When Ocean Resort Casino reopened the former Revel property this summer, it returned with some familiar dining spots — Amada, Distrito, American Cut — and some new offerings (Top Golf, Villain & Saint).
One new attraction that particularly stands out is Dolce Mare, a modern Italian restaurant from LDV Hospitality that combines the breathtaking ambiance of Azure, LDV’s former Mediterranean restaurant that was housed in this space, with the Italian comfort food of Lugo, which LDV also operated when Revel was open, and then kicked up to retain the fine dining experience the room demands.
Despite a gorgeous view of the boardwalk, ocean and Steel Pier and a stunning dining room complete with posh furniture, striking wine wall and one of the best private dining rooms in Atlantic City, there was something pretentious about Azure that may have not resonated with some customers, particularly repeat casino gamers.
All of that is fixed with Dolce Mare. The great décor remains. The view is even better now that the The Wheel at Steel Pier’s LED light show illuminates the skyline. The service, overseen by General Manager Ryan Coffman, is professional and welcoming, never arrogant. And the menu is more approachable, embracing the resort’s seaside charm while paying its respects to traditional Italian culture.
“When we were here with Lugo, it was a little more casual and geared toward what we perceived as a twist on Italian-American cuisine while staying true to authentic Italian food,” says Executive Chef Juliano Cannuscio, who helmed Lugo’s kitchen. “Here at Dolce, it’s more of a modern take on American cuisine. You get a little cleaner, bolder, modern take on classic dishes.”
“Azure was certainly more fine dining,” adds LDV Hospitality Corporate Chef Paolo Dorigato, who also oversees Dolce Mare’s sister restaurant, Dolce Italian in Miami. “This is more approachable, yet it still stands up to what the dining room really is, which is so beautiful. We are using food people are familiar with.”
Seafood, of course, plays a major role in Dolce Mare’s offering, beginning with a generous raw bar that includes East and West Coast oysters ($18 per half dozen), king crab legs ($24), shrimp cocktail ($19), lobster cocktail ($26) or splurge and have it all in a seafood tower — along with some ceviche — for $69.
“This Dolce is different than Miami because it’s more regional to fresh fish and seafood,” Dorigato says. “Yes, Miami is on the ocean, but we wanted to do something a little more similar to Azure because it was so successful. Miami is more of a tourist market. Here, even in winter, you see a lot of repeat customers, so we want to keep changing the menus every season and offering great specials to make sure there is always something new and interesting for guests.”
The seafood dream come true continues on the appetizers menu. Check out one of the best tuna tartare ($17) dishes in A.C. with avocado, cucumber, crispy plantain and Mediterranean salsa; the seared octopus ($19) with chickpeas, farro, red pepper hummus and ginger pistachio vinaigrette; and jumbo lump crab cakes ($24) with avocado, fennel, radish cucumbers, heart of palm, bibb lettuce and white balsamic vinaigrette brings nuance to a shore classic.
It doesn’t stop there: homemade lobster ravioli ($28) is topped with shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, asparagus and lobster sauce, while the linguine with little neck clams ($25) make a familiar dish fresh again thanks to zucchini, Calabrian chilies and a scrumptious white wine garlic sauce.
And seafood-themed entrees include a roasted Scottish salmon ($29) with grilled asparagus and fennel confit in a bouillabaisse that will have you reaching for bread to sop up the leftovers; and branzino ($36), a popular Italian whitefish served boneless with roasted fingerling potatoes, wilted spinach and “Palermo sauce,” a bouillabaisse with cherry tomatoes, capers and lemon.
But Dolce is about much more than seafood, of course. All of the pastas are made in house, and they source only the finest meats.
The beef carpaccio ($17) with crispy mushrooms, arugula, parmigiana and truffle aioli gives you a taste of the good life; Dolce meatballs ($14) are simple perfection served with creamy polenta and are as good as nearly any meatball in the city; the pappardelle Bolognese ($24) is made with a scrumptious braised beef, veal and pork ragu; both the 8-ounce veal Milanese and parmigiana ($39) are pounded thin and fried to crispy perfections; and the filet ($45) with confit potatoes, asparagus, leeks and au poivre sauce is there for the less adventurous eater.
As promised, a new fall menu will arrive soon with dishes that include a pistachio-crusted lamb chop, risotto with braised short rib, pumpkin ravioli with caramelized onion and sausage, scallops saltimbocca with turnip puree and black kale. Perhaps the most anticipated fall dish is Dolce’s play on bucatini carbonara with pancetta, caramelized onion and a poached egg on top that diners can break and mix into the already decadent sauce.
“The biggest difference between Miami and Atlantic City is that Atlantic City really has seasons, whereas it’s summer all year in Miami,” Dorigato says. “So you can really play around with ingredients. The produce is great here year-round. So the fall and winter with see heavier dishes for the season, like the braised short rib in the risotto and the egg in the carbonara and the yam puree with the lamb. That really gives chefs satisfaction. It makes it a great experience for the chef which means a great experience for the diners.”