Montville Patch - Mohegan Sun's Newest Restaurant, Ballo, Ups The Ante

John Tunney III doesn’t want you to just eat in his new restaurant Ballo at . He wants his restaurant to wrap its arms around you and bring you to a different place.

“We went for European authenticity,” Tunney said. “It’s sexy, it’s sensational architecture, it’s exquisite. We want you to feel removed from where you are. You are in Ballo.”

Tunney gave media tours of the still-very-much-under-construction Ballo Italian Restaurant and Social Club Tuesday Aug. 9 at Mohegan Sun. His excitement over his 12th restaurant is palpable. When asked how he feels about Ballo as compared to his previous ventures, he replied, “How does anybody feel about their new baby?”

The restaurant is expected to open in mid-September.

Tunney is looking forward to opening in the casino (he has had restaurants in Atlantic City and Las Vegas). “We’re going to kill ’em,” he said. “We are located in the center of the action. We are going to exceed the expectations of everyone, that’s what we do.”

The recent stock market tumble and economic malaise pose a challenge, Tunney said, but not an insurmountable one.

“When we go into a soft economy, people still go out to dinner,” he said. “It’s your perception of what you spend that changes. If we deliver a superior experience, then it is money well spent, and we will be OK. So we want to make sure we deliver value in a bad economy. People will choose Ballo because it is better quality and value.”

The menu features a variety of appetizers ranging from meatballs to roasted figs, salads that include the signature Ballo Caprese, meat, fish, pasta, chicken, and veal dishes and pizzas.

The key to a successful Italian restaurant, Tunney said, is “you have the best ingredients, the best hands, and it is touched the least amount of times.” He has hired Matthew Adler as executive chef. Adler most recently worked at Convivio in New York, and has also worked at Alain Ducasse.

The chef de cuisine is Shaun Golan, who most recently worked at Marea restaurant in New York, winner of the 2010 James Beard Best New Restaurant Award.

But Tunney doesn’t want you to just eat. The “social club” part of the establishment will happen every night at 11 p.m., when dining room furniture disappears and dancing on the tables that are left is encouraged. There will be a DJ, and areas have been carved into the walls for dancing on high.

The restaurant is divided into three areas, including the front high-ceilinged “abbey,” the enormous bar, and then the more formal dining room. There are also private dining rooms. The design was inspired by San Galgano, a 12th-century abbey in Tuscany. And while it is now filled with workers and scaffolding, it is clear this will be a dramatic space.