By Vegas Food Nerd

There is not a shortage of Italian restaurants in Las Vegas.  Whether it is the residual effects of the mafia or just an overwhelming amount of people who find comfort from the food that comes out of the boot, the bottom line is we have many choices that go beyond that of a classic red sauce joint.

Salute, located inside of the Red Rock Hotel and Casino with its newly revamped menu is a modern take on some of the classic dishes that we have all grown to love.  I was invited to the new menu unveiling with Salute’s new chef Luke Palladino.  Walking into the restaurant for our dinner, I was struck with the décor.  It was a contemporary space with some classic throwback elements to it.  There is a carving station on the right for antipasto, and freshly sliced prosciutto to order.  Then as you venture farther in, you see the open kitchen with an impressive pizza oven.  There is a  warmth to the design that helps to get your palate going for the offerings ahead.  You can opt for a cozy leather booth, tables that have nice comfy chairs, or their patio if weather permits is a nice option as well.

We were guests of the new chef, and he gave us a sampling of the entire menu.  He started off with impressive choices from both the cold and hot antipasti items.  The ahi tuna crudo was a tender and flavorful raw offering, and it was unique in its flavors with the blood orange aioli, calabrese chili oil, olives, and crispy shallots.  The other cold dish served was thin Italian breadsticks wrapped in freshly sliced prosciutto with Parmesan and white truffle butter.  These were the least favorite of the bites we were offered during the night.  Moving to the hot portion of the appetizers we were served a baked taleggio cheese with wild mushrooms, a cheese scaloppini, wood oven-roasted clams casino, and crispy stuffed and fried squash blossoms.   Theses were all flavorful and all accented with innovative tastes like the Sambuca accent in the scaloppini.  The smoked chili garlic butter on the clams was tasty, but the highlight was the squash blossoms.  They were a delicate bite stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan accented with a pistachio pesto.

Chef Luke then brought a couple of pizzas out for our table to enjoy.  We sampled the prosciutto and their Bianco pizzas.  Both were tasty. The prosciutto pie was adorned with a Pomodoro sauce, prosciutto, of course, arugula, shaved parmesan all drizzled with an aged balsamico.  The Bianco was pecorino and buffalo cheese with circles of sun-dried tomato pesto and topped off with toasted pistachios.   Both were so good, and the crusts had an excellent taste and texture and a good 

chew to them. 

The pasta course was up next, and we were treated to three different signature dishes from Salute.  The first was truffle ravioli, stuffed with ricotta and truffles and topped with a Foie gras cognac crema sauce.  These pillowy pasta delights were a delicate, yet decadent experience.  Next was tagliatelle Bolognese, a veal, pork, and beef ragu topped with shaved parmesan.  Chef Paladino told us that he spent years in Bologna, Italy perfecting the component to his sauce for this pasta dish.  The final and most dramatic pasta was the restaurant’s signature dish:  their take of the famous Roman cacio e pepe.  They present this creamy spaghetti table side.  They pour some vodka in the center of a large wheel of parmesan cheese, set it on fire creating a cheesy pool in the center, and they immediately toss some hot pasta inside, swirling it around to make the sauce right there in front of us.  It was a unique and fun way to be served, and its simplicity made it one of our favorite bites of the evening.  

Next, we were served three of their meat, and fish dishes.  First was their grilled 16 ounce veal chop.  Next was the porterhouse steak for two, and then their acqua pazza (a whole roasted fish cooked in “crazy water.”)   Served along side were crushed fingerling potatoes, roasted root vegetables, and crispy brussel sprouts.  The meats were grilled to perfection.  I especially loved the wild mushroom, prosciutto, and sage crema that was served with the veal, and the black garlic porcini butter on the porterhouse was so excellent.  The fish was presented whole in its bath of garlic, chilies, fennel, Ligurian olives, tomatoes, potatoes, marjoram, and parsley.  The waiter then took the fish and deboned it tableside.  The result was a tender and delightful seafood offering.  

