Dining Out: Ballo Restaurant treats can liven up dinner at Mohegan Sun

By Gail Ciampa Posted Oct. 16, 2013 @ 12:01 am

Surprises are few in restaurants these days. Anything unusual inevitably becomes trendy, so seeing a doughnut for dessert or a pretzel as part of a dish becomes somewhat ho-hum.

So, I was a little stunned when I saw a massive cheese wheel of Grana Padano on a cart coming to the table at Ballo Italian Restaurant & Social Club at Mohegan Sun. I was at the casino for the Sun Brewfest and went for a late dinner.

Our server Stephen poured some wine into the hollowed-out half wheel and then set it aflame. The flames melted and cooked some of the cheese while Stephen stirred and mixed it with a large metal slotted spoon. After the fire died out, he took a bowl of cooked pasta and mixed it in with the cheese. He grated in some Pecorino Romano, too, and then shaved some black truffle on the finished dish. It took no time at all but made for a great show.

The pasta in this tableside Italian version of mac and cheese was torchio. Stephen described it as a tornado shape, with the advantage that it captures the sauce in many spaces. Like all the pasta at Ballo, it is homemade and tastes it. As for the Grana Padano, it is made in the five regions north of the Po River in northern Italy. It is often compared to Parmigiano-Reggiano but, while it has a similar texture, it has a milder, and to me, more pleasant, nutty taste.