Many can claim to have the best ocean view in Atlantic City, but the Blue Water Grille at the FantaSea Resorts can make a very solid case.
Whether sitting at the bar, in its dining room or on its outside deck, the Blue Water Grille’s expansive view overlooks the ocean north to Brigantine and east toward the inlet where the bay meets the ocean.
Perched high on the 7th floor and boasting floor-to-ceiling windows, the views are impressive to say the least.
Over the years, however, food consistency has been an issue, as FantaSea ownership wrestles with dealing with resort guests while still trying to attract locals.
That all changed in November when the Blue Water Grille brought on Yianni Papaspanos as director of food and beverage. The former general manager of Alain Allegretti’s now-closed Azure at Revel brought his immense knowledge of contemporary cuisine and a suave management style to the restaurant.
“No one, including myself, was aware of this place,” Papaspanos says. “When I walked in there, I was just astonished by the view. I had a great view at Azure, but I didn’t know there was another one just as good — or better! But everything was lacking — the food, the service — and we just had to change everything.”
A month after he was hired, Papaspanos wisely brought another former Revel culinary star on board the Blue Water team: Executive Chef Juliano Cannuscio, who formerly helmed the kitchen for Lugo. Together, they have transformed Blue Water Grille from a place that not only hotel guests want to eat at but a place that locals are finally discovering.
“He is so talented, plus he’s passionate,” Papaspanos says. “So that combination combined with my passion and experience is a recipe for success.”
The Blue Water Grille has been a beautiful place to dine for years. With a contemporary look boasting a neutral, classy, beach-themed color pallette featuring an open kitchen, sleek bar and stunning mosaic tiles throughout, people fall in love with it as soon as they walk in the door.
They can finally also fall in love with the food. After perusing Papaspanos’ impressive drink menu, sit back and enjoy live music Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays while feasting on Cannuscio’s homemade cuisine.
While open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the real time to experience Blue Water Grille is at dinner, when the sun is setting and Cannuscio can put his creative chef’s hat on.
Italian cooking remains his strength, including starters such as the eggplant rollatini ($9); Blue Water flatbread with spinach, roasted red peppers, mozzarella and basil pesto; the spinach artichoke dip ($9) and — when offered as a special — his margherita pizza made with fresh mozzarella and homemade dough.
The Italian goodness continues for dinner including chicken parm ($19) and cavatoppi with shrimp ($24), cherry tomatoes and basil pesto, as well as the grilled branzino ($27) with sauteed spinach and roasted potatoes and the chicken Milanese ($19).
“Everything here is now about quality,” Papaspanos says. “Before everything was simple and frozen and was basically a place to grab a burger or cheesesteak — and even they were frozen. So we wanted to start using as much local produce as possible and fresh ingredients. And seafood here is a no-brainer; we buy fresh fish and seafood from local purveyors and change the fish constantly based on what’s available.”
Cannuscio can also impress when he steps away from his Italian heritage, including an array of salads and sandwiches and entrees such as seared salmon ($23) with roasted red peppers, zucchini, eggplant and squash in a lemon butter sauce; a beautiful N.Y. strip ($28) with mashed potatoes and asparagus; a grilled pork chop ($25) with warm spinach salad, potatoes and bacon vinaigrette; seared scallops ($27) with creamy quinoa and roasted red pepper fondue; and surf and turf ($30) with grilled shrimp and an 8-ounce filet.
If you haven’t noticed already, despite the ambiance and view, the prices are a steal.
“We wanted to make it approachable to everyone,” Papaspanos says. “We want the locals to find us year round. So we think we offer great value. We want people to come here on weekends, holidays and weekdays. And it’s working. People are finally finding us from the mainland and downbeach. Word is getting out, and once they come here, they keep coming back.”
FantaSea is about to get even more beautiful. In the fall, construction will begin for a 2,000-square-foot, multi-million-dollar lobby bar overseen by Papaspanos that will continue the cool vibe he already created.
“We are just beginning the evolution here,” Papaspanos says. “Once the lobby is done, we are going to take walls down in Blue Water for a complete kitchen renovation. And when that’s done, we will do another renovation of the dining room. We will never be content. We will soon offer homemade pastas and homemade pizzas. We want to become a true destination restaurant and resort.”