LasVegas is justifiably famous for its many storied, old-school red sauce joints. At these restaurants, deals have been brokered and information traded over rivers of marinara and bottles of Barolo; movies have been filmed (starring people doing just about the same thing); and the crooners and barmen who’ve serenaded, poured, and held onto patrons’ secrets for decades are still working today. At the other end of the spectrum, though, the city also has some of the chicest, most newfangled Italian eateries in the country—places that are redefining the way we think about the Italian coastal waters and the things that swim in them. Choosing the top five Italian restaurants in Las Vegas is, therefore, a near- impossible task. But picking he most special? That’s not so difficult. Whether you’re looking for a Goodfellas-style atmosphere, cutting-edge cuisine, the ability to be transported to another country in a single meal, or celebrity chefs, this town has you covered.
Piero’s Italian Cuisine
Piero’s has been a hotspot for gangsters and those who love them ever since Tony “The Ant” Spilotro started coming here for the osso buco three decades ago. Just a few years back, the notorious “Mafia Cops,” a group of NYPD detectives in the Lucchese family employ, were arrested here; in between, Martin Scorsese wisely rented out the joint to shoot the restaurant scenes in Casino. But there’s a reason this iconic, freestanding restaurant still caters to visiting luminaries like Bill Clinton, Prince, and The Rolling Stones as well as high-profile locals: you can eat your vitello scaloppini and linguine alla vongole here in peace.
Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare
Chef Paul Bartolotta’s palace to all things sustainably fished from the Mediterranean and Adriatic flies in more than a ton of seafood (micro-chipped to live-track its freshness) every week. A recent facelift (after only eight years) has given it a fresh, convivial, more casual ambience; gold-leaf fish now hang from the atrium chandelier, and walls are painted with tricolored “rays of light.” Dine in a cabana around the lagoon in back, and be sure to try ricciola di Sicilia all’acciughe (Sicilian amberjack, radicchio, and anchovy sauce), and brodetto di pesce all’Abruzzese (Abruzzi style seafood stew). Or splurge for Bartolotta’s Gran Menu di Mare—a grand seafood feast, served family-style.
Powerhouse duo Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich have more than proven themselves a winning combination—and this venture, which aims to “captures the soul of an Italian grandmother dancing the tango with pop rock hipsters,” works beautifully. No one does classic like Batali, and you’ll find all the rustic, hearty dishes you’d expect here, including homemade orcchiette with lamb sausage, and fusilli with Berkshire Pork ragu. Still the menu here lets you sample from all regions of the boot; the whole grilled branzino with herbs and fennel tastes so fresh, the Mediterranean might be right out the back door.
Scarpetta in Cosmopolitan
Yes, we know: There are outposts of Scarpetta in Toronto, New York, Miami and Beverly Hills. But the signature pomodoro is legendary for a reason—and you should really be eating it in the capital of indulgence. The cozy, long dining room inside the Cosmopolitan is one of the most welcoming places to try Chef Scott Conant’s cuisine of childhood favorites-meet-modern Italian; I love both the super-light dishes (yellowtail crudo and tuna “susci” with truffles) and comfort-food preparations like guanciale-wrapped veal loin. And really, don’t miss that spaghetti pomodoro. I promise, it’s worth the price tag.
Sinatra in Wynn
Steve Wynn decided to create a fine-dining tribute to his friend Frank Sinatra in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, and happily, this place does justice to Ol’ Blue Eyes. Vintage photos of the singer line the walls of the swanky dining room; the menu offers modern riffs on classic Italian dishes from Chef Theo Schoenegger (formerly of Patina in Los Angeles). It’s a transporting place—especially if you dine under the stars among cozy fireplaces.