Monthly Archives: June 2017

Bellagio Conservatory Embraces Italian Roots With First-Time Capri-Inspired Display

Bellagio, the Las Vegas resort inspired by a town in Italy, has tapped into its Italian roots again with a new Conservatory & Botanical Gardens display transporting guests to the island of Capri.

Bellagio Conservatory Italy

The new Italian display at Bellagio Conservatory is like a vacation from your vacation.

Bellagio’s Conservatory rarely disappoints, but it’s great to see an all-new display.

As always, Bellagio’s Conservatory is a free attraction and remains one of the best free things to do in all of Las Vegas.

Bellagio Conservatory 2017

Bellagio’s horticulture teams has pulled out all the stops for this first-time display. Bellissima, as the kids say.

Bellagio’s new Italian display, which runs through Sep. 9, 2017, covers a lot of ground, with water features, colorful villas and a metric ass-ton of flowers, of course.
IMG

Guests enter the vibrant new exhibit through a 26-foot archway. Inside, there’s an eight-foot fountain.

Bellagio Conservatory Italian display

This is a wonderful place to freshen up, as well as to meet some helpful Bellagio security guards.

Nearby is a 22-foot moss-covered fountain that pays tribute to the Fontana dell’Ovato located in Villa d’Este, a 16th century residence in Tivoli.

In case there was any doubt, we knew all that off the top of our head and definitely did not copy and paste it from a news release.

Bellagio Conservatory

Villa d’Este is a 16th-century villa near Rome and Fontana dell’Ovato means “oval fountains.” Look at you, inadvertently learning things from a Las Vegas blog.

The eight-foot plate, showing an Italian village, is made of lentils, something we never would have known was a thing except for our enduring love of a 1980’s British sitcom, “The Young Ones.” You bet it’s random.

Bellagio Capri display

In Greece or Turkey, this would be broken by now.

In the north section of the Conservatory, there’s water streaming from lion and monkey sculptures, as well as four lemon topiaries, whatever those might be.

Bellagio Capri display

Bellagio’s horticulture department employs nearly 160 people, all of them with a greener thumb than we’ll ever have.

The lemon topiaries are made of about 1,400 flowers.

Bellagio topiary

“Topiary” comes from the Latin word for an ornamental landscape gardener, “topiarius,” a creator of topia. No, really.

The centerpiece of this seasonal display is a miniature village with 50 villas, each with a terrace.

Bellagio Capri display

You can’t spell “Bellagio” without “bella.”

There’s a bell tower, unbrellas, boats and other flourishes like a 50-foot lemon tree and “Lover’s Rock.”

Bellagio umbrellas

Umbrellas were once called “bumbershoots.” Yeah, we’re spending way too much time on Wikipedia.

Overhead, there’s a sun and moon, each 16 feet tall.

Bellagio Italian sun moon

Every guy in every bar in Las Vegas with sports on. Dude, priorities.

The entire Italian display uses an incredible 57,000 flowers and 560 shrubs. Shrubs never get any of the glory at Bellagio’s Conservatory. While they play a supporting role, without shrubs, the Conservatory would be like “Goodfellas” without Joe Pesci or “Jaws” with Robert Shaw.

Shrubs should really look into getting a better P.R. agency.

Bellagio boxing gloves

You can find this piece in the back of the Conservatory. We’d say this was a clever promotion for the Mayweather-McGregor fight, but it was in the works long before the fight was announced.

Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens are a must-do in Las Vegas, and the first-time Italian display makes it a must-do all over again.

Bellagio Conservatory Taste of Italy 2017

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Mercato Della Pescheria at Venetian Is a Las Vegas Must-Try

There’s an old Italian saying, “Il savio non s’imbarca senza biscotto.” It means, “A wise man never boards a ship without biscuits.”

We have no idea how that phrase relates to the captivating Mercato Della Pescheria at Venetian Las Vegas, but it was the best we could manage after a one-minute Google search.

Let’s eat!

Mercato Della Pescheria

Here’s a fun fact: Guests prefer to sit on the “patio” at Mercato Della Pescheria, despite the fact it’s not, technically, outdoors.

Mercato Della Pescheria has somehow managed to fly under the radar, but it’s easily one of the best Italian restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip.

