By Suzanne Corbett

River City Casino chefs Seth Verseman and Pierpaolo Pittia

Winning big at any casino is never guaranteed – unless you’re off the gaming floor and at a dining table at either River City Casino & Hotel’s Cibare Italian Kitchen or 1904 Steak House.  These River City favorites consistently win big with their customers, who sing these restaurants’ praises – praises that provide the ultimate award any chef can receive: return business.

Italian culinary master chef Paolo Pittia takes pride in the recognition he and his team has garnered since opening Cibare less than two years ago.

“When you consider St. Louis’  big Italian community and its large number of  restaurants, it’s an honor to receive the high ratings our customers give us,” Pittia noted.

Cibare has enjoyed numerous honors and kudos since it opened its doors, which is directly contributed to Pittia’s team, who strives to make every plate the best – a commitment achieved through attention to detail and  passion. Pittia, who hails from Udine, Italy, takes pride in bringing to Cibare the flavors and dishes from his homeland.

“If you have a passion for what you do, you’ll always enjoy what you do. That’s why I love my work and  my profession. It’s makes a difference I think our guests feel and ultimately can taste in the dishes we serve,” Pittia said. “ We’re dedicated to taking the time to give each dish the attention it deserves – adding a little of this or that, that defines the flavor. That’s why we make our own pasta and invest in the best ingredients, like the flour we import from Italy to make the pizza dough. It’s that extra effort and steps we take that make food we’re proud of.”

Cibare Italian Kitchen photo by Suzanne Corbett

If dining for the first time at Cibare, you’ll quickly discover a menu that’s solid, which features a balance of classic and traditional dishes such as Lasagna, Rigatoni Bolognese and the house specialty, Chicken Scaloppine Sofia. And don’t forget the pizza – hand tossed, of course, as well as the house-made pasta. Two customer favorites are the black-pepper flavored Rigatoni with Bolognese Sauce and the Tagliatelle with Prosciutto.

“Tagliatelle with Prosciutto has a rich cream sauce flavored with poppy seeds. It’s something different –  a recipe from my hometown,” Pittia explained. “ I always try to bring something different to the menu, memories of the foods I ate and made in Italy.”

Pittia is working on new seasonal plates to add to the fall meu. Look for an eggplant pasta and the meatball sliders. Until then, consider Cibare’s special three-course dinner created as a thank you to Cibare’s  loyal customer base: a menu of unique Italian specialties, including Orange Semifreddo Gelato, pastry chef David Laufer’s contemporary presentation  of an Italian classic.

Meanwhile, if you’re a carnivore on the hunt for the perfect grilled steak, 1904 Steak House chef de cuisine Seth Verseman knows how to make you happy.

“You have to begin with quality,” said Verseman  explaining how quality ingredients is the only way to produce award-winning steaks. “Season a high-quality steak simply with  salt and pepper, which won’t mask the meat’s flavor; then let the grill or broiler to the rest. It’s simplistic – you don’t have to do a lot of fluff or jazz it up – just let the meat speak for itself.”

 1904 Steak House  photo courtesy of River City Casino & Hotel

If you want to jazz that steak up, Verseman has you covered with a variety of options, from béarnaise sauce to grilled scallops or sautéed mushrooms – options most steak-loving purists and meat-and-potato kind of guys pass.

“I have to admit I’m a meat-and-potato kind of guy – that’s how we ate growing up on our farm in southeast  Missouri,”  said Verseman, who is quick to tell you his favorite steak cut. “My favorite steak is our prime, bone-in cowboy ribeye that’s been wet-aged 21 days. It’s my favorite cut because it has lots of flavor.”

No matter the cut, steaks at 1904 Steak House are wet-aged and given the same TLC in preparation. The restaurant offers steaks to fit anyone’s taste and pocket book. The hungry can choose from a 26-ounce porterhouse to a 6-ounce sirloin. Craving something other than steak? No worries. Guests can select chicken,  pork or seafood, including bodacious-sized lobster tails. Pair with an appetizer and sides – the culinary bling that enhances the meal – with such classic savories like creamed spinach and lobster mac & cheese, or 1904’s latest appetizer, skillet jalapeno corn bread served with maple bacon butter.

Verseman is proud of 1904’s menu, which is designed to provide customers an  affordable dinner every day.

1904’s Steak Oscar Trio photo courtesy River City Casino & Hotel

“Our menu is appeals to the everyday diner – a broad range of guests from the meat-and-potato guy to the foodie. To make dining affordable, we offer a wide array of promotions like our Sunset Dinners every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday that features three-course dinners priced at $28, and includes prime sirloin, Amish chicken or salmon.”

Verseman and his culinary team has one goal: to make every meal at 1904 memorable,  whether there is a steak on the plate or not. Everything is served with style, in comfortable, elegant surroundings that isn’t stuffy or pretentious – the secret to Verseman’s success to make 1904 standout.

“We work hard and take pride in our food, our service and our consistency. We try to accommodate every guest’s wishes and needs,” he said.