Finally, we couldn’t roll out of our amazing experience without a little dessert right?  Served were cannolis, warm Nutella cake, and their take on zeppole (Italian doughnuts).  The cannoli shell was crisp, light, and thin with an orange scented ricotta filling, dotted with pistachios and dark chocolate.  It was one of the best I’ve sampled in quite some time.  The Nutella cake was a warm, chocolatey delight sure to satisfy any chocolate lover.  The doughnuts were just the right amount of sweetness with two different custardy sauces to dip them in; a perfect end to such an elaborate tasting.  

I’ve decided to add a new sidebar to my column each month as a public service to our STRIPLV readers.  Guys, there is nothing sexier than a man who can whip up a hot dinner for his partner.  While most of us ladies to enjoy a romantic night on the town, cooking in can result in some of the best deserts that you’ve ever had, and I’m not talking about the sugary variety.  I will highlight a new recipe each month that even a trained gorilla could pull off and get some action at the end of the night.  Here we go with our first one. 

Orange Ginger Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 cup flour

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon peeled grated ginger

3 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

Pound the chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap to an even thickness.  Then salt and pepper both sides of the meat.  Heat a pan, and add the butter and oil to it.  Cover the chicken with flour, and place in the heated oil and butter.  Cook the cutlets on both sides until they are a nice golden brown color, and remove them from the pan.  Deglaze the pan with the orange juice, then stir the remaining ingredients in to complete your sauce.  Reduce the sauce, thickening it slightly, and return the chicken to the pan.  Let the chicken simmer in the sauce for 10 to 15 minutes or longer to soak up the flavors, then serve.  It can be served over rice or alongside potatoes.  If you want to jazz up your presentation, line your serving platter with fresh orange slices and zest some fresh peel on top of the chicken.  




By Vegas Food Nerd

Most men, and quite honestly women too hate the dreaded holiday we know as Valentine’s Day.  If you are single, you really hate it, with a vengeance.  Thoughts of heart shaped chocolate boxes, and bouquets of red roses can spur a  case of nausea in your stomach.  The expectations of your partner depending on your relationship can be a source of stress.  If you happen to be visiting Las Vegas during this season of love here are a few recommendations on how to woo your partner in Sin City.


First and perhaps most important, plan ahead

Our city is a prime Valentine’s Day destination.  So even if planning an evening out is against your nature, it’s time to change that about yourself.  Plan where you would like to go and make reservations as early as possible.  Nothing is going to squash the romantic vibe more than not knowing where you are going to go for the evening.

Get ready

This tip ties into the one above, but preparation does show real affection.  Stop by Adult Superstore, or Lion’s Den here in Las Vegas and get a few tools to turn on your lover.  A gourmet dining experience should end you up relishing in an epicurean romp between the sheets.  Wear something under your clothes to surprise your partner, and or introduce a few new toys to the bedroom after your date. 

Take them to new heights

The lights of Las Vegas are spectacular, and they are even more awe-inspiring when you visit some of our bars and restaurants that have balconies that overlook the Strip.  Rivea the restaurant that sits atop of Mandalay Bay has a lounge adjacent to it called the Skyfall Lounge.  You can sit out on the balcony and enjoy cocktails on their couch type seating and revel in the 180-degree views.  The Stratosphere has the revolving restaurant that gives you 360-degree views.  And the Ghost Bar and The Foundation Room have some great views as well.  And if you take your date to the Eifel Tower Restaurant at The Paris Hotel and Casino you will get perfect romantic views of the legendary Bellagio fountains.  Then order a soufflé there for desert, trust me.  The 30-minute ride in the LINQ’s Observation wheel with an open bar wouldn’t be a bad way to kick off the evening either.  A Romantic helicopter ride over the city lights?  Yeah, you can do that too.  Just book everything in advance tours do sell out.

Order Some Bubbly

It might be cliché, but pop a bit of the bubbly at the beginning of the meal. There are rumors that champagne can get you inebriated quicker, which isn’t actually true, but you can’t deny the rush of dopamine you feel when someone cracks open a bottle.  It’s a symbol of something special.  Going out on this holiday is all about making someone feel special.  So, start with bubbles, my friend.  You will not be sorry.

