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Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa

Atlantic City’s Latest Addition

If Borgata, which means village in Italian, had opened in Las Vegas rather than Atlantic City, the press might have applauded it as the newest of the best or the best of the newest casino hotels. In Atlantic City it’s an absolute knockout and portends to give a boost to the town whose fortunes had been sinking. With 2,200 guest rooms and suites it is now the largest hotel in the state and employs nearly 5,000 staff.

Bob Boughner, Borgata’s CEO, said, "We didn’t want to create a fake place, we wanted something that had soul." The architecture and design, which in this guest’s eyes have a contemporary Italian look, seem unique and original. Beyond the porte chochere in the foyer are two of the property’s 13 installations by artist Dale Chihuly created in his signature style of individually blown glass pieces in a range of colors and formed into one sculpture or chandelier radiating light. Although Chihuly is American, he apprenticed on Murano Island off Venice and his work reflects that training.

Suilan Reception

The hotel opened at midnight on July 2 and eager guests rushed into the casino to play at the 145 gaming tables, 3,650 slots and to wager at Race Book where individual screens are set at every seat. By the next day limos were pulling up at the front door, lines were forming at the check-in, families were dining in the restaurants and the Via shops with names like Bambino and Carina were doing a brisk business. A matron clad in evening attire--it was daytime--bought a diamond and emerald necklace seconds after the jewelry store opened. Two mimes dressed in flowing goddess-type gowns and painted white, including their eyelashes, charmed a smiling assemblage.

Everyone roaming around hoped to get in to see every space. Spa Toccare was not ready to accept patrons, but visitors freely wandered about the attractive 50,000 square-foot area. The impressive pool wasn’t open yet, but from the spa level you could look down on it and the gardens beyond. Guests were already working out in the Pump Room, a very complete and up-to-date fitness studio.

Of the 11 on-premises restaurants, the two most up-scale ones only serve dinner. The ambiance in both is stylish and they were each selected because neither is part of a chain. Suilan by Susanna Foo is Philadelphia’s best Chinese eatery and its second venture. The Old Homestead, a fine New York steakhouse, waited 135 years to expand to another outpost.

At the Homestead the standouts in the steaks and chops category were the filet mignon, porterhouse steak and New Zealand baby lamb chops. Our table of five was united in giving the $41 "world famous" kobe beef burger thumbs down for its blandness. Ditto, the insipid "colossal" crab meat cocktail, served without a zippy sauce, which might have added some zest. The multi-ingredient chopped house salad was fresh and perky. A jumbo shrimp and oyster plate with three sauces was top-notch. Sides--scalloped potatoes, creamed spinach and crispy hash brown potato cake--were well executed. Order wisely and a very good meal arrives at the table.

The private lounges, Amphora’s and Testora’s, reserved for high rollers, are huge, plush and without glitz. There are five entertainment venues including the 1,000-seat Music Box, featuring comedy and music. Among the six tiers of accommodations, the most reasonably priced are 1,600 classic rooms. They are very adequate in size and decorated with soft neutral colors. Showers are big enough for two and windows are floor-to-ceiling.

Here’s to the revival of Atlantic City and welcome to Borgata for its part in the renewal.

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, One Borgata Way, Atlantic City, NJ 08401. Tel 609-317-7834, fax 609-317-1075. Rates start at $179. http://www.theborgata.com

Summer 2003