By Vegas Food Nerd

This quaint little spot located in what I like to call the “Las Vegas Lawyer Zone” is a small brick house that was converted into an Italian restaurant. In business since the ‘70s (which qualifies the place for historic status), this red sauce joint is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. I mentioned this was a small spot, right? It’s so small that if you plan on dining here, I highly recommend that you make a reservation. There are a limited amount of tables and they seem to have a steady stream of customers that visit regularly. On the night that we visited the wait staff was turning away tables. We just happened to luck out, arriving right at opening at 5 p.m. to grab a four top. I had a personal reason for wanting to check this place out. My grandfather was an Italian from Chicago, and his first name was Joe. Seeing as he is one of the best people I’ve ever known I had to check this place off my Vegas restaurant list.

When you walk into the restaurant, you are immediately transported to a venue that feels decidedly un-Vegas. Chicago Joe’s has low ceilings with a permanent display of green Christmas lights and faux evergreen and tables covered in the corny, yet familiar red and white checkered tablecloths. It looked a lot like what I assume the restaurant in Lady and The Tramp looked like from a human perspective. There are also a couple of credenzas like your grandma has, filled with various tchotchkes. At this point, I am also going to preface this write up by saying I’m very proud of my Italian cooking skills, and bringing my family to a place that cooks food from the boot is like bringing sand to the beach. Our family’s sauce is the best, our meatballs, our homemade pasta— you get the picture. Our wine was brought to the table served in chilled juice glasses the same way my grandfather enjoyed his nightly glass of red wine, and I loved that little touch. They have a meal deal for $15 where you get a smaller sized entrée paired with a house salad. All four of us decided to try it and ordered lasagna, fettuccine alfredo, chicken marsala and chicken parmesan. The lasagna was a gooey cheesy, meatball filled pasta dish that was pretty tasty. The chicken parm was also a classic comfort food type of meal. The fettuccine alfredo and chicken marsala however lacked flavor, and I wouldn’t recommend them. The house salad with their signature dressing was good, but I’d request the creamy dressing on 

the side next time, as they doused mine a little more than I would’ve liked. Each table is served a couple of loaves of hot fresh bread and butter, which were very good. A table next to us ordered the garlic bread, and it looked pretty tempting to our group. I’m going to be very honest: the food didn’t blow me away, but the atmosphere was a welcome change. Our fellow diners seemed to be very familiar with the staff, begging for you to look for their “Norm” to walk in at any moment. The home’s former fireplace is filled with lit candles, and it only added to the feeling that you were having dinner with some perfect friends in Chicago.

I only had the opportunity to dine with my rowdy Italian relatives in Chicago a few times growing up, but I can tell you eating at Chicago Joe’s is kind of what I remember it feeling like. Dining in small spaces with other loud kin, who gives you huge portions made with love. While I am pretty confident I would triumph in a throwdown cooking competition with Joe’s if we were to be competitors on “Chopped,” I’m glad that this place has a foothold in our town. While Las Vegas is full of braggadocius celebrity chefs and local entertainers who masquerade as international celebrities, a little indie place like this deserves our support and when you go, look around and see how happy the patrons are reconnecting with each other over a simple meal. Now eat something.

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