Ballo Italian Restaurant and Social Club is a relatively new addition to Mohegan Sun's collection of fine dining establishments. Inspired by San Galgano, a Gothic abbey built in the 12th century and located in the hills of Tuscany, Ballo features high ceilings and grand arches.
When we arrived, we were led under the arches to the back of the restaurant where tables cloaked in white cloths and surrounded by rustic wooden chairs fill the center of the room and cozy booths line one wall.
Our waitress, Krystal, happily greeted us and took our drink orders. I knew I wanted to try the Italian 75, but Jeff was deciding on a white wine. Krystal helped him weed through the choices and brought over a sample of the Cortese Principessa Gavi Perlante, which he liked and ended up ordering.
My drink, the Italian 75, was a fabulous combination of prosecco, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Grand Marnier, and orange. It was like an upscale sangria--winey, fruity, not too sweet, and full of bubbles.
Ballo has an array of salumi and formaggi to choose from, and you can order just one thing, such as prosciutto, for $9. But we looked just underneath the individual selections listed on the menu and noticed that Ballo also offers plates of assorted formaggi and salumi for $24. We opted to try the assagi, which features prosciutto, coppa, sopressata, mortadella, Parmigiano, Taleggio, and boschetto al tartufo.
The cheeses and meats come with bowls of ricotta-stuffed Peppadews and the best roasted tomatoes I have ever had. Seriously. They were so sweet and ripe-tasting. I kept topping pieces of bread with the tomatoes and chunks of Parmigiano. Jeff noted that the prosciutto was some of the best he's ever had. And I can't deny polishing off the whole piece of boschetto al tartufo, which is a mild cheese made from a combination of cow's milk and sheep's milk and studded with pieces of truffle. We enjoyed sampling the assagi offerings, but I definitely think this appetizer is more suited to at least four people--or two people who are just looking for a hearty snack and not having a full dinner. It's a lot of food.
We also ordered the meatballs, with pomodoro sauce and ricotta. Jeff is just drawn to them any time he sees them on a menu. These meatballs were nice and tender, and I thought the ricotta added a little richness. While we were enjoying the meatballs, Jeff looked up and noticed Tim Wakefield walking into the restaurant. He and his wife and a Mohegan Sun representative sat at the table right next to ours. Jeff is a huge fan but wanted to be respectful, so we didn't go over and hound him for pictures and autographs (though he did end up in the background of some of my pictures), but it did add an air of excitement to our evening. Shortly after Wakefield sat down, a huge Parmigiano cheese wheel was rolled over to his table, and a pasta dish was prepared in it for him and his guests. I lamented to Jeff that I hadn't seen that on the menu.
After the remnants of our appetizers were cleared away, the same cheese wheel was rolled over to our table. I whispered to our waitress that we hadn't ordered whatever this was, but she said it's just something special they like to do for special guests. Special guests like us and Tim Wakefield, apparently!
First, they pour some grain alcohol in the wheel and then ignite it so the cheese inside gets all melty.
Then they add in some house made orecchiette and black truffle shavings and toss it all together.
The resulting dish was absolutely incredible. The cheese coated every bit of pasta and small gobs of it got trapped in the hollows of the pasta, creating creamy, salty bites. The black truffles permeated the whole dish, adding their earthy notes. We might have skipped the appetizers had we known this treat was coming.
After indulging in the rich pasta, we got our entrees. Jeff had ordered the bucatini amatriciana with smoked duck and red onion. You could see hearty chunks of duck breast nestled among the thick strands of pasta. I tried just a bite of the house made pasta, knowing I had to save room for my own entree. It was cooked al dente and had a subtle smokiness to it.
For my entree, I went with one of the specials being offered that night: filet mignon with a panzanella salad (consisting of arugula, tomatoes, bread, and Parmesan) and pesto. This was a standout dish. I loved that the steak, cooked to my requested medium-rare was super tender and well seasoned. I also loved that the meat was paired with a flavorful salad rather than heavy sides. This is definitely a dish I can see myself re-creating at home this summer.
We were beyond stuffed at this point, but there's always room for dessert, right? After all the amazing dishes we tried over the course of the evening, we figured leaving without dessert was not an option. Krystal recited the dessert choices for us, and Jeff and I decided to share the flourless chocolate cake with hazelnut gelato. The warm, rich cake with cool, creamy gelato was the perfect ending to our meal.
After 11, Ballo embraces the social club part of its name, so if you like to dance (ballo, in Italian), it might be a good spot to check out late night on Fridays and Saturdays. We aren't big dancers so we didn't stick around for that.
Instead, after dinner we wandered around the casino taking in the sights and walking off our dinner. The first time I ever went to Mohegan, I felt like I was at Disney World. There's constant noise and lights and things grabbing your attention in every direction. This time, it reminded me of being on a cruise ship, with a never-ending flow of people, stretches of high-end shops, and restaurant options around every corner. The Chihuly sculpture by the falls was my favorite thing to look at.
|Courtesy of Mohegan Sun|
We hit the gaming floor for a little bit. Jeff played Blackjack, and I watched, trying to learn the nuances of betting on the game. I wish I could say we came home with a big win, but you win some and you lose some. At least we had a good time.
|Courtesy of Mohegan Sun|
Mohegan Sun was kind enough to put us up for the night in addition to covering $120 of our food and beverage expenses, so after an incredible dinner and a little gambling, we headed upstairs to bed. It was definitely great to stay right there and not have to worry about driving back home that night.
I remember coming here with friends and staying over about 6 or 7 years ago. We were all in love with the gorgeous iridescent tiles in the bathroom. I was happy to see they were still there.
We had an amazing dinner, a great evening at the casino, and a comfortable stay at the hotel. As most of you know, we're in the midst of wedding planning and house hunting, so it was really nice to have the chance to get away from it all for the night.
Mohegan Sun covered our room and $120 of our food and beverage expenses, but the opinions expressed on this blog are my own.
Do you enjoy going to the casino?