoning Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen chain in the space that was once occupied by Planet Hollywood and later the Dusk disco.

The eatery, which already has locations in Vegas, Lake Tahoe, Nev. and Dubai, is inspired by the British mega-chef’s popular Fox network competition series of the same name. As such, its open kitchen—which will allow diners to watch the stove jockeys at work--will feature the program’s red/blue color scheme.

According to a Caesars press release, Hell’s Kitchen is “designed to be an experiential and immersive destination restaurant [where] guests…will feel transported to the studio set. The inspiration from the hit show is evident throughout all three levels of the restaurant from the signature fiery pitchfork that marks the entryway to the chef uniforms and menu items.

“To further bring the electric atmosphere of the studio into the dining room, additional key elements of the show are infused in the design, such as fire, heat and custom-designed lighting that combine brass rods with pitchfork features that run across the high ceilings.”

Based on the bill of fare offered at the other outlets, the menu is expected to include such dishes as steak tartare, golden beet salad, pumpkin soup and beef Wellington.

Hell’s Kitchen will be Ramsay’s second Caesars dining room, joining Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill. He also does business at Gordon Ramsay Steak at Harrah Resort Atlantic City.

No opening date has been set.

Ocean announces last casino redo project

The final phase of Ocean Casino Resort’s $25 million upgrade of its casino floor is on its way.

When it opens this summer, The Gallery Bar, Book & Games will provide guests with an amenity-laden gaming-and-partying area. The features of the 12,000-square-foot, bi-level space include:

  • A 100-foot-long, elevated bar with 26 seats and 12 built-in slot machines, 33 drink rail seats.

  • Blackjack and roulette tables.

  • 55-foot, 43-foot and 42-foot LED walls for sports viewing.

  • Six sports-betting stations.

  • A 17-foot open-air staircase that leads to Balcony Bar, a smaller, more intimate drinking spot.

  • Customizable lighting.

Still on Ocean’s docket is the completion of more than 400 hotel rooms that weren’t part of the casino-hotel complex when it opened as the ill-fated Revel in 2012.

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