By Vegas Food Nerd

Tucked away in a strip mall next to a La Bonita Market, and Lee’s Liquor in Las Vegas is a family run treasure that Guy Fieri featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” but that’s not what makes this gem of a place stand out. It all began in 2009 when Nina Manchev opened Forte European Tapas. Originally from Sofia, Bulgaria, Nina moved to Vegas with her parents at three years of age and has stayed much to the delight of locals in the know. Nina started Forte while she was still going to college at UNLV. She saw a hole in the dining scene and decided to bring her robust family traditions to her new restaurant. Her father helps her to develop the recipes, and as  Forte European Tapas has evolved, she has brought her unique flavor to the menu that celebrates dining going back to ancient times.

When you first walk into Forte European Tapas, I was struck by the quaintness of the space. The bar is inviting, and the deli and market section begs for some good foodie perusing. The seating area is an eclectic mix of fun and homey decorations. On one side is high tops, and the other is comfy cozy couch seating. It’s a setting that is conducive to deep conversation, and of course a lot of eating. The walls are adorned with art, faux plants and other wild knick-knacks that make you feel like you have temporarily left our neon city and been transported into a small café in Europe.

When we were seated, the server introduced us to the spice blend on the side of your table housed in a cool carved wooden box. She instructed us to pour some olive oil into our small plates, and then add small scoops of the spice mixture to the oil to create a delicious dip that we used as we devoured their warm bread while deciding what to order from their delightfully unfamiliar offerings.

We ordered the Thracian clay pot that Guy Fieri sampled on Triple D. Because hey, if it’s good enough for that wild-haired food host, then it is good enough for us too. Then Forte’s take on Beef Stroganoff, a wild mushroom pelmeni covered with a stroganoff ragu, and their Vereniki (hand-made dumplings, filled with potato, and topped with fried onions). We finished off the order with a pitcher of their white sangria. The Vereniki came out first, and it was love at first bite. There was no denying the home-made tenderness to the dumplings, and the sour cream on the side was a fresh, bright accompaniment. My favorite dish of the three came next. The beef stroganoff was a tender melt in your mouth delight. And Guy’s Clay Pot? It was delicious as well, full of authentic flavors, and something I might have enjoyed more at brunch time.  Which, by the way, is a reason to dedicate a Sunday to visit because it is the only day of the week that Forte serves the Spanish delight Paella.

Cheers to Chef Nina, and her family for bringing this outpost from Bulgaria to Las Vegas. Her family heritage shines through her food and entices the pallet to indulge for repeated visits. I highly suggest you experience for yourself next time you’re in Vegas.

Follow me @vegasfoodnerd




By Vegas Food Nerd

Not far from the entrance to Zion National Park is a smaller town in southern Utah called La Verkin where there’s a family-run restaurant called Stage Coach Grille. Not far from Springdale, the town just outside Zion, this dining spot serves up steaks, ribs, chops, seafood and other dishes— all with a Greek flair. We found this quaint spot after a visit to the park where we had just hiked the emerald pools. The trail, which starts just steps away from the Lodge inside Zion, was a natural marvel. It’s not every day that you find a path that hikers of all skill levels can walk on and venture underneath a waterfall. We were even treated to an exclusive tour guide when a deer decided to join us on our journey just steps away. To get to the lodge, Zion runs shuttles all day long, and don’t let the long lines fool you; they move pretty fast. We were staying in La Verkin for the night and had passed by the restaurant on the way to the park. The building itself makes you want to walk into the place. It’s southwest pink, with a rustic looking patio, and perfect accents all around it, including a metal sculpture of a horse on the roof that is rearing his legs, and glistening in the sun. It stands out in a town full of fast food.

Owners George and Cindy Rodinos wanted to create a place where the food was as fresh and locally sourced as possible: an anti-fast food, prepackaged preparation place where they could connect with locals, and the people who frequently travel through their area. They designed the outside and interior of the restaurant with friends, and their attention to detail is evident the moment you walk in. The interior past the western style wooden swing doors is rustic and fun, featuring yellow walls set off by patches of brick. Wooden floors, furniture and southwest artwork throughout make it a cozy and warm dining experience.

On our visit, we decided to try a few of their daily specials. I got the crab stuffed salmon served with garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables, and my friends ordered the braised lamb, and the Ahi tuna. Mine was tender and very flavorful. The lamb (because yes my friends share their food, otherwise we couldn’t be friends) was tender comfort food with potatoes and roasted vegetables on the side. The table favorite for the evening was the Ahi tuna. Flown in fresh from Hawaii, the sesame crusted fish was served over wild rice pilaf with fresh sautéed veggies. It was a fresh, bright-tasting dish that we all enjoyed. Our server was attentive and friendly as was the rest of the staff. If anyone passing saw that we needed something, it was brought to us right away. Don’t skip the desserts when you visit. They are all homemade fresh, and a perfect ending to your meal. We sampled their Baklava, and the three-layer chocolate cake— both sweet perfection.

