The Casino offers food true to Croatian heritage

Friday, August 28, 1998

By Eloise Marie Valadez Staff Writer

Zorica Prodanovic is intent on giving people authentic Croatian fare.

When Prodanovic took over the 30-year-old Casino Restaurant and Lounge in South Chicago last November, she wasn't bound on changing a good thing - at least not too much.

The restaurateur did remodel the interior, making it much brighter in hues of red and white and added an attractive awning to the front window.

But ask her about the food, and Prodanovic proudly states there are no imminent changes.

"I want to keep the menu the same. (The restaurant) has done a good business (and many of the same customers) have been around for awhile," she said.

The Casino Restaurant has long featured hearty Croatian fare, offering everything from breaded veal sandwiches and specialty sausages to stews and homestyle soups.

The Casino sits amid a mixture of homes, corner stores and taverns on Commercial Avenue. From its middle-of-the-block site, you might easily miss the eatery if you're not paying attention.

Prodanovic said when she found out the Casino's original owners were going to sell the place last year, she was anxious to take over the restaurant.

"I saw the menu and said, 'I know how to make all this.'"

Prodanovic, who came from Croatia seven years ago, learned to make her homeland's specialties at the age of 7. Because she was an only child and her mother was ill, Prodanovic said, she had to learn the kitchen craft early. Her mother often would supervise and lead her in the creation of the ethnic fare.

Shortly after Prodanovic came to the United States, she helped cook at her aunt's restaurant and realized that it wasn't an impossible task. Now, Prodanovic, along with two other cooks, is producing the homestyle Croatian food at The Casino.

During a recent visit to the restaurant, our choices of pljeskavica (a ground meat patty/blend of pork, lamb and beef) and the combination plate consisting of cevaps (sausage made of ground pork, lamb and beef) and shish-kabobs were pleasantly filling.

All entrees come with a salad, mashed potatoes and vegetable.

The menu boasts an array of dishes, whether your preference is beef, seafood, pork or lamb.

Entrees include everything from beef stew and lamb shank to stuffed peppers, stuffed shrimp, lake perch and the "gypsy platter," consisting of four meats.

In the sandwich category are meat loaf, roast ham, breaded veal and fish. Sandwiches are large and teeming with the meat of your choice.

Prodanovic said weekend specials include a Dalmatian chicken with Croatian seasonings, pasta and grilled chicken breasts.

The restaurateur/cook said she plans to keep many of the specials previously featured at The Casino.

While the Casino has been a popular neighborhood eatery through the decades, Prodanovic said it has attracted people from all over the Chicago area with a craving for Croatian fare.

Many entrees are available as full or half orders, and prices range from $4.50 to $9. Most sandwiches are priced at $3 and $3.50.

The owner said entertainment, which has long been a part of weekend activities at the restaurant, will continue. Croatian singers and bands perform on Saturdays after 9 p.m.

The Casino Restaurant and Lounge
9706 S. Commercial Ave., Chicago
(773) 221-5189
Hours: 1
1 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; on Saturdays, the lounge is open until 3 a.m.
Credit cards:
None accepted

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