Costa Cucina is a hidden jewel, nestled away on the ground floor of the 32-story hotel at IP Casino Resort Spa.
The ambiance is warm, wooden floors, Italian-themed black and white photos on the walls, and there is enough interesting brick-a-brac to merit a walk around before you settle in to a comfortable table.
The service was perfect, from the moment we walked in the door, we were greeted with sincere smiles, and prompt and informed service.
The menu is well balanced, with just the right number offerings that you know the chef spent time crafting each dish.
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There are eight appetizers, and everyone looked appealing, but the Seafood Stuffed Mushroom ($12.95) was pretty amazing and more than enough to share with a date.
A portabella mushroom stuffed with shrimp and crab and then nicely topped with a good Alfredo sauce and cheese before being run under a blazing hot grill: the mushroom was earthy, the seafood fresh and the sauce creamy, but not overly so.
If you are into multiple appetizers, you also might want to try the Crispy Italian Cheese ($9.95). Our waiter, Skyler Boi, assured us it was a best seller.
The House-Made Italian Sausage ($8.95) also looked tempting.
Choosing a main course proved problematic, as there were so many delicious items from which to choose. You will not go wrong if you choose one of the hand-crafted pizzas.
A great choice is the Pepperoni Pizza ($12.95), loaded with San Marzano tomatoes (perhaps the best in the world), mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano (they buy it by the 80 pound wheel, and it is never pre-sliced or grated) and lots of sliced pepperoni.
This pizza is cheesy, chewy and the crust is near perfection. You would be hard pressed to find a better pizza anywhere in the state.
The grilled salmon ($18.95) was a real show-stopper, and I still marvel at the surprising pairings and the stunning results. A filet of fresh grilled Atlantic salmon paired with roasted mushrooms and potatoes, sunchoke puree and fennel vinaigrette. You might expect this dish to come with a light salad, or side, but the bold roasted vegetables were delicious and lifted the salmon up to most unexpected levels.
The Veal Biloxi ($24.95) looked astonishing.
Veal scaloppini, Gulf shrimp, crawfish and crab, with herb cream sauce over angel hair pasta is another noteworthy pairing.
If you can’t resist the classic Italian-American favorite, spaghetti and meatballs ($15.95), this is the place to go. It’s made with a San Marzano tomato mariana sauce, house-made meatballs and lots of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
There are four desserts from which to choose, all just $7.25, so if you have a sweet tooth, save room for one of the delicious all-Italian ways to end an amazing meal.
The Tiramisu should not be missed, but you will be hard-pressed not to try the Hazelnut Cheese cake with Chantilly Cream.
Costa Cucina deserves its spot in the sun among the Coast’s standout restaurants.
Where: IP Casino Resort Spa, 850 Bayview Ave, Biloxi
When: 5-10 p.m. Monday-Tuesday; Closed Wednesday-Thursday; 5-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday