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From Dice to Dinner

Dining options inside and outside the casino

By Maija Zummo · March 13th, 2013 · Cover Story
horseshoecasino-foodcourt_jfPhoto: Jesse Fox
Outside the balmy perimeter of Margaritaville, conveniently nestled within the confines of the Horseshoe Casino’s walls, sits steakhouse Jack Binion’s, Café Italia and all-you-can-eat Spread Buffet. And each of these kitchens (plus the banquet and event center catering) are overseen by Horseshoe Casino Executive Chef Pete Ghione. 

Everything I know about Chef Ghione, I learned from a press website, but his accolades seem impressive. According to the site, Chef Ghione started his culinary career 18 years ago at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont and from there went on to complete internships in Maine and Napa Valley before moving to Las Vegas. By age 26, he was the Executive Chef at the Rio Hotel and Casino; in 2004, he was a team chef for one of our Olympic teams; and four years later, he was Chef at DragonRidge Country Club outside of Las Vegas and had opened his own Vegas restaurant called Go Fresh Kitchen. 

It was in these latter kitchens he became involved with fresh and organic foods, which are now the focus of his culinary passion. In 2008, he began turning that passion into creating recipes for people with cancer, starting cancercuisine.com to provide healthful, organic recipes for those fighting the disease. (Also yummy-looking for those who do not have cancer.)

This healthy, community-based approach to food is apparently what drives Chef Ghione when creating the food experiences at the Horseshoe. And he’s taken a unique approach to each of the casino’s in-house eateries: 

Café Italia: Casual Italian quick bites.

The Café offers New York-style pizza, pasta, artisan hot sandwiches and other Italian favorites. Their pizza dough and pasta are made from scratch in-house, and they also offer cold beer on tap. The ordering process is kind of like a mall Sbarro — you wait in line and order your pizza/pasta/sandwich and pick it up at the end. Small, marble tables flank the food service line. $9-$11, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. daily.

Spread Buffet: The buffet, which can seat up to 400 guests, will offer Italian, Mexican, Asian, BBQ and soup/salad stations with fresh fare cooked in front of you at live-action cooking stations. In line with Chef Ghione’s community-based vision, there will also be Cincinnati dishes on the buffet line. A casino spokesperson said participating restaurants aren’t ready to be announced, but let’s just say we heard a notable local ice cream company and some nearby Belgian waffle experts will be involved. $23.99 ($21.99 with reward card). Lunch: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. daily; Dinner: 4-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 4-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday; Brunch: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday -Sunday. 

Jack Binion’s Steak: Chef Ghione knows that Cincinnatians take their meat pretty seriously and that we’re also fiercely loyal to our hometown steak men such as Jeff Ruby and Jimmy G. He believes that Jack Binion’s, named after Horseshoe Casino founder, will be a great complement to Cincy’s steakhouse history. Signature offerings will include dry-aged prime rib, Australian Wagyu, lamb and veal along with inventive seafood and poultry preparations. Instead of a dessert cart, look for a potato cart: Side dishes will be made tableside. $8-$120/market. 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

Another choice inside the Horseshoe is one not run by Chef Ghione but by another chef: Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace.

Bobby’s Burger Palace: One of only 14 Flay burger joints in the U.S., this casual 1970s-style diner has seating for 90. Wait in line; order an angus beef, ground turkey or chicken breast filling from a list of 10 signature burgers (also offers grilled cheese, salads, sides and milkshakes/malts); pick up your order from the kitchen window; and then find a bar stool along the winding bar top. Any burger can be “crunchified” by adding potato chips to it. There’s also a rotating Burger of the Month option and spiked milkshakes (Vanilla Caramel Bourbon, Pineapple Coconut Rum and Mocha Kahlua Vodka). $5.50-$8.50; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, bobbysburgerpalace.com. 

And if you aren’t interested in eating inside the casino, Horseshoe has set up a rewards program with 10 Over-the-Rhine/Downtown eateries to complement the locally flavored on-site dining and hopefully extend the economic impact of the casino profits into the neighborhood.

Caesars Entertainment Total Rewards: By joining this loyalty program, casino patrons can redeem rewards for meals at the following restaurants: Boca, Jean-Robert’s Table, Mahogany’s at the Banks, Metropole, Moerlein Lager House, Montgomery Inn Boathouse, Nada, Sotto, Nicola’s Ristorante Italiano. ©



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