Michael Symon is returning to his roots.
On Saturday the Iron Chef and co-host of “The Chew” will debut Angeline by Michael Symon, a multi-million-dollar, stunning Italian restaurant at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa that is his first foray into Atlantic City.
“This is the food I grew up eating and learning how to cook,” says Symon. “So it was just a natural thing to name the place after my mother.”
It has been a long journey for Symon to make it to Atlantic City, a “worthwhile” process that started seven years ago, according to the chef.
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“It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long,” says Symon, who began being courted by Borgata, leading to him hosting and attending multiple Savor Borgata events. “But it had to be perfect. Perfect for Borgata. Perfect for me. And I think it’s pretty perfect.”
Symon, who grew up with Greek and Sicilian influences, is known for creating boldly flavored, deeply satisfying dishes. Although his latest projects — he has 21 restaurants — have been focused on his eclectic approach to American cuisine, he is glad to be back cooking the food he grew up with.
“When you really think of how I started with Lolita in Cleveland, I became known there as an Italian chef,” Symon says. “So this is absolutely a return to my roots.”
As polite, likable and full of zest in person as he is on the Food Network, Symon is a natural fit for Borgata, which hosts the talents of three other Iron Chefs: Bobby Flay, Geoffrey Zakarian and Wolfgang Puck.
Every dish at the 220-plus seat eatery is inspired by the James Beard Award-winning chef’s heritage and personal history, from the marinara that’s made “exactly how my mother makes it” to Mom’s Meatballs and lasagna to dishes that show off his personality such as porchetta with mustard fruit and linguini and clams with pancetta and chili flakes, Angeline’s menu is approachable, yet creative.
“There’s something for everyone on there,” Symon says. “That was the intention. We don’t want to alienate anyone.”
A wood-fired grill will enable Symon and his team, led by Executive Restaurant Chef Thomas Boyle and General Manager Frank Ritz, to create dishes such as grilled swordfish Sicilian-style, lamb chops with fennel and mint and more. And desserts, such as the strawberry cassata cake and Bombolini — a warm Italian fried donut filled with Nutella and rolled in sugar — are made in house, of course.
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Longtime Symon collaborator Dr. David Earle has created an inventive and whimsical mixology program including the Borgata Spritz, a light and refreshing beverage made with Cappelletti Aperitivo, San Pellegrino Chinatto, Contratto Bianco Vermouth and Rosemary.
The design, a collaboration between Symon’s wife Liz and the New York-based Parts and Labor Design is impressive from the welcoming pub at the entrance to the sophisticated main dining room with caramel leather banquettes to the 24-seat private dining room that feels like you’re eating in Symon’s mother’s dining room thanks to its floral wallpaper and lacy drapery.
Symon says despite the demands of his other restaurants and television projects, he will not be an absentee chef.
“I will be here quite a bit,” says Symon. “I am a hands-on chef.”