Zion is a spectacle that I highly recommend everyone experience, and when you are there, let’s face it, you have to eat. Stage Coach Grille is a perfect ending to a long day at the park. Take in the grandeur of the views, and fill up on the food that this family so lovingly prepares.

Follow me @VegasFoodNerd 






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




By Vegas Food Nerd

Joe Bastianich and his partner in culinary crime, Mario Batali, are epicurean powerhouses and both recently celebrated 10 years in the dining scene here in Las Vegas. As a fan of both icons, I went into our dinner at their B&B Ristorante with some pretty high expectations. Also, Italian restaurants are a bit tough for me to be completely objective about. Coming from and marrying into an Italian family, I’ve been exposed to some excellent family recipes and great food. Going to an Italian restaurant for me is like bringing sand to the beach. (At least that is what my husband always says.) I had some friends visiting our fast-paced town, and they love Italian food so when I told them our dining options at The Venetian, B&B was their choice. Located in restaurant row at the mega-casino resort, the restaurant is a beautiful, cozy and romantic space. It has dark wood coffered ceilings and the walls are adorned with their vast wine selection. The lighting bathes diners in a dark yet golden tone, and the chairs are all plush and very comfortable.

When seated our waiter, who I want to point out, was very, very good, brought over a complimentary bite from the chef. It was a bruschetta with a pesto and chickpea topping. It was a good way to start. After getting a couple of martinis from the bar (one regular, the other a tasty blood orange one), we ordered our meals. To start, the three of us ordered the burrata, a beet salad and their gorgonzola salad. The burrata arrived with the creamy cheese plopped in the center of the plate with a small drizzle of olive oil and a big chunk of bread. That was it. It was the most disappointing way to serve one of my favorite things. No tomatoes, peppers or accents to bring out the creamy joy that burrata can be. A serious fail in our opinion. However, the butter lettuce salad with pancetta, shaved radishes, and gorgonzola made up for it this salad, which was tender and very balanced. I had ordered the beet salad with walnuts, caracara orange, mint and ricotta salata and it was a little too sweet, but overall very good.

Next came our meals. My friend ordered the pappardelle Bolognese with a veal and pork ragu. It was a lovely dish with tender ribbons of pasta, though the serving size was pretty disappointing for a pasta dish that we shelled out $29 for. I tried their cavatelli with a Sardinian lamb ragu and smoked ricotta cheese. The serving size was similar, but it was a disappointment overall. The pasta was chewy, and the sauce didn’t impress either. My other friend decided to try their short rib al Barolo with polenta and horseradish. The short rib was a tender and very flavorful main dish, but once again the serving size bordered on skimpy. I am very familiar with the fact that in Italy pasta is viewed as a first course and not as a main dish as many of us Americans do.

So, I had just assumed that they were trying to honor that tradition with the pasta portions, but then I saw their main dish portions and came to a pretty typical revelation that you can often get in our city. B&B is right there on the main drag, and they get a lot of walk-by tourist traffic so they made the decision to do the same as many other dining spots in the same situation: they overcharge patrons for marginal cuisine.

Trust me and venture off the strip a small way and you can visit some family-run Italian joints that will charge you half what these NYC transplants— and the food is infinitely better. It’s not the first time an East coast elitist passed judgment on our city and failed to look down their noses long enough to realize that just having their namesakes plastered everywhere may gratify their egos, but quality food and service wins me over way quicker than the fleeting trappings of celebrity. Feel free to message me anytime, and I will send you a few of my favorite Italian spots on your next visit to Las Vegas.

At the close of our meal, our waiter brought out a complimentary dish of small desserts, which was a nice touch. Our favorite part of the meal were the sweet treats. We ordered their Limoncello sampler and tried the lemon, lime, and the blood orange. All were fun and tasty, and then our waiter brought out a small shot glass of the bay leaf flavor (the one we thought we wouldn’t like), and it was so good. It had a cinnamon clove-like taste to it, not at all what we expected.

Last month I shared with you my marinara sauce, simple, and will hopefully make you never feel the need to buy a jar of sauce ever again. If you want to up your game a little more turn it into a meat sauce by doubling the recipe, add a tablespoon of tomato paste and mix up some meatballs food nerd style.