The restaurant is tucked neatly in a corner of St. Mark’s Square in the Venetian’s Grand Canal Shops. The space was previously occupied by a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, Postrio.

Mercato Della Pescheria

Yes, we made a beeline to the bar. Do you know this blog at all?

Mercato Della Pescheria is Italian for “fish market,” a much less romantic term than “Mercato Della Pescheria.”

Mercato Della Pescheria is a mouthful, and is probably one of the reasons you don’t hear more about it. We’ve taken to calling it “Mercato” for short, or just “Rinaldo,” mainly when we’re drunk.

Mercato was inspired by an Italian coast seafood market. The vast majority of the ingredients in the dishes are imported from Italy, as are the servers, hostesses and managers at Mercato Della Pescheria.

You can see one of those Italian imports at the end of our walk-through.

While we are not a food critic, we can attest to the authenticity of the dishes, as we have eaten in the actual country of Italy.

To start, try selections from the menu’s “Salumeria” section (or “delicatessen”). Here you’ll find exceptional cured meats and Italian cheeses, almost all of which have names with ample vowels.

Mercato Della Pescheria

Stick to the small board. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Sorry about the sports analogy, we won’t let it happen again.

Appetizers include bruschetta (it’s the law), beef carpaccio, fried calamari, meatballs, marinated vegetables and other items.

Oh, and wood-roasted octopus. This is why you bring someone with you to Italian restaurants. They can tell you it’s delicious, and you can just trust their judgment.

Mercato Della Pescheria

Octopuses are soft-bodied, eight-armed molluscs. We can certainly sympathize with the soft-bodied part.

Before you get too far into the menu, you’ll want to try one, or several, of Mercato Della Pescheria’s signature cocktails.

As further proof we are not a restaurant reviewer, we have no idea which signature cocktail this is. We do remember it was absolutely delicious, so take a leap of faith, order something the waitress recommends and know you’ll get something good.

Mercato Della Pescheria cocktail

There’s a chance this is an “Italian Highball,” with Skyy Infusions Georgia Peach vodka, Aperol (an Italian aperitif), white peach puree, lemon and San Pellegrino blood orange soda.

Mercato has a dizzying selection of fresh pasta dishes, which sort of made us wish we were a cow. Because they have four stomachs. Please try and keep up.

If you’re like us, most of the pasta you eat comes out of a “box” or “bag” from a “grocery store.” This is blasphemy to Italians, and once you have pasta made in-house, you may never go back.

Mercato pasta

Fresh pasta, suitable for inhalation.

The rest of the menu is devoted to meat and seafood, from the “coal-fired Josper oven and grill,” whatever that might actually be.

Simply put, every damn dish is better than the next at Mercato Della Pescheria. The veal osso buco was impressive, and we are not personally a veal person.

Mercato Della Pescheria

Sometimes, food is so pretty, you don’t want to eat it. The amazing part is we nearly wrote that with a straight face.

The shining star at Mercato Della Pescheria was the lasagna, the “Lasagna Della Mamma.” It’s easily among the best we’ve ever had. In our lives. And we have lived a fairly long life. Don’t rub it in.

Mercato Della Pescheria

Do not covet our lasagna. We can totally tell you’re coveting.

You will absolutely not have room for dessert, but have it, anyway.

Ask about the tiramisu (sorry, “Il Tiramisu”), as it’s prepared fresh, tableside, with homemade lady fingers, mascarpone cream, coffee and chocolate.

Mercato Della Pescheria

“Grazie!” we exclaimed. “I’m from Poland,” she replied, as we nearly caused an international incident.

While Mercato Della Pescheria isn’t cheap, you get what you pay for, and given the quality and freshness of the food, we consider it a value as well as an upscale dining experience you probably can’t find back home. Unless your home is Milan.

Mercato Della Pescheria

One more panty-dropper cocktail, the Cosmo Bianca, with Skyy Bartlett Pear vodka, St. Germain, lime sour and white cranberry.

If you’re visiting Las Vegas, it’s all about finding unforgettable experiences, and Mercato Della Pescheria is a “bellissima” example of just that.

Find out more at the official site, and make sure to check out the full menu.