Pick your restaurant wisely

Before just blindly choosing a restaurant that you know that you will love stop and think about your partner.  Any dietary preferences or favorites do they have?  Also, consider the smell factor when you make the final decision.  Is the cuisine overly garlicky or loaded with onions?  Or is it too indulgent and more than likely conducive of a nap instead of an incentive to play in the bedroom?

Try a change of venue for dessert

Every place in town is going to have dessert menu for you to peruse, but why not get even more creative with your planning and go to a new destination to hit your dates sweet spot?  Sweets by Raku is a dessert place located in Chinatown where the chef crafts decadent desserts right before your eyes that look like works of art.  You can also go to the highly anticipated outpost of Chef Christina Tosi’s Milk Bar at The Cosmopolitan she makes something called “Crack” pie, and it is highly addictive, and her legendary Cereal Milk Ice Cream ranks right up there with the “Cronut.”  Oh, and if you want to try one of those visit our friends at Pink Box Donuts, they’ve even upped the donut game with their new churro donuts. 







Located in Summerlin Due
which means two ovens in Italian this little gourmet pizza joint has been cooking up some pretty amazing pies for years.  

Chef Carlos Buscaglia’s recipes and pure dedication to authentic Italian flavors are pretty evident in the food at this trendy modern feeling restaurant.  Like a cracker thin crust then pick their Roman Style Crust, and if you like a bit of chew to your crust like I do then go with their Neapolitan Style Crust.  I’ve been lucky enough to try most of their custom pizzas, and they are all good, and all scrumptious.

It’s not all about the pizza here, though.  They have specials that change from time to time.  One thing you shouldn’t pass up, and I never seem to be able to is their Gnocchi.  They are small semolina gnocchi served in a truffle crema, with bacon and peas.  Decadent and delicate at the same time.  

Their Social Plates section of the menu is also worth exploring.  They have a great Chef’s plate which features Charcuterie and Artisanal cheeses.  But the highlight for myself is their Stracciatella.  If you like cheese and are familiar with Burrata, Stracciatella is the center (best part) of the cheese.  The name means rag in Italian, and they serve it to you with a fresh piece of baked bread and your choice of accompaniment such as roasted red pepper it will make you happy, I promise.  

If you a wine aficionado, you will also like that Duo Forni has an Enomatic Wine System which allows them to pour from over forty plus outstanding limited production wines offered by the glass.  From 10 – 20-year-old Barolos to up-and-coming vintners from hot spots around the globe.


Another great spot for gourmet pies is Settebello.  This small eight-chain restaurant makes Neapolitan pizzas and salads.  Each location does change the menu from time to time based on the availability of ingredients.  

The menu is simple but delicious.  The restaurant is named after the most sought after card in the popular Italian card game called Scopa.  The Settebello is the nickname given to the seven of gold in the 40-card deck. 

When I visited the restaurant, a friend and I split a couple of their pizzas and a salad.  The two pies that we tried were the Emilia (prosciutto cotto, fresh corn, Italian cream, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, basil, and olive oil), and the Filetto (fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and olive oil.)  They both were very good.  We didn’t realize that the Filletto was basically a caprese salad on top of a warm baked round of bread which was a bit of a letdown.  The Emilia was our favorite, warm gooey cheesy perfection.  

The salad we decided to split while eating our pies was their Involtini di Prosciutto which was prosciutto crudo wrapped around baby arugula and goat cheese.  They topped it with goat cheese, shaved parmesan, balsamic reduction and olive oil.  It was just the perfect balance of flavors.  

The small chain is celebrating ten years here in Las Vegas and if you visit between January 10th to the 16th you can get a Margherita Pizza & Peroni for just $10 and help them celebrate this milestone.  Chef Carmine D’Amato hopes you stop by for your slice soon.  •  Follow me at: @vegasfoodnerd


1216dining mosaic



Symphony’s Restaurant at The Pahrump Valley Winery is a short drive from the insanity of the Strip, and it is a quaint and quiet day-trip that is worth taking.

