Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, Atlantic City, NJ
Atlantic City has just become home to Michael Symon’s latest addition to his restaurant empire. Angeline, named after his mother Angel, is the Iron Chef and James Beard Award winning chef’s latest ode to classic Italian food.
The menu at Angeline is nostalgic with a dedication to detail to offer his guests a simple, bold and fresh menu full of authentic recipes and even some family ones like their Angeline Sunday Sauce. Staying true to his Sicilian roots, Symon has created a menu where every dish presented is tied to his heritage and personal history.
With a massive space at the bottom of The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, Michael and his wife Liz have given the city a truly peaceful space to have a flavorful Italian meal. Joining other iconic chefs like Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, and Geoffrey Zakarian at The Borgata. Through collaboration with New York based firm Parts and Labor Design, they have created this cozy yet upscale dining atmosphere with the charm of an Italian family gathering.
Total Food Service had the opportunity to discuss the creation of Angeline and its’ efficient kitchen, as well as get the project approach from:
- Becky Schultz, Director of Food and Beverage, Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa, Atlantic City, NJ
- Liz and Michael Symon, Principals, Symon Restaurant Group, Cleveland, OH
- Jeremy Levitt, Principal, Parts and Labor Design, New York, NY
- John Cipriani, Principal, Dubick Fixture & Supply Inc., Cleveland, OH
- Jon Rosky, Vice President, Corsi & Associates, Springfield, PA
Becky Schultz’s Approach:
Atlantic City has been part of me for a very long time. As a college student I actually did an internship at Harrah’s in the slot department. I am about to celebrate my 15th year at Borgata. I am very proud that I have been here from the very beginning. There’s no question that the key to our long-term success has been that we have always listened carefully to our guests. We were hearing that our customers were leaving the property to find an Italian experience, so we knew it was time for a change. Every year we run a Savor Borgata Culinary Series and Michael Symon and his team had been a headliner. We hit it off like we had worked together forever.
So when the opportunity came to make a change, he was at the top of our list. It didn’t happen sooner because each of our restaurants have been long term successes. We take a somewhat different approach to our restaurants in that we manage and operate them. This enables the chefs like Michael to do what he does best and enables us to guarantee the guest experience in the front of the house and the economics of the back of the house. We also understand that a chef needs to be able to source those key ingredients that make a menu special. So over the 15 years, we have built an extensive network of suppliers to ensure that quality.
In terms of the design of the kitchen, Angeline is set with its own kitchen that is supported by a prep area that it will share with our family of restaurant properties in the hotel. Michael and his team will also have access to a baking operation that will become such a valuable asset to our restaurant operation as well as an extensive wine collection of over 40,000 vintages. Michael and his team have created an atmosphere that we are describing as a modern version of the Italian comfort food served with passionate hospitality in a space that gives off that same warm cozy feeling.
Michael Symon’s Approach:
I have been doing events at Borgata for several years now and the thing I have always loved about it is the people…not only the wonderful team that works and runs it but the customers…everyone is just very real and down to earth. Angeline is named after my mother, Angel, and the food is inspired by the type of food I grew up eating in our Sicilian-American household, like mom’s lasagna and linguine with clams.
The menu came first, and the design followed. Italian food is about comfort and sharing, and so we wanted the space to be warm and cozy, yet elegant. It’s reminiscent of an Italian family gathering.
We needed to design a high volume kitchen in a tight space with a pasta, wood burning and sauce station that could handle up to 800 covers a night So we selected Jade’s Titan series because it is very dependable and sturdy. It heats evenly and it is easy to
The Italian comfort food we’re serving at Angeline is American-Italian with some distinct Sicilian flavors, which is where my family is from. It’s the food I grew up eating and the food I still crave all the time, and I hope that guests of Borgata feel the same way. Angeline is meant to feel warm and comfortable, but dining there should still be an experience for Borgata guests. I think we did a good job of making sure the space felt welcoming but still elegant and grand to match the casino feel. The restaurant is an escape from the hustle and bustle of the casino floor, but has being windows out front to still give a glimpse of that experience.
Liz Symon’s Approach:
We wanted the room to be an inviting backdrop for Italian comfort food, so we played a lot with materials and texture: warm woods, velvet, marble, brushed brass. It’s a large space, but we broke it up into several smaller spaces with the design to keep an intimacy about it. We wanted the tableware to have a vintage feel to match the rest of the room (and the food that would be served on it!). It’s an updated, cooler version of those nostalgic items that might be in your grandma’s china cabinet.
Jeremy Levitt’s Approach:
For Angeline, our goal was to combine old-world charm with contemporary details to create a comfortable yet elegant dining atmosphere. Inspired by Michael’s mother and her style of old school Italian cooking, we infused every element of the space with design details that evoke instant warmth and a sense of nostalgia. We wanted to combine all of that with an urban sensibility that begins with the restaurant’s facade—its design was based loosely on traditional Brooklyn storefronts with black-painted mullions and a gold foil logo. This feeling translates into the restaurant, where a dark color palette is mixed with feminine details, further emphasizing the vintage style.
The restaurant is named after Michael’s mother so our entire focus and concept flowed from there. We wanted to incorporate elements related to an Italian family’s old-world Brooklyn home, and more specifically the kitchen and dining room. With that, we expanded our focus to fold in an urban aesthetic with modern details and sophisticated materials throughout the space.
In nearly all of our projects, we rely on decorative lighting to create warmth and an ambient glow throughout. We also utilized eye-level, architectural lighting in places like the bar face, shelves, and other displays to provide a soft glow. The lighting works well in combination with the materiality and pallet of the space.
For such a large restaurant, we were careful not to overdo the variety within the space. We worked to keep some pieces, such as tabletops, somewhat homogenous, using a similar color palette and material. Similarly, chairs were grouped by design, per area.