Mercato Della Pescheria at Venetian

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Derek Stevens Land Buy Opens Up Possibilities for Downtown Vegas

While Vegas-watchers had their eye on a classic neon sign, Vegas Vickie, coming down on Fremont Street, they missed news of much greater significance.

Derek Stevens, owner of The D, Golden Gate and a new resort on its way to the former Las Vegas Club site (referred to as “18 Fremont”), recently closed a land deal that opens the door for dramatic changes to downtown Las Vegas.

Stevens purchased a site known as P/Q, part of Symphony Park. Here’s a look at the parcel from a perspective you know you’re only going to get on this blog.

PQ site Derek Stevens

Pretty much the first dirt lot that’s ever made us giddy. Just keep reading.

Symphony Park is a rather nebulous name for a district downtown Las Vegas has long had high hopes for. Symphony Park home to The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Discovery Children’s Museum and Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

The roughly 6.4-acre site sits behind the Plaza casino, not far from another parcel Stevens purchased in October 2016. That parcel sits between the Plaza and Main Street Station casino. Vegas-watchers missed that sale, too. Hey, we do what we can.

Here’s another look.

The more you know about the latest land purchase, the more intriguing the possibilities become.

Here’s a useful map to help sort out what’s where. At left, the latest acquisition. The land in the center, next to Plaza, will be used for parking for the new resort at 18 Fremont. The new casino at 18 Fremont will be connected to the parking structure by a bridge.

Derek Stevens land purchases

Remember how we kept calling the purchase next to Plaza casino “strategic”? We’re not just randomly typing words, you know.

Derek Stevens has shown he has a vision for his business ventures and downtown Las Vegas, so it’s not surprising these purchases aren’t random.

For now, the new parcel will serve as a “laydown” yard during the construction of 18 Fremont, a place for construction materials to be delivered and set out before being used in the resort. The lot next to the Plaza would seem to be a good staging area, but it’s expected a parking structure will be built simultaneously to the new resort, so the P/Q parcel will serve that purpose.

Several trailers are already in place at P/Q, and those will be offices for the companies doing demolition and construction on the 18 Fremont project.

18 Fremont laydown yard

Stick with us and we’ll help you impress your friends with terms like “laydown yard.”

But, wait, there’s more.

It’s interesting to note the site purchased by Derek Stevens is the only parcel in Symphony Park zoned for gaming.

That’s worth repeating. The land recently recently purchased by the owner of The D, Golden Gate and a new casino resort at 18 Fremont is zoned for gaming.

If you’re thinking that’s the point in our story that gets us giddy, you’d be right.

While plans for the land, beyond its utilitarian use during the construction of the 18 Fremont project, haven’t been specified, there’s no denying it’s a strategic move and one that could very well mean much, much bigger plans are in the works.

But, wait, there’s more.

In all the plans for Symphony Park, a 61-acre district that stalled during the economic downturn, the parcel abutting the P/Q lot has been slated for a sports arena or, most recently, soccer stadium.

Plans for a stadium have not taken off, but if such a stadium came to pass, it would mean Derek Stevens, his brother and business partner Greg Stevens, and their company, are in the best possible position to take advantage of that development and any resulting boom in business.

downtown arena

Let’s just say the Stevens would probably not be disappointed if someone built a stadium 15 feet away from their newly-purchased site.

If you look closely at that map, you’ll see the P/Q site was previously supposed to be the Forest City Casino-Hotel. The best laid plans and all that.

But, wait, there’s more.

We’ve learned Stevens’ company has invested millions in lobbying efforts toward to the creation of a new off-ramp that will lead from the nearby U.S. 95 freeway directly into W. Ogden Ave.

Apparently, the lobbying has paid off because the off-ramp project is happening.

That’s right, the road that runs along the P/Q site, past the parking structure next to Plaza and right to the back door of the new 18 Fremont hotel and casino. You can see Ogden emerging from a tunnel to the left of the shaded area (the parcel owned by the Stevens), below.

Stevens parcel

Maybe we just like putting shaded areas on things.

Freeway off-ramps are powerful and transformative things, and have helped shape the economic futures of more than a few American cities.

All this from a land sale that’s flown largely under the radar. Until now. You’re welcome.

Full disclosure: Our day job is in digital marketing at Fremont Street Experience, the marketing arm of a group of casinos, including The D and Golden Gate. Our opinions are our own.

