Restauranteur John Tunney, owner of the popular Mexican restaurant Besito in Hartford, expects to wow you with his 12th and newest restaurant, Ballo. The word “Ballo” is Italian for “dance.” Diners can expect the usual eating and drinking, but you can do what the name says and dance as well.
Ballo Italian Restaurant and Social Club will join Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, Todd English’s Tuscany, and Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain at Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino this September. Even though Ballo is still under construction, Tunney’s idea is unique, and when he speaks, you can imagine how original this new restaurant will be from the usual.
Ballo will feature a large wraparound bar, private dining rooms with a fireplace, and lounge areas aside from the regular dining areas we are all used to. This concept allows for a “layered” dining and social experience in this gothic, Italian church-like, 16,000 square foot space. Ballo has quieter parts and is sure to change the pace with higher energy sections with music, a DJ, and dancing. One of the highlights for patrons will be at 11 p.m. where dancers will come out to take away some of the furniture so you can get in on the action and get your groove on Italian nightclub style and dance on the table. Yes, you heard that right. On the tables, on the chairs, on the floor. Ballo is set on its customers having not just a great meal but for them to have a blast.
With Ballo, Tunney is reaching out to many different types of people and personalities with this restaurant. “Towards the casino the restaurant will be more subdued, people can set up camp in a lounge area and chat with one another, other people will gravitate towards the bar, and it is the perfect place for a date,” Tunney said. “You can be in other areas and just enjoy the music and dancing without being a part of it if you don’t want to. Depending on who you are, you can find a spot in Ballo to hang out and feel comfortable.”
If fun is not the reason you go out, then food surely is. Meals at Ballo will be prepared and supervised by Executive Chef Matthew Adler and Chef de Cuisine Shaun Colan, graduates of the Culinary Institute of America and the French Culinary Institute respectively. Both chefs have worked in Michelin Star restaurants around the United States. Ballo will feature items that every Italian food lover is sure to recognize like chicken and veal parmesan, homemade pasta dishes, and gourmet pizzas. Other menu items include filet mignon and strip steak, Sicilian roast pork loin, wood grilled lobster, and to drink, an extensive wine list. Ballo plans on sticking to simplicity when it comes to its cuisine. “Italian food is meant to be simple,” Tunney said. “We want to serve it to you using fresh, local ingredients, without disturbing or touching the ingredients too much.”
Chefs Adler and Colan echo Tunney’s belief in fresh ingredients and preach that the pizza will be perfect. “We are going to have a great dough that we make in house,” Adler said. “We will use fresh ingredients, bake it at the correct temperature, and serve it to you right out of the oven.” “A lot of restaurants serve pizza, but we’ll do it the right way,” added Colan. “Who better to make your pizza then two chefs from New York that know what they’re doing.”
Some of Ballo’s signature dishes are a caprese salad made with burrata, roasted tomatoes, and pesto; crispy artichokes with arugula and lemon; and tagliatelle baked with prosciutto cotto and parmisiano. The featured dessert will be a dark chocolate budino with hazlenut gelato. And of course there has to be a cocktail that people can talk about. The Ballo Limonata, highlighted by Spirit Vodka, will include blood orange and Cointreau. “The vodka in this drink is very unique,” said Ballo General Manager Jason Barlow. “We had to pass legislation to bring Spirit Vodka to Connecticut and we were the first to bring it in. We like our drinks, just like the food to be made with quality ingredients and just like the food, the drinks will be simple and not overcomplicated.”
With a fresh menu combined with a high energy environment, Ballo is sure to be the new place to be at Mohegan Sun. While they have not started taking reservations yet, be on the lookout, Tunney promises that Ballo will be something to experience.
[Photography credits: Interiors c/o Ballo; Other images c/o Andrew Dominick]