Vegas has always had a strong Italian connection. The Rat Pack, led by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, had a huge influence, as did many of the Italian mobsters of yesteryear. As a result, that European flavour remained, and today Italian fare is one of the most dominant foods offered in Sin City. They cover everything from ‘old world rustic’ to upscale, modern elegance. On a recent trip there, I checked out a few.
For old world charm, check out Piero’s (www.pieroscuisine.com) near the convention centre. Lavishly decorated like a luxurious private men’s club, this award-winning dining staple has been dishing out authentic Italian fare to actors, star athletes and musicians for the last 30 years. Many of the Rat Pack used to frequent the place, and it was used in the Robert DeNiro/Joe Pesci movie Casino. Chef Gilbert Fataz utilizes only fresh ingredients to create the extensive food menu with such signature dishes as Osso Bucco. Servings are large and tasty while the 200-plus-label wine list (35 offerings by the glass) is a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner. You never know who’ll be sitting at the table next to you.
For elegant Italian dining, check out Bacio (www.troplv.com/dining/bacio) in the Tropicana. Chef Carla Pellegrino has a flair for letting food speak yet complimenting it with delicate savoury accents. Fresh ingredients and herbs as well as esthetic presentation elevate the experience to delicious. Dishes like veal Marsala and pasta with clams and garlic sing. Not an extensive food menu, but everything is done to perfection. Yummy desserts too! The short wine list (all Italian) is well-chosen to match the food. There are 11 wines available by the glass. The clean, pristine décor adds to this wonderful dining experience. ‘Bacio’ means kiss, and you’ll feel like you’ve been pecked on the cheek with gastronomic pleasure at this delightful Italian eatery.
If you’re a lover of seafood Italian-style, then look no further than Bartolotta (www.wynnlasvegas.com/dining/bartolotta) in the Wynn. Award-winning Chef Paul Bartolotta creates traditional Italian coastal dishes with fresh fish and seafood flown in daily from the Mediterranean. The savoury spaghetti con vongole is fab as is the crispy buttery branzino that melts in your mouth. Homemade pastas and other classic Italian specialties deliver as well. Desserts like the Ligurian lemon cake will have you singing Pagliacci. Dine at a private cabanna around a limpid pool or indoors. Either way, heavenly food, a great wine selection and impeccable service will guarantee a gastronomic feast for all.
Looking for a hip, new happening Italian wining/dining experience in Vegas? The place to go is D.O.C.G. (www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com/taste/restaurant-collection/d-o-c-g.aspx). It’s named after a category of Italian wine called Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or the highest level of Italian wine origin. Chef Scott Conant was inspired to create this casual upscale wine bar/eatery in the glitzy new Cosmopolitan. Excellent pizza, homemade pasta, mouth-watering steaks and chops compliment the extensive high-end wine list. Numerous small dishes allow diners to try or share many offerings. The flaky stromboli stuffed with smoked mozzarella and salami will have you kissing your fingers and saying “bellissima.” Rustically modern and bustling from the moment it opens, it is the place to wine, dine, see and be seen.
Edward Finstein, a.k.a. The Wine Doctor, is a wine writer, educator, judge & consultant.