Next time you're craving some mouth-watering Italian fare, leave the passport at home and head to Las Vegas instead. The city is home to some of the best Italian restaurants this side of Rome, including the Strip outpost of New York's famed (and almost impossible to get into) Rao's. Some of the country's most celebrated chefs have Italian restaurants here, too, like Lupo by Wolfgang Puck, Scott Conant's D.O.C.G. and Carla Pellegrino's Bratalian. For those hungry for a feast for the senses, Trevi boasts one of the best indoor patios in town (great for people watching!) while Panevino offers guests a view worth salivating over thanks to its floor-to-ceiling windows that face the glittering Las Vegas Strip. If you prefer to dine with the stars instead of gazing at them, Lavo is known for its celebrity clientele, as is Piero's, which has been attracting everyone from celebrities to presidents to its tables for more than 30 years. In a rush? Onda offers a delectable small bites menu in its wine lounge that's perfect for before or after a show. And, when you want to escape from it all but don't want to venture far from the Strip, Verandah's picturesque garden terrace offers guests a delightful respite that's matched only by the restaurant's exceptional Italian cuisine. Regardless of what you're looking for, these 10 restaurants are sure to leave guests saying, "Now that's amore!"
Bringing her famous celebrity chef fare to Henderson, Carla Pellegrino's Bratalian is an intimate neighborhood restaurant focusing on simplistic, flavorful Italian home-style cuisine in a relaxed, picturesque setting replicating Naples. Although the restaurant has only been open since 2011, it's already been awarded the Las Vegas Review-Journal's "Best of Las Vegas - 2012" and "Best of Henderson - 2011, 2012." Menu must-tries include the Ravioli di Magro al Burro e Salvia (fresh spinach and ricotta cheese raviolis in a sweet butter and sage sauce) and the Cotoletta di Maiale in Agrodolce (a pan-seared 14-ounce pork chop sauteed in sweet and hot cherry peppers). One bite, and guests are sure to be back. In fact, Bratalian is so sure of it, the restaurant offers its own loyalty card program for repeat diners! (702-454-0104)
Celebrity chef Scott Conant's first foray into a more a casual yet still sophisticated dining concept, D.O.C.G. is a rustic Italian restaurant featuring pizzas, pastas, steaks and chops. The design is at once modern and rustic, with exposed brick and reclaimed wood. As guests dig in to such gourmet specialties as The D.O.C.G. Pizza with fonduta, egg and truffles, Pici with braised duck sauce and black truffles or tender Braised Short Rib, they can wash everything down with a selection from over 500 regional Italian wines by the bottle or 20 by the glass. For those who prefer cocktails to vino, the bar also offers popular favorites as well as small-batch American spirits. (702-698-7920)
Even in the desert, the weather isn't always ideal for year-round patio dining. That is, of course, unless you're dining at Trevi. Boasting one of the best indoor patios in town, guests will feel like they're dining in Rome as they sit next to the Fountain of the Gods inside The Forum Shops at Caesars, feasting upon a flavorful Italian menu while watching all the shoppers pass by. Menu must-tries include Trevi's signature deep dish Lasagna Pizza with layers of Italian sausage, ricotta and mozzarella cheese and tangy pomarola sauce and its signature Linguine ai Frutti di Mare: a medley of lobster, shrimp, scallops, tomatoes and scallions in a wonderful seafood cream sauce. (702-735-4663)
7 Lupo by Wolfgang Puck
Famed chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck is the creative force behind this Las Vegas delight, a Roman-style trattoria with influences from neighboring, northern regions. Signature dishes include the Gamberetti and Fagioli (sauteed shrimp with white beans, rosemary and garlic), the Lasagna Verde Bolognese "ala Nonna" (layered handmade spinach pasta with bechamel and Bolognese) and the Grilled Bisteca "Fiorentina" (New York strip steak with arugula and rosemary). The restaurant boasts exhibition pizza, antipasto and dessert stations, a glass-enclosed area where fresh pasta is made daily and a wine room that is surrounded by a spacious bar in the center of the restaurant. The newly remodeled dining room, meanwhile, features a stunning, contemporary interior with a palette of warm chocolate brown and cool white. In addition to the main dining room and banquet facilities, Lupo's indoor patio provides a perfect setting for people-watching without leaving the hotel. (702-740-5522)
6 Onda Ristorante & Wine Lounge
