Traditionally known for Italian food, Atlantic City offers wildly eclectic dining options, from well-known chain eateries to celebrity-chef destinations powered by the likes of Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Marc Forgione and Geoffrey Zakarian. In the casino resorts, you can find everything from tacos and burgers to prime rib and lobster. Downbeach communities of Ventnor, Margate and Longport also offer spots the locals love. The following is a list of favorites written up by Frank Gabriel and posted online on November 11, 2012
Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern. Located in the Italian district once known as “Ducktown” because of the livestock-keeping practices of its residents, this clubby haven serves prodigious portions of peasant food to local bigwigs. Founded in 1935, the institution has consistently offered quality marinara, clam and meat sauces. Also popular is the Steak Angelo, an homage to the late family patriarch who held court here for decades; it’s a Sicilian-style pan-seared 16-ounce New York sirloin, served with roasted peppers, black olives and artichoke hearts in balsamic sauce. 2300 Fairmount Ave at N Mississipi Ave (609-344-2439, angelosfairmounttavern.com)
Azure by Allegretti. NYC-based chef Alain Allegretti’s A.C. outpost is a stark white masterpiece fronting the blue Atlantic. Azure represents guilt-free indulgence at its most elevated. The healthful, seashore-inspired creations are derived from the traditional cooking of the toque’s South of France hometown, Nice, channeled through local waters. Sample signature starters such as Provençale Fish Soup and the house lobster salad, then move on to whole roasted fish or seared day-boat scallops with leeks, wild mushrooms and Barolo wine sauce.
Chef Vola’s. Though this hidden dining room in a private home has become accessible to the public, it’s tough to score a reservation without a referral (ask your concierge). Be prepared for long waits and tight quarters, but the fish, pastas and luminous sauces render these inconveniences trivial. You’ll need to bring your own wine, and no matter how much you consume, don’t miss house-made desserts like ricotta cheesecake so light, it practically levitates. 111 South Albion Pl between Boardwalk and Pacific Ave (609-345-2022). Cash only.
Dock’s Oyster House. Founded in 1897 by Harry “Dock” Dougherty, this classic regional seafood house is still family-owned and -operated. As the name makes clear, this is the place for oysters, with upwards of ten varietals featured daily on the chalkboard. Other highlights include the restaurant’s trio of chowders (Maine clam, crab and corn, or Manhattan), jumbo lump crab au gratin and gargantuan lobsters that weigh up to six pounds. 2405 Atlantic Ave between N Florida and N Georgia Aves (609-345-0092, docksoysterhouse.com)
Fornelletto. Situated in an underground space in the Borgata, this is chef Stephen Kalt’s diverse spin on the enoteca concept. There’s plenty of hearty fare suited for cold weather, like any one of a baker’s dozen pastas—try the ravioli del plin, stuffed with an unorthodox mix of artichoke, peas and arugula, and plated with a poppy-seed-and-montasio-cheese sauce. It’s also worth noting that among its 12 restaurants, the Borgata houses the closest Wolfgang Puck restaurant to NYC.
Hannah G’s. Chef Angel Soto offers inspired daytime fare from this tidy storefront operation on Ventnor’s main drag, just a ten-minute drive from A.C. Breakfast items are served until the place closes at 2pm, making this one of the area’s most popular brunch spots. Specialties include the secret-recipe sweet-potato pancakes, a cheese-steak omelette, and poached ranchero eggs on quinoa, topped with salsa and guacamole. 7310 Ventnor Ave between S Fredericksburg and S Martindale Aves, Ventnor, NJ (609-823-1466, hannahgs.com). Cash only.
Knife and Fork Inn. Standing at the intersection of Albany, Atlantic and Pacific Avenues, this 100-year-old whitewashed Flemish-style eatery screams landmark. Originally a private club frequented by the likes of Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, the real-life prohibition boss who inspired Boardwalk Empire’s Nucky Thompson, the Knife and Fork is owned by the same clan behind Dock’s Oyster House. The culinary focus here is divided between steak and seafood, with standouts like lobster Thermidor. 3600 Atlantic Ave between Albany and Pacific Aves (609-344-1133, knifeandforkinn.com)
Steve and Cookie’s. Formerly a “restricted” club in the 1930s, which denied entry to nonwhites and women, this zaftig eatery sprawls across multiple rooms and features two fireplaces. Owner Cookie Till is the grande dame of A.C.-area food, and her cuisine honors southern Jersey Shore heritage while staying current. Kick off your meal with the best lobster mac and cheese we’ve ever tasted, then move on to an aromatic bouillabaisse or a luscious meat loaf in onion gravy with mushrooms, peas, carrots and smashed potatoes. 9700 Amherst Ave at N Monroe St, Margate, NJ (609-823-1163, steveandcookies.com)
Tomatoe’s. This bayfront hot spot is worth the 15-minute drive south to the posh coastal community of Margate. Tomatoe’s combines a thriving bar scene with stellar sushi, sashimi and creative California-style entrees. Owners Karen Sherman and Carmen Rone were among the first regional restaurateurs to fully embrace Pacific Rim cuisine, and Sherman’s desserts, especially those involving seasonal fruit, should not be missed. 9300 Amherst Ave at N Washington Ave, Margate, NJ (609-822-7535, tomatoesmargate.com)
Tony’s Baltimore Grill. Opened in the 1920s but in its current spot since 1966, this is the place to come for crisp, authentic Neapolitan pizza and an unflinching slice of local life—especially in the small hours. Bypass the dining room and claim a booth, complete with retro jukebox, in the delightfully dingy bar and lounge. And no matter what else you want, order a pie. 2800 Atlantic Ave at S Iowa Ave (609-345-5766, baltimoregrill.com). Cash only.
White House Sub Shop. One of a handful of places in the country that can legitimately lay claim to introducing the Italian sub to these shores, White House was opened in 1946 by returning WWII vet Anthony Basile. Lines can stretch around the block, and there is an unwritten protocol that you should be prepared to order when your turn arrives. While the massive White House Special, laden with Italian cold cuts—Genoa salami, capacollo and cotechino—and provolone, gets top billing, the cheeseburger sub is also excellent. 2301 Arctic Ave at N Mississippi Ave (609-345-1564, whitehousesubshop.net). Cash only.