The desert of course, isn’t generally thought of as a fertile place to grow grapes and make wine, but that could change very soon if the tourists that flock to our city find out about this place. The owners/vintners of the winery, Bill and Gretchen Loken, are working hard to change that perception. When they took over the property in 2003, the vineyard was overgrown and in need of some upkeep. They believed in the place and began renovating it, installing a brand new wine production cellar, including new stainless steel fermentation tanks, bottling line, grape crushing, and pressing equipment. They also installed a new oak barrel room for aging the wine, and an all-new tasting room with an expanded guest lounge. They didn’t stop there. They continued their upgrades with Symphony’s Restaurant with the addition of a new kitchen and remodeled the dining room. Their love for their property soon resulted in some accolades. In 2005, they harvested the first crop of grapes. It was one and a half tons of Zinfandel grapes. It was Nevada’s first-ever commercial red wine, and it won Gold at the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition. The Loken’s like to brag that they’re: “Bringing ‘Gold’ to the ‘Silver State.’” On the afternoon that my husband and I visited, we first began our leisurely lunch at the tasting room. When you first walk in, the scent of fermentation is very heavy. You get to pick 7 different wines that they produce for free. Our tasting guide was so nice, and she led us through the different selections expertly. Now, I am going to preface this with a quick note. If you are a wine snob, this probably won’t thrill you. But I found the tastings to be pretty good and enjoyed the experience immensely. After tipping our guide, we headed to the restaurant for our lunch. The dining room transports you back to a small town type of restaurant. It’s very tastefully decorated and looks out to the beautifully manicured grounds of the winery. The covered patio looked enticing, but we opted for eating in the main dining room instead. Our server was a charming lady who encouraged us to order a bottle of what we had liked from our tasting. Pinot Grigio ordered, and then an appetizer of their Shrimp Trio: 2 bacon wrapped, 2 coconut, and 2 chilled shrimp to share with different sauces with each. It was a perfect start to our meal. Then we sampled their creamy Lobster Bisque. It was velvety, decadent, and rich—a good execution of the classic we all love so much. We then opted to try the Crab Macaroni and Cheese, starting with a House Salad: a basic mix of greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers, but the house vinaigrette with dots of blue cheese was just killer. As I age, my obsession with blue cheese seems to grow. The Crab Macaroni and Cheese was creamy and full of tons of sweet, tender crabmeat. As our lunch came to an end, I looked around the room and just saw smile after smile, and heard a lot of laughter. All the other patrons seemed as happy as we were. A good meal and fun experience. Consider a day trip soon. I know we will be back.


I’ve seen a lot of friends posting about this place. They keep mailing enticing looking coupons to our house, which mention their “$2 Tuesday” promotion: “Get 1 scoop of their famous flavors for only $2.” Our family decided to try this one afternoon, and we are glad we did. You stand on the corner at this walkup ice cream stand and pick one of their flavors. One bite and we were hooked. Since 1945, this Ohio-based small chain of ice cream stands have a lot of Midwestern touches—like their Buckeye ice cream. They even sparked my Michigan roots with a Boston Cooler (Vernors ice cream blended with vanilla). And that single scoop for only $2? It sure seems like they are giving you a double scoop. I know it’s winter, but hey, we live in Vegas, it’s always ice cream weather here. • Follow me at: @vegasfoodnerd

STRIPLVDINING - Wedgies Sports Bar


By Vegas Food Nerd

About an hour Northeast of Las Vegas, nestled in the rugged Virgin River Valley, sitting on the edge of the Nevada/Arizona border, is the small town of Mesquite—also a warm desert climate with over 300 days of sunshine a year, but with limited dining options. Enter Wedgies Sports Bar—a recently opened locale committed to becoming a beloved part of the small community.

Vegas native, Randy Aleman, convinced family members and friends to purchase a building in the small town in 2013. The group of partners, which also includes General Manager Chris Hennig, have had great success in running restaurants, and with the wisdom they’ve gained over the years, they knew they had to wait for just the right timing to open this new dining spot. They had a vision for creating a restaurant that the residents in Mesquite could enjoy, (without having to walk through a smoky casino floor); a great place to grab a beer, watch the game, share a meal with friends, and just a great place to hang out.  

