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.

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