James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef Paul Bartolotta trained in Italy under master chefs before opening his highly acclaimed Spiaggia in Chicago. Now he's here, in this eponymous (and Best New Restaurant 2006 Beard finalist) kitchen, yet more proof that celebrity chefs are all very well and good, but it's not the same as having them on the premises. In this case, the result is as authentic Italian food as one can find outside Italy. Determined to produce just that, Bartolotta went to his boss, Steve Wynn, and insisted that his fish not just be ultrafresh but also be flown daily straight from the Mediterranean to his Vegas kitchen, saying "I can't make authentic Italian food with American fish." Wynn's response? "Give the man his fish." (And you will be introduced to the results after you sit down!)
Bartolotta is nonchalant about what goes on here; all you have to do, he claims, is know what you are doing, and then do it with the best ingredients -- best olive oil, best tomatoes, and best fish. He's right. It works, and so well that this is the restaurant we are currently most likely to tout in Vegas; as in, go here, do. You can choose your whole cooked fish right from that day's batch (you can get them big enough so one can be split among several people), which may include new-to-you (they were to us) possibilities like orata and purple snapper, each topped with a chunky "sauce" of sweet pachino tomatoes, arugula, garlic, and red onion. Pastas are perfect, as well, especially the delicate sheep's milk ricotta handkerchief-style ravioli, made both sweet and savory with a veal Marsala wine-reduction glaze. Spaghetti allo Scoglio comes with large chunks of lobster, langoustines are grilled to charred smoky rightness, seared scallops with porcini mushrooms in browned butter are what scallops should be -- and all because this Italian staff learned their lessons well, and they are passing that knowledge on to you.
Meanwhile, Sommelier Claudio Vilani, who honed his skills in his native Italy, created and oversees the (almost) all-Italian list. Those in the know will leave themselves in his capable hands, as he pairs a regionally appropriate wine with the seafood cuisine. The space itself is perhaps the nicest in the hotel, which has done well by all its restaurants, a multilevel construction that gives a cafe feeling on the top level, a more elegant dining area down below (accessed by a dramatic curving, sweeping stairway), and, best of all, outdoor cabana seating by a small pond filled with reflecting balls, so fine for a long (as the Italians like to do it), sultry evening meal. A jewel box of a place for cooking that is a treasure.
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Very Highly Recommended 2010