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Casablanca is back

Steakhouse has moved to Quality Inn

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Owners Paige Pettit, left, and Jim Nicola, pose inside Casablanca Steakhouse. The restaurant reopened at Quality Inn, 2001 U.S. Highway 169 South, on June 24.

Jim Nicola and Paige Pettit have a wealth of experience working the restaurant scene in Fort Dodge.

The two met while working together at Eiler’s Steakhouse. Nicola has worked primarily as a cook and manager. Pettit has worked as a server.

When Eiler’s establishment closed in March of 2018, they took their talents to Casablanca Steakhouse on South 25th Street.

Nicola managed the restaurant along with Gregg Harris. But after a little over a year, the building at 140 S. 25th St caught fire and never recovered.

In March, Alfonso Galvan, who had owned Casablanca handed over the keys to Nicola and Pettit.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
An 8 oz ribeye with shrimp and a baked potato are shown on this plate at Casablanca Steakhouse.

And the pair has found a new home for Casablanca. It is located inside Quality Inn, 2001 U.S. Highway 169.

About 95 percent of the decor was moved into the new space, according to Pettit. The kitchen was entirely remodeled, she said.

The restaurant returned on June 24. Pettit said business has been fairly steady in spite of complications and restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The venue features a spacious dining room and a separate bar area.

“The dining room, which seats 107, is larger,” Pettit said.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Carlin Nafe, a cook at Casablanca Steakhouse, holds a plate of freshly prepared steak, shrimp and a baked potato.

Seating options include high and low tables and booths.

Nicola believes it’s a location most Fort Dodgers are willing to travel to.

“We didn’t think it was too far out for people to reach from in town,” Nicola said. “Plus, it’s in a hotel, so hopefully that brings in business from people staying there.”

Nicola and Pettit are both graduates of Fort Dodge Senior High.

From 1994 to 2012, Nicola worked at the Cellar Restaurant and Lounge. He then worked at Eiler’s until it closed.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Christina Christian, a server at Casablanca Steakhouse, pours a drink in the lounge area of the restaurant., which is seperate from the dining area.

His passion for the restaurant business is quite simple — it’s all about the food.

“Good food,” Nicola said. “Making and serving good food. It’s something I’ve done my whole life.”

The menu at Casablanca features steaks, seafood, chicken and pasta dishes.

The ribeye is the most popular dinner, Nicola said.

“We hand cut all of our steaks,” he said. “We also sell a lot of our Casablanca Chicken dinners.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
The loaded kettle chips are an increasingly popular item on the menu at Casablanca Steakhouse, according to owner Jim Nicola. The thinly sliced potatoes are deep fried with bacon and melted cheese on top. Tomatoes and green onion are sprinkled in the mix.

In terms of appetizers, the loaded kettle chips are becoming increasingly popular.

“I’ve seen a lot of comments on those,” Nicola said.

The loaded kettle chips are thin slices of potato, deep fried with melted cheese and bacon bits. Tomatoes and green onions top the appetizer.

Hand-breaded pepper rings, cheese balls, jalapeno poppers, hand-breaded mushrooms, hand-breaded onion rings, breaded cauliflower and jumbo shrimp cocktail are the other appetizers available.

For dessert, guests can choose a caramel or black forest brownie or vanilla cheesecake.

Aside from the menu, Nicola said there’s been an emphasis on creating an inviting environment for guests.

“It’s a comfortable atmosphere,” he said.

Casablanca also features three party rooms that can be opened up in to one larger room. That space will be available for holiday parties, weddings and other events.

Casablanca employs about 10 servers, four cooks and two dishwashers.

The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday. The bar opens at 3 p.m. Kitchen opens at 4 p.m. The establishment is closed on Sundays.

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