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UConn Coach Shoots and Scores With Fast-Casual
Geno’s Fast Break Food Court and Pub finds a home at the Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort.
Geno Auriemma's Fast Break

Geno Auriemma is perhaps best known as the head coach of the University of Connecticut Huskies women’s basketball team, which has won five National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I championships.

But the 54-year-old, five-time Naismith College Coach of the Year is also the founder of Geno’s Fast Break Food Court and Pub, an 18-month-old, fast-casual eatery located at the Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort in Uncasville, Connecticut.

“This is another one of [Auriemma’s] passions,” says Sean Cronin, assistant general manager of Geno’s FastBreak. “This was an investment opportunity for him, and he’s very involved in its concept and execution.”

Nestled among a variety of other establishments, including Michael Jordan’s Steak House and Starbucks Coffee, the 300-seat foodcourt and pub features Asian, Mexican, and Italian options. The latter includes Auriemma’s signature brands of pasta and sauces. Deli sandwiches—including Philly cheese steaks—salads, and desserts are also available.

“We offer everything from pre-made sandwiches to fresh, hand-spun pizza. In the eatery, each station has its own kitchen and everything is made fresh to order,” Cronin says. “Most items on the eatery side are under $10, but if you want a $125 bottle of wine and $30 steak, we can do that, too.”

The 24-seat pub, which Cronin considers one of the casino’s best-kept secrets, has its own menu featuring New England fish fry plates, steaks, pizza, and a pie named after UConn and WNBA star, Kara Wolters.

“Our lounge is a hidden gem,” Cronin says. “It’s becoming a favorite spot for some of the other hospitality employees who work in the casino.”

The Mohegan Sun’s ties to the WNBA’s Connecticut Suns, who play at the casino, was part of the reason Auriemma and his partners decided to locate their concept there.

“The right opportunity presented itself, so we took it over,” Cronin explains. “Everything is evolving with the casino because it is a very active place, and it has worked out well for everybody.”

Richard Zazzaro, the casino’s vice president of food and beverage, echoes those same sentiments.

“In a nutshell, it’s a win-win situation. Geno Auriemma is an institution in the state of Connecticut, and Mohegan Sun has the Connecticut Suns,” Zazzaro says. “It’s a huge state for women’s basketball and a demographic that enjoys quick service. When we have a game here, we need that kind of place to meet the capacity. The food is outstanding for a fast-paced environment, and from a quality perspective, they fit right into our program.”

While “nothing is set in stone,” there are plans for expansion, Cronin says, adding that Geno’s will secure its foothold at Mohegan Sun, while eyeing concept expansion opportunities in other states and airports.

Patrons who took the time to submit testimonials to seem to think Coach Auriemma is on to something.

Most items on the eatery side are under $10, but if you want a $125 bottle of wine and $30 steak, we can do that, too.”

One diner, Jean, from Southbury, Connecticut, simply wrote, “Fast food perfected,” while Ray from Willimantic wrote, “Great food, HUGE portions and at a price we can afford.”

Geno’s also has a following among corporate organizations as well.

“Just a note to let you know that our Northeast Ice Skating Managers group that visited Geno’s on May 6th had a great time,” wrote Deane Polmeroy of the Northeast Ice Skating Managers Association in Reading, Massachusetts. “The food was delicious and your staff on duty in the bar that night … were great. When we visit the area again, we’ll certainly return for the food and hospitality.”

Peter Rosenberger, vice president of special events marketing for ESPN Inc., praised Geno’s management for the service they received during the sports network’s annual sales and marketing meeting.

“Calvin Silva, your talented executive chef, ensured that a memorable experience was had by all,” Rosenberger wrote. “From Italian to Mexican to Chinese and fantastic pastries, each station allowed everyone to taste the breadth of quality in bite-size portions. Simply put, Geno’s fresh, delicious assortment dazzled our guests. It is clear that Geno’s success on the basketball court has carried over to the restaurant industry.”

Mark DeSorbo is a frequent contributor to QSR.