‘Dimes Square’, aka the Two Bridges, the Lower East Side, or Chinatown, has been the talk of the city. As a variety of restaurants and cocktail bars have opened here, Casino has become the “it” spot for socialites, influencers, and New York City foodies alike.
The term “casino” defines a small country villa, summerhouse, or social club, as this is a creative play on the Italian root word casa (house). The restaurant’s name hints at the upbeat, socialite-friendly vibe. It occupies the former Mission Chinese space, once a trailblazing pioneer in the NYC culinary scene. Once Owner Aisa Shelley discovered the building was up for rent, he instantly jumped on the opportunity to house Casino in this iconic space, which happens to be close to his other culinary ventures: the chic watering hole Mr. Fongs, and Primo’s, located inside The Frederick Hotel in Tribeca.
Chef Ken Addington is the mastermind behind Casino’s menu. Addington is known for providing an understated elegance with every plate, and an elevation of traditional rustic dishes. Casino’s menu features seafood selections reflecting the growing trend of Coastal-Italian cuisine, which isn’t limited to the Italian coast but encompasses the entire Mediterranean coast (Sicily, Venice, Ibiza, and France). On the menu, you’ll find mouthwatering dishes such as lobster Cioppino Casino, a seafood casserole topped with shrimp, mussels, clams, black bass, crab, and lobster, in addition to a variety of pasta dishes, as well as roasted vegetables.
I had the pleasure of dining at Casino with one of my really good friends. We started the evening with the wood-fired prawns and the Nduja Bread. The wood-fired prawns were coated with a garlic and Calabrian chili sauce, which was buttery, savory, and full of tremendous flavor. The prawns were also very tender and juicy when bit into. A heavenly start.
The Nduja Bread’s texture reminded me of a salty rather than sweet monkey bread, it was dense and chewy—the bread absolutely melted in your mouth. A side of Calabrian chili honey butter was available for spreading, which gave the cloud-like salty bread a sweet and delectable touch, which sat well on my palate. Nduja is a soft, spreadable fermented pork salume, spiked with fiery Calabrian chilies which provides the meaty, spicy, umami taste in the bread.
After the wood-fired prawns and Nduja Bread, we ordered two entrees with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts: the Pappardelle pasta dish and the dry-aged duck breast. The Pappardelle was mixed with a smoked lamb black-garlic sugo, which is another great Italian red sauce creation that matches up well with pasta. The Italian translation for ‘sugo’ is juicy, sauce, or gravy. Sugo is a variant of the Bolognese ragù and marinara sauce, which is prepared differently depending on the region of Italy it’s being made in. The black garlic also gave the dish a mature and fruity taste. You also can’t forget to top a pasta dish with cheese. With this in mind, the pappardelle was topped with Fiore Sardo, a cheese known as Pecorino Sardo, which is a semi-hard, smoked cheese made from raw sheep’s milk and lamb rennet.
The dry aged duck dish is rubbed in licorice and drizzled with a roasted fig vin cotto. The licorice rub gave the duck a sweet and tangy taste, while the fig vin cotto—a versatile condiment that goes with roasted meats, carpaccios, grilled fish, and more—provided a rich and smooth balance. We also accompanied the duck with roasted brussel sprouts, which were coated in a succulent garlic confit.
Lastly, we ordered a dessert called the Paris Brest. This dessert reminded me of an ice cream cronut sandwich, as it consisted of two flakey Choux pastry pieces stuffed with salted pistachio ice cream, and amaro-chocolate sorbet, topped with pralines. It was crunchy, sweet, and comforting all at once.
Now, let’s talk Casino’s decor. It is known and safe to say that Casino is Manhattan’s “Riviera without the beach, where everyone looks good and feels even better.” The interior evokes nostalgia and en-vogue through its choice of traditional cafe seating and bold use of bright red in its larger furniture as well as flooring. The dining room could seat about 70 people. When passing the dining room and walking down a couple of steps, you’ll spot another cocktail lounge that will be used for private events and could seat about 30 people.
The restaurant space was designed by Camilla Deterre, a downtown NYC model who designs restaurants on the side. When Deterre designed Casino, she wanted to make a space that felt transported rather than reliant on hard geometry for its shapes and movement. As a result, she refers to Casino as “a tangible space” for genuine coastal-Italian cuisine. Indeed, Casino is a place where one can experience an artsy vibe when going on a date night with a partner or a dinner with the girls before dancing the night away downtown.
For more information on Casino, follow them over at Instagram @casino.ny.
Casino, 171 East Broadway (betw Rutgers/Jefferson St)
Interior photos by Alex Staniloff