The majority of the furniture for Angeline was designed by our firm, which included using multiple textures and materials such as velvets, tweeds, linens, brass, steel and wood. In the bar area, we created custom seating including wood and metal dining chairs and brass and leather bar stools. Most seating in the dining room is custom as well. In the middle of the main dining room we created beautiful, round banquettes upholstered in rich grey leather set within wood and brass lined banquette surrounds. These items are flanked by long, burgundy leather banquettes. We also incorporated marble table tops throughout the restaurant that pair nicely with the brass table tops in the main dining room, whereas we paired marble table tops with wood dining tables with a brass inlay in the bar area. Another furniture piece, which is a main feature in the dining room, is a central service station that was made in honed oynx, which is also used on the face of the salumi bar and on the entire bar top in the bar area as well.
A signature of ours is integrated design and we wanted to make sure that the space functioned properly. Beyond that, we do our best to layer and utilize texture wherever possible, taking advantage of our focus on custom decorative lighting and furniture. We included decorative lighting and custom furniture to create attractive spaces that function well and makes the customer want to come back to experience other areas of the restaurant. A few elements that stand out to us:
- A very inviting bar area with unique back bar shelving
- Cozy yet upscale dining atmosphere with the nostalgic charm of Italian family gatherings
- Several intimate spaces, each separated by custom glass and steel glazing walls
- Dark, lusty color palette featuring deep woods and rich green leathers and velvets
- An illuminated custom bar and bottle display
- An impressive wine display that serves as a backdrop and visual destination in rear of restaurant
- A large salumi bar and an open kitchen feature
The wine is a big component of the Angeline beverage program. We didn’t want any area of the restaurant to seem too large or impersonal, so we tightened that space and created a large wine display that serves as a backdrop in the rear of the restaurant.
The private dining room (PDR) we created is quite possibly the closest thing to eating in your mother’s dining room. The 24-seat private dining space features low ceiling heights, floral wallpaper, wood cabinetry, and lace drapery that make it feel nostalgic and intimate when the doors are closed. When the doors are open, it serves as an extension of the main dining room. Black and white family photos and an antique mirror round out the PDR, while detailing such as custom light fixtures and furniture, connect the space to the rest of the restaurant.
When it comes to back of house areas that are not visible to the customer, what we need is to know how much space we have once the kitchen has been laid out. On this particular project, and on others with an open kitchen, we work around what is visible in the front of house by coordinating with the food service consultant. Additionally, we incorporated a salumi bar/cold prep area that is a decorative but very functional element, which required a great deal of coordination with the food service equipment team. Lastly, when designing the bar we always try to work around the necessary bar equipment needed for smooth and successful bar service.
John Cipriani’s Approach:
I think the most important thing is that Michael and I are on the exact same page. When it comes to what is important and what’s not important this is essential. When we first started out he was an independent restaurateur opening up his first restaurant Lola in Cleveland and we have watched and worked with him as his career exploded. Michael always appreciated our input and has always been a straight up guy with me and that is why I like working with him so much.
When we were brought in for Angeline we were put in contact with Jon Rosky of Corsi Associates who helped us a lot as a consultant for the Borgata. Jon made sure we didn’t fall into any traps and he was extremely helpful throughout the entire project. The main focus on this restaurant was creating a compact kitchen where you can communicate and still pump out five to seven hundred covers a night.
For the kitchen we ended up going with Jade Range, J&R broilers, Rational Ovens and are happy with all these quality manufacturers. It was all based on what he has used before to create a kitchen with equipment manufacturers we know are the best. In terms of custom fabrication we used Eagle for the stainless. For walk-ins, Michael has a dedicated Norlake walk-in upstairs for all his meats and then more walk ins in the basement. We also found the right dishwashing solution with a Champion 44.
The kitchen while it is tight but is designed with functionality in mind. The U-Shaped hotline is laid out with the Jade on one side, Pitco pasta cookers on the other, and another app section and at the bottom of the line you have his Wood Stone pizza ovens. This was a little bit of a different role for me working with Michael. It was a tremendous working experience.
Jon Rosky’s Approach:
The relationship between Corsi Associates & Borgata has been built upon responsiveness and flexibility. We have an office very close to Borgata and are able to promptly schedule and attend meetings in person, and provide field coordination, review of field conditions, etc. easily and quickly. Even in the age of electronic project management, I believe this in person customer service has been a strong benefit to both parties. Having a background in casino hotel food service operations also allows me to better understand the priorities of Borgata’s F & B team, and apply those priorities to the design of their projects.
My assignment on the project was to provide support to Dubick Fixture & Supply and their client, as needed, to help them achieve their goals in a challenging regulatory environment and to help Borgata achieve their goal of a facility that meets their operational standards and is consistent with the properties’ equipment standards. In addition, I was asked to be the “eyes and ears” locally for any field issues and coordinate and attend all required health inspections.
The Angeline restaurant is making use of the Borgata’s excellent capacity to provide centralized support but most production will be performed and controlled within the Angeline operation space. Other areas available for support if needed are a Bake Shop, Garde Manger, and Butcher Shop.
Very little was changed from Symon/Dubick’s original specification. Immediately upon opening Michael Symon wanted to make some minor equipment changes, so Corsi’s team provided a very small set of documents and regulatory coordination, on which Jason Geckeler and Daniel Salvatore provided support.
I have enjoyed several opportunities Borgata has brought me, to work with other food service design firms from around the country. While we would always prefer to provide the design ourselves, these opportunities to work with other firms allow us to extend professional relationships and learn from the design and documentation of some of the many great design firms we would typically not get to see.
To learn more about Angeline, visit the Borgata website. All Angeline photos courtesy of Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.