What to do for dinner? How about a petite restaurant in a casino? Not the coffee shop or the buffet … ciao a tutti, Café Alfresco. With a revamped menu, this eatery sits next to the buffet on the Atlantis’ main casino floor. This casual lunch and dinner spot has a friendly, efficient wait staff and a warm, open feeling. The menu is creative, with more than comfort food, and prices ranging from $7.99 to $15.99.
In the ever-changing, ever-challenging culinary chase, as chefs explore the roots of many cuisines and try to define unique styles, comes the advent of fine-dining comfort food restaurants that feature more careful cooking and presentation, higher quality and fresh organic ingredients—that’s Café Alfresco in a nutshell.
Executive chef Bob Katausky is a master of the menu, and room chef Telma Calderon oversees preparation. The offerings take you around the world in 80 ways from spicy Thai crunch salad ($10.99) to Southwest Santa Fe chicken ($10.99) to Cajun pasta ($14.99) to brick oven pizzas, and then there is plenty of Italian mangiari.
I started with chicken Parmesan sliders ($9.99). Three two-inch-round breasts, lightly breaded and fried, were topped with a house-made Southern Italian-style marinara and mozzarella cheese on fresh buns. Piping hot, the taste of the Roma tomatoes used in the sauce with the usual Italian seasoning suspects defined the bites, and the cheese was the kicker, but it wasn’t overwhelming. The breast was moist with a notable ever so slightly sweet tomato flavor.
The Atlantis Classico ($15.99) is simple but elegant. It’s spaghetti embedded with 50-cent-size shrimp and nickel-size scallop, and they were plentiful. The sauce was white wine, butter, garlic, parsley and finished with some cream. This is not a sauce you can prepare and leave in a steam table. It’s fix-and-serve to order or you get no flavor. It had a rich, garlicky nose and finished with a creamy richness that held everything together. It had a velvet texture binding everything together.
Wines-by-the-glass range from $4.50 to $15.50, and one of the best wine guys in this town, Atlantis Sommelier Christian O’Kuinghttons, makes this a fun list with good prices. I went Italian with the Alois Legeder “Riff” Pinot grigio ($11.50).
This Pinot grigio reflects the expertise of acclaimed winegrower Alois Lageder and the wines from vineyards in the northern part of the country—acknowledged as one of Italy’s prime regions for quality white wines found on the sloping hills leading to the Alps. It had a brilliant, straw-yellow, color with a subtle green tint, a very fine, fruity nose with apples and peaches aroma, a clean, elegant, grape flavor, a light to medium body and a fresh, mouthwatering finish. Every drink made way for another mouthful of food flavors.
If you’d like a beer, there are 20 to choose from—domestic, microbrews and imported ($4.75 to $5.25)—and a fun selection of Alfresco coolers ($4.00), Italian-inspired cocktails ($8.00) and espresso coffees galore ($2.99-$4.49).
Did I mention dessert? Sinful gelato, rich and creamy Italian ice cream in 16 flavors made fresh daily—you see it in a refrigerated case the minute you walk in—one to three scoops ($3.49 to $4.99). So there you have it: affordable, varied and flavorful, with free valet parking … bella serata!