Recently announced, this December: Wedgies will become one of the first places in Mesquite to offer non-smoking gaming in the city.  

Randy, Chris, and their partners are excited to share the newly opened outpost in Mesquite with the town and its residents. Their goal is to create a space where all types and demographics feel comfortable when they walk through the door. Understanding that the town may be small but its townspeople are loyal, the partners are looking forward to their business contributing to local causes and interests.

The restaurant’s atmosphere is open, modern, and very comfortable. It is divided into two sections: The general dining area and the bar—resulting in a very family-friendly destination, as well as a great place to hang out with friends while cheering for your favorite team, without disturbing the families that might be dining there at the same time. The gaming is of course in the bar side of things, which makes for a great place to go when you just want some cold beer and to play some games, and hopefully leave the joint with a little extra cash in your wallet. Good times and a great staff make for a winning combination in this sports bar and restaurant.

The menu is a mix between American comfort food classics, such as Hamburgers, Sandwiches, Salads, and more. You can also order a big ole plate of Nachos while you watch the latest sporting event. In addition, they feature some really good Italian-American options as well, with their house made Pasta Fagioli, homemade Pizzas, Calzones, and a selection of Pastas with their fresh, made-from-scratch sauces. Their pasta and meatballs will take you right back to your Nonna’s kitchen (if you were lucky enough to have one, that is).  

Wedgies also offers some great specials available all day long, such as their $4.50 Draft Beers—all day, every day. Their Happy Hour truly lives up to its name with $2 Domestic Drafts, $3 Imports, and $2 Well Drinks. It typically runs from 2:00pm to 6:00pm, but this casual and comfortable eatery extends their specials to every major sporting event that may be drawing in the fans at the time. Wings and cold beers while you cheer is an American tradition that they take very seriously at Wedgies, with flavors ranging from BBQ, Teriyaki, Mild, Medium, Habanero, or plain—all served with the classic accompaniments of Celery, Ranch Dressing and their salty, crispy, tummy-pleasing French Fries. Crispy Calamari, and Fried Zucchini are some of their other tasty bites they offer—and while we are at it, who doesn’t love a good and gooey Cheese Stick now and again? One of their more unique offerings is their Steamed Bucket of Clams, which you can enjoy two ways: either with a choice of a red or white broth with garlic and wine.

When I got the chance to visit this new Mesquite hotspot, I tried a couple of their messy, but good, hot sandwiches—like their cheesy, sweet and sour Reuben, and their wet, but deliciously dripping-good, Italian Beef. I kicked it all off with my friend by trying their take on the Italian Classic Pasta Fagioli. It was a garlicky soup creation that satisfied. I highly recommend that on your next visit. Pairing that course with a nice cold beer on draft, we moved onto the hot sandwiches. The Reuben was piled with just the right mix of Sauerkraut, Corned Beef, Swiss and Thousand Island dressing that I was hoping for when it arrived at the table. And that Italian Beef sandwich had just the right amount of juice, that a true Chicago Italian would recognize (my grandpa taught me well). And this was the ‘real deal’ Italian Beef—complete with the right mix of Giardiniera, melted Provolone, and Au Jus to dip the messy creation in. This isn’t about being pretty, it’s about getting down and dirty with a really good sub. Yum.  

This is a fun, family-friendly, girlfriend lunch spot, sports viewing gathering spot with friends, and a great place to just grab a beer while playing a few games on their machines. It is a spot that Mesquite really needed—to fill a void in their restaurant scene. And if you’re ever near the town of Mesquite, I highly suggest you give it a try. My family and I love this place and make a point of stopping on all of our Northern travels.

Wedgies is located at 796 W. Pioneer Blvd., Mesquite, NV 89027 and is open daily from 7am-10pm. (702) 346-0999 • Follow me at: @vegasfoodnerd

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