A staple of the Las Vegas Strip since 1999, Onda is one of the city's finest Italian restaurants, serving classic, rustic Italian cuisine with American innovations. Offering an array of pasta, meat and seafood dishes, menu must-tries include the Bigoli Con Coda Di Manzo (homemade thick spaghetti with braised oxtail and ricotta "salata") and Spigola in Crosta Di Aglio (garlic-crusted Chilean sea bass with artichoke hearts, fingerling potatoes and salmoriglio sauce). Regardless of what you order, there's sure to be a selection from Onda's extensive wine list that will pair nicely with your dinner. For those in a time crunch, the restaurant's adjoining wine lounge is perfect for small bites before or after a show. In fact, its menu is so delicious, you may never make it back to the actual restaurant! (702-791-7354)
5 Lavo Italian Restaurant
A celebrity favorite, this Strip hot spot is an Italian restaurant by day (or early evening) and a hip nightclub at night. Boasting a picturesque Strip-front patio and sumptuous Southern Italian cuisine, signature offerings include the Baked Clams Oreganato, Chicken and Mushroom Ravioli and Roasted Chilean Sea Bass. There's also a selection of brick oven pizzas and USDA Prime steaks to tempt taste buds with. Of course, no meal would be complete without one of Lavo's famous Kobe Meatballs, as seen on the Travel Channel's "Meatball Paradise." Guests can enjoy their meatball with sausage ragu, whipped fresh ricotta or a salad and garlic crostini. After dessert, guests can dance off the excess calories in the second-story nightclub, which features resident DJs nightly. (702-791-1800)
Another example of Las Vegas's penchant for having its own versions of some of America's best restaurants, this outpost of the East Harlem original keeps the same great food and adds in views of the resort's pool--not to mention a bocce ball court. Open for lunch Wed.-Sun. and dinner nightly, most folks choose to dine in one of the two rooms that recreate the New York location, soaking in the "authenticity." Wherever you dine, you'll be a fan of the Ossobuco with saffron risotto, Grilled Lamb Chops and Veal Parmesan. Lots of flavor-packed pastas also suit folks to a tee. Whatever you decide on, be sure to save room for dessert: the zesty cannoli with candied orange is the perfect way to cap off your memorable meal. (877-346-4642)
Relive the days of the Rat Pack at this retro-styled Vegas mainstay, where leather booths and plenty of attitude-infused atmosphere set the scene. A recipient of many prestigious awards including the American Express Platinum Fine Dining Award and the DiRona Award (Distinguished Restaurants of North America), Piero's is as popular today as it was more than 30 years ago when it was the new, hip dining spot in town. In fact, its menu of traditional Italian cuisine is so legendary, it hasn't changed since the restaurant opened! Signature dishes include the Scaloppine Milanese and Linguine All'Aragosta. Piero's also boasts a superb wine list--1,900 wines and another 10,000 bottles--making it the meeting place for Las Vegas' high-powered decision makers, politicians and even Hollywood stars. (702-369-2305)
A favorite among the city's many performers, Verandah is truly one of Las Vegas' hidden gems. Guests have the option of dining on an expansive garden terrace that overlooks the resort's lushly landscaped private pool during warmer months (generally March-December), providing an oasis of calm among the frenzy found on the Las Vegas Strip. Even if you can't dine outside, Verandah's mouth-watering Italian menu is enough to create an unforgettable dining experience. Dinner selections vary from entrées like the Double-Cut Lamp Chops and tender braised short ribs to a selection of house-made pastas and wood-fired pizzas; there are even several vegetarian items on the menu. Lunch and breakfast is offered as well. Regardless of when you dine, none of the dishes disappoint! (702-632-5121)
Worth the trip no matter what side of town you're on, Panevino serves a menu that appeals to those seeking authentic, traditional Italian cuisine. With unrivaled views of the Las Vegas Strip framed by slanted window walls, Panevino sustains the elusive and sexy vibe of classic Las Vegas dining. Intimate booths and tables make up the main dining room while couches, low-top tables and plush chairs provide a relaxed and inviting atmosphere in the bar and lounge area. The service is as remarkable as the menu, which also includes plenty of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. A continuously updated, extensive world-class wine list rounds out the exquisite dining experience. (702-222-2400, 702-222-2407)
About Heather Turk
A graduate of the University of Southern California, Heather's byline has appeared everywhere from The Los Angeles Times to Playboy.com--with her review of The Truman Show making the front page of The Detroit News' movie section when she was just 16 years old. When she's not at her computer writing a story for one of the many outlets she freelances for (including Allegiant Air's in-flight magazine Sunseeker and CBS Las Vegas), she can often be found at the movies, on the Strip checking out the latest restaurant/show/spa/hotel opening or at Disneyland.
Read more about Heather Turk here.