Before Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City was renovated and enlarged into the resort it is today, its main boardwalk-facing building was a luxury hotel called Haddon Hall. Constructed in the 1920s, the hotel has undergone so many alterations over the years that it’s difficult to find any traces of its past. But if you head up to the second floor’s restaurant level, plenty of historical touches are still there, including some rather ornate woodwork. For history buffs like myself, these Boardwalk Empire-era architectural details were certainly a find, but the pièce de résistance is the hotel’s ornate grand ballroom, which today has been reborn as Capriccio, an Italian restaurant at which we had the opportunity to dine for both dinner and brunch during a recent stay at the hotel.
The large restaurant is divided into four distinct spaces: a modern wine bar and lounge area called Cielo, a main dining room with a high, gently barrel-vaulted ceiling and murals of Renaissance Italy street scenes inside elaborate wainscoting, a sunlit room with high arched windows looking out to the boardwalk and ocean beyond, and an outdoor patio also overlooking the boardwalk.
When we arrived for dinner, we were seated at a large semicircular booth, with plenty of room to spread out. Looking around, the crowd in the full dining room seemed to be mostly comprised of older regulars, families, and groups, and the maître d’ presided over the space with a fair amount of panache, shaking hands with each guest (he seemed to know all of them) and making sure that every table was well-taken care of. Service was classic old-school Italian, and our waiter was a friendly and professional, a clear “lifer.” A couple well-made cocktails set the stage for what was shaping up to be a very nice meal.
Sadly, those hopes were dashed as soon as the food started to arrive. A platter of cold antipasti, chosen from a selection of 11 accompaniments, amounted to two smallish slices of prosciutto, a few slices of sopressata, a couple slices of mozzarella, and a small hunk of Grana Padano. At four dollars each, we were expecting a little more than what we got. Thin-sliced carpaccio di manzo ($19) had a nice foundation of raw filet mignon, but we were a little confused by the decision to top it with citrus salad and orange vinaigrette, which didn’t play very well with the beef; some shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of olive oil would have done just fine. For our entrées, we ordered the pork chop ($34) and tortelloni romagnoli with brown butter, sage, and parmesan ($28). The pork chop, which the waiter implored me to order medium, was instead served well done with a small pile of undressed arugula, with only a small trace of browning from the grill. It was nicely seasoned, but was surprisingly small for the price.
The tortelloni arrived in a pool of butter that lacked any discernible nutty “browned” flavor, and was topped with a token sprinkling of dried ground sage and a small amount of cheese that mostly found its way onto the side of the plate instead of onto the pasta itself. We could only muster a few bites before being overwhelmed by the richness. Thankfully, the meal was saved by dessert: an individual chocolate soufflé that was light, chocolatey, and perfectly accompanied by a vanilla crème. It’s possible that we ordered the wrong things, but either way we probably won’t be returning for dinner.
The lackluster dinner experience was, however, totally vindicated by brunch the following Sunday. Capriccio’s brunch buffet is easily one of the city’s best, and visiting the restaurant during the day, when the sun is shining through the huge windows, is the best way to experience the space. The bar/lounge area is transformed into a huge buffet, with lots of different stations from which you can serve yourself a very impressive array of dishes.
A carving station of perfectly medium-rare prime rib and ham as well as made-to-order omelettes greet diners just outside the main entrance, and the several dozen other options include an assortment of breakfast meats, pancakes and waffles, smoked salmon eggs Benedict, breakfast pastries, fresh fruit, shrimp cocktail, Jonah crab claws, freshly shucked Kusshi oysters, sushi, a dozen types of prepared antipasti, Italian meats and cheeses, grilled lamb chops, Italian sausage with long hot peppers and onions, roasted vegetables, Chinese dim sum, mini French dip sandwiches with provolone and broccoli rabe, blueberry crêpes, veal Milanese, trofie pasta with hazelnut sauce, and a huge selection of bite-size desserts. Unlimited Bloody Marys and mimosas are also an option, the servers were very attentive and made sure our plates were cleared and glasses kept full, and the afore-mentioned maître d’ was once again presiding. It’s a pretty good deal at $49.99 per person; I’ve seen comparable buffets that cost nearly double that. There’s just one thing to keep in mind: Come hungry.
Capriccio has one of the most beautiful dining rooms (with one of the best views) in Atlantic City, and even though dinner had more misses than hits in our experience, service and ambiance are great, and it offers one of the city’s best brunch buffets.