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

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