Meat Balls 1/3 pound ground veal

1/3 pound ground pork

1/3 pound ground beef

1 cup Italian breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 egg

2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Roll the mixture into your desired meatball size. They don’t have to be perfectly round; perfectly round meatballs are frozen one’s, homemade are not. Heat up the olive oil in a skillet and in batches fry the meatballs until they are nice and golden. Once they are browned, drop them into a bubbling pot of sauce and simmer them for at least an hour.


0517dwbistro mosaic


By Vegas Food Nerd

Located in the revamped and now thriving Gramercy development DW Bistro is a modern open and airy space located in the heart of this new urban landscape in the Las Vegas valley. The once-stalled development is now almost entirely leased out and has created a cool little community vibe to it. There are different sites for outdoor bonfires, an outdoor movie theater and a fitness center. There is residential living, office space and the retail spaces below them are slowly but surely filling in with some solid offerings. DW Bistro is one of them.  Open for lunch and dinner as well as their very popular weekend brunches, the restaurant is a favorite for locals. Relocated from their original space in a strip mall only a few exits away from the Gramercy, the new space is bigger, and more open, making more room for the loyal fans of this establishment. Word about DW’s unique New Mexico cuisine meets Jamaican has captured the taste buds of many in town, and I was looking forward to finally getting to try their food.

The space itself is striking when you walk through the door. It’s modern with warm accents, and features a big long bar in the center. There are bright splashes of white and orange, and the seating sleek and filled with a few hipster types here and there. The patio is an excellent dining option when weather permits and the restaurant is located right next to the expertly landscaped central park of the Gramercy development, making for some beautiful views.

We visited this fusion restaurant for lunch one day during the week. It was the middle of the day, so we opted for their pomegranate iced tea instead of partaking from the bar. The ice tea, which you can order either sweetened, or not was bright and refreshing. Though we did happen to see a few of their legendary Bloody Mary’s drifting around on various servers’ trays (and they looked tempting). We started our meal with their DW Spanish chorizo and shrimp. The shrimp and chorizo were served with a fresh tomato, roasted garlic, and lemon beurre blanc sauce with basil. The dish was served with lavash and crostini. It was full of flavor, and that sauce was such a perfect medley of flavors we couldn’t help but sip it after we’d eaten the shrimp and sopped up what we could with the crackers. For our entrees, my friend ordered the blackened salmon salad, and I ordered the chef recommended dish— the New Mexican pork bowl. The salad was very good with a nice balance between the sweetness in the dressing and the spice from the blackened salmon.  My bowl was a generous portion. It was big tender chunks of pork that had been simmered in a New Mexican red Chile sauce served over rice, topped with two fried eggs, some micro greens and served with flour tortillas. It was a steamy, spicy, warm dish that took me back to the food I’d experienced in Santa Fe, and one of the more unique flavors I’ve experienced here in town.  

There isn’t a shortage of restaurants in our fair city, but DW’s unique menu offerings and the level of service we experienced on our visit rival some of the big-name restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip. When you visit, I urge you to venture off the strip to check out the many gems like this that are worth the trip. If you are ever looking for a suggestion or two feel free to reach out to me on social media for a tip or two.  I’m always happy to share. • Follow me @VegasFoodNerd


It was during one of our bigger events for the magazine that a photographer approached me about writing for the dining section of STRIPLV. He was confident in his love of food and the art of preparing it when he started to describe his favorite recipe to me. He started out by saying “Ok so first I take a jar of spaghetti sauce.” I had to stop the guy right there in his tracks.  Needless to say, he didn’t get the gig. A basic marinara sauce is so easy to master that there is no need to waste your money on another jar, and it’s impressive to most when you make your own. The following is a basic beginner sauce.  You can feel free to riff on it and make it exclusively your own by adding different flavors.  It’s a great place to start. Once you’ve got this one down it will serve as a great base to create many other sauces to use in future dishes.  

Marinara Sauce

1 twenty-eight ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes with basil

4 cloves garlic peeled and minced

2 tablespoons of dried basil

2 teaspoons of dried parsley

3-4 tablespoons of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

fresh chopped basil to garnish

freshly grated parmesan cheese

Place the tomatoes in a blender and pulse a few times to crush and reduce them. You will want to have some texture so don’t over blend. Heat your olive oil over medium heat then add the minced garlic and stir until the garlic turns golden brown on the edges. Then add your crushed tomatoes, dried basil, dried parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to simmer and let the sauce cook for 20 minutes. While the sauce is cooking, boil a pot of water and add a 16-ounce box of pasta of your choice. Toss the pasta and half of your sauce together in a bowl. Dish up into individual servings and top with the reserved sauce on top and garnish with the fresh chopped basil and the grated parmesan cheese.  This recipe works great with a rigatoni shaped pasta. If you want to make it with a fettuccini or spaghetti shaped pasta those tend to need a little more sauce, in that case, go ahead and double the recipe.  

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