The upscale Italian eatery is one of the town’s three oldest casino operations.
From Atlantic City’s Boardwalk to the Las Vegas Strip, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast, “new and different” are the watchwords of the gaming universe. Competition for customers is fierce and never-ending, and casinos are always on the lookout for the new and novel—especially when it comes to dining.
But just off the casino floor at Tropicana Atlantic City is where you can find a restaurant that defies that philosophy. For 38-plus years, Il Verdi, the Trop’s gourmet Italian dining room, has been feeding the gaming hall’s clientele.
Il Verdi’s first meal was served on Nov. 23, 1981, the day the Trop opened for business. Only Capriccio at Resorts Casino-Hotel, which opened in May, 1978, and Nero’s Italian Steakhouse at Caesars Atlantic City (opened June 26, 1979) can claim longer lives with the same name and location.
However, this is not to suggest the restaurant is some musty relic of a bygone era. To the contrary, Il Verdi underwent an extensive redo in 2018. Today, it is a contemporary space whose re-design brought a bar to the entrance of the T-shaped eatery, and a complete interior-design makeover. Where once stood an old-school casino restaurant there is now a sleek, modern outlet sheathed in white and highlighted by a series of multi-hued art installations. Along with a new look came a new atmosphere: Il Verde was a somewhat dim and hushed retreat. Today it’s lively and bright.
According to chef Jack Flanigan, his culinary mission is to provide guests with a broad palette of Italian dishes.
“Our philosophy is we have a nice mixture of Northern and Southern Italian foods,” said the stove jockey who’s worked at Il Verdi for more than 20 years. “We have some great cream sauces with our pastas; we use a lot of butter and cream with certain things. We're trying to make it as evenly spread out over the country as we can.”
He added that as far as regional preferences of his customers go, “It’s pretty even,” although he noted that red sauces tend to be favored on Sundays, as what’s been dubbed “Sunday Supper” has proven to be a hit with patrons.
“Sunday Supper” is a $42 (not including tax, tip and beverages) prix fixe meal featuring four courses: antipasto, salad, main course and dessert. The choice of entrees includes the Il Verdi Sunday Gravy (slow-cooked braciole, sweet fennel sausage and Mama's meatballs with San Marzano tomatoes served with a choice of pasta); Nonna’s Lasagna (layers of fresh pasta, hand-dipped ricotta, Il Verdi's Bolognese sauce, San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella with a side of meatballs) and chicken and veal parm. The “Sunday Supper” also features a $25 bottle of wine. And speaking of vino, the room boasts an award-winning selection of Italian varieties.
During a recent visit, I had an exceptional veal dish, Saltimbocca Alla Romana (veal scallopine with prosciutto, fried eggplant, baby spinach, mixed mushrooms and white wine sage butter). Because our excellent server, Brian, described Flanigan as “very accommodating,” I added melted mozzarella to the order with no discussion or problems.
My friend also went the veal route with the Long Bone Osso Bucco Milanese short rib, a Fred Flintstone-like slow-braised veal shank over saffron parmesan risotto and roasted vegetables. He has been on a quest to find what he calls the “best” Osso Bucco; it took him just a bite or two to announce he appeared to have found it.
Not surprisingly, Il Verdi is on the pricy side. However, the portions of all courses are generous (my crab cocktail was easily enough for two people, as was the Caesar salad we split).
When asked to account for Il Verdi’s nearly four decades of success, Flanigan didn’t hesitate to answer. “It’s the food,” he said with a chuckle. “I don’t know how else to put it.”
Tropicana Atlantic City, Boardwalk at Brighton. For hours, menu and reservations, click here.