Although the city of Las Vegas lacks not for Italian restaurants, the majority are known for red sauce. From chicken parm to spaghetti and meatballs, there is at least one place in every casino or neighborhood where diners can find these staples of Italian American culture. But beginning November 2018, all that changed when two region-specific spaces opened – first Cipriani in the Wynn Plaza Shops and then Vetri Cucina at the top of The Palms.
Beginning with Wynn’s third Italian eatery, joining Allegro and Sinatra inside Encore, Cipriani brings over eighty-five years of tradition west of the Mississippi River for the first time. Hailing from Venice, where Giuseppe Cipriani’s original Harry's Bar still stands, this restaurant is all about style, from the yacht-themed interior to suited waiters providing flawless service. Cipriani is open for lunch and dinner, and diners can stop in for a full meal, or just appetizers and drinks – including the world-famous white peach Bellini, invented by Cipriani in 1948.
Authentically Italian and still family-owned, a fourth generation continuing on the motto, “to serve is first to love," invites guests to begin with antipasti – including carpaccio "alla Cipriani" or imported baby artichokes. Another worthy choice is creamy salt cod that cannot be found anywhere else in Las Vegas. For those seeking something a little more familiar, there is also (of course) pizza made by the talented Ismaele Romano, and considering the ingredients Cipriani is sourcing, there may be no better Neapolitan pie on The Strip.
Those seeking pasta will be happy to know every noodle on Cipriani’s menu is scratch-made. From feather-light potato gnocchi, anchored by gorgonzola, to the famous tagliolini beneath a cheese crust, carb-lovers will be tempted – and that’s before we even mention a daily risotto that that is made to order and flawlessly textured. (One recent visit featured a mixture of cream and tender organic mushrooms.)
With nearly one third of the spacious kitchen dedicated to pastry, it can safely be said that no meal at Cipriani is complete without tasting a slice of airy vanilla crème meringue, though that most certainly should not preclude a sharable millefoglie if one instead desires something crunchy. From chocolate to lemon meringue, cakes take center stage, though dessert’s real star can be found in made-to-order Gelato, which arrives silky and generously portioned, with sidecars of fudge and candied nuts available to build Sin City’s best sundae.
Then, traveling southwest and off-strip, it is from inland Italy rather than the Adriatic Sea that Chef Marc Vetri takes inspiration. Located atop The Palms, and imported from Philadelphia, Vetri Cucina features the cuisine of Bergamo as interpreted by one of America’s most acclaimed Chefs. All signs so far pointed to food and beverage equal to the views from fifty-six stories in the sky.
Housed in the former Alizé space, and completely re-imagined with imported cobblestone, warm wood and soft lighting, it is immediately upon exiting elevators that guests will find themselves immersed in refinement. From string music to hand-blown glasses and a bar manned by David "Coop" Cooper, it is obvious Station Casinos spared no expense in making Vetri Cucina a crown jewel in their empire. The kitchen, toqued by Chefs Josh Bianchi and Ashley Costa, also speaks volumes, as both bring years of experience to a place where everything, including flour for bread and pasta, is made from scratch.
Offering both Vetri classics and seasonal items, it is in plush seats that the restaurant invites guests to begin with cocktails or wine, plus an array of appetizers. The onion crepe is highly recommended, particularly during truffle season, while cured foie gras offers unparalleled creaminess on toast with housemade jam on top. In addition to salads and crudo that change daily, Chef Vetri’s veal tartare is another luxurious starting point, the flavor deceptively simple at first, evolving on the palate more and more with each bite.
Moving on to pasta, the appropriate focus of any visit to Vetri Cucina, it is necessary that guests first pay close attention to Marc’s famous almond tortellini, as well as Swiss chard gnocchi, the latter almost defying gravity beneath shaved cheese. The casoncelli alla Bergsmasca also warrants attention, thanks to tender beef given added depth by pork and sage. Limited in use of tomatoes – though housemade spaghetti alla pomodoro is offered – it is in the form of springy malfadini that another menu highlight is found, featuring duck plus sliced olives. And for those with gluten sensitivity, there is even fettuccine made from chestnut flour.
Ideal for special occasions and offering most entrees for two, with salt-baked fish and dry-aged steak both beautifully presented, it is also from Vetri Cucina that guests can experience guinea hen or smoked goat. Regardless of which is chosen, saving room for dessert should be a priority. From a polenta Budino and molten pistachio flan to sorbetti and gelato, the sizeable list offers something sweet for every sweet tooth. And, for those seeking something a little less sugary, there is of course espresso or a full slate of Italian digestifs to slip slowly while watching lights twinkle across the valley.