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Major Changes In the Works for SLS Las Vegas Restaurants

Following word of the sale of SLS Las Vegas to Alex Meruelo a few weeks ago, we surmised there would be major changes to the resort’s line-up of restaurants, and we were right.

While many of the plans are still in flux, all the restaurants at SLS are being scrutinized. It appears any restaurant with ties to former investor Sam Nazarian and his SBE Entertainment will be flipped to new concepts.

From what we hear, the new owner of SLS, Alex Meruelo, has strong opinions and likes having creative control of his various companies. This extends to what his restaurant offerings will be, and he has apparently already been very involved in selecting what dining options will ultimately stay or go at SLS.

As for the specifics of the restaurant changes, Umami Burger will go.

Umami Burger

You can kiss these lips goodbye.

The vibe of the restaurant is likely to stay the same, though, as it dovetails nicely into the sports book bar vibe. There’s been some discussion with Buffalo Wild Wings to move into the space, but even if that deal doesn’t materialize, the venue is likely to remain a wing and burger restaurant.

The reliably unremarkable 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria will also go, becoming a restaurant with similar cuisine, La Pizza Loca.

SLS pizza

Pizza is like sex. We prefer it with utensils.

La Pizza Loca is a chain in southern California. It’s owned by (wait for it) Meruelo Group. That should be a fairly seamless transition.

Cleo, our favorite restaurant at SLS Las Vegas (and possibly on the entire Strip), is, tragically, also not long for this world.

It’s believed the Mediterranean restaurant (again, licensed from SBE Entertainment) may soon become a Mexican restaurant, along the lines of Michoacan, a popular Las Vegas favorite.

Cleo SLS Las Vegas

Eating at Cleo is like sex. It’s actually better than sex, but when we tell people that, we get odd looks, so we’re sticking with that it’s like sex.

Sushi restaurant Katsuya, another SBE Entertainment-licensed joint, is also likely to go away as the ownership change approaches. Its replacement hasn’t been determined.

Katsuya

“Katsuya” is a Japanese words meaning, “Don’t look now, but your food involves suction cups. And possibly sex, just to keep these photo captions consistent.”

A big question mark is, of course, Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres. It’s regarded as the crown jewel of the SLS restaurant portfolio. We can’t share what’s in store for Bazaar Meat at the moment. All we can say is all the SBE-licensed restaurants are likely to end their run at SLS Las Vegas in the months to come.

Bazaar Meat is an SBE-licensed restaurant.

Bazaar Meat

Bazaar Meat defies description, especially when we’re drunk.

Word has it there are no plans to re-open the space that was the former home of Ku Noodle. The restaurant has been walled off, and the typical visitor wouldn’t even know it ever existed.

SLS

Ku Noodle is camouflaged much like the a pygmy seahorse resting upon Malaysian red coral. What, you thought we were kidding about the drunk thing?

The one restaurant that isn’t going anywhere is the resort’s 24-hour restaurant, Northside Cafe. Northside Cafe is managed in-house after a partnership with The Griddle Cafe and its owner Jodi Hortze ended with lots of drama nobody ever talks about.

Northside Cafe at SLS

No need for the flop sweat, Northside. You’re safe.

That’s all we know at the moment.

If you read this blog on a regular basis (and why would you?), you know better than to form emotional attachments to anything in Las Vegas. The sole exception is Cleo, of course.

The bottom line: We recommend you hit Cleo and Bazaar Meat at SLS Las Vegas while you can.

Update (6/19/17): An alert reader passes along that Aria is surveying guests about their familiarity with Jose Andres (Bazaar Meat). The tipster suggests the possibility Bazaar Meat could move to barMASA, a Japanese venue which previously set two closing dates.

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Red Rock Resorts Will Reportedly Jettison Five Restaurants and Clique Hospitality

There’s a shake-up on the way, and it could mark the end of five restaurants at Red Rock Resorts casinos in Las Vegas.

Rumors are Red Rock Resorts, also known as Station Casinos, will sever ties with one of its main restaurant partners, Clique Hospitality Group, at the end of 2017.

In the parlance of Las Vegas restaurants: This could be a really big deal.

Red Rock Resort

If you guessed we wrote this entire article as an excuse to share this kick-ass photo we took of Red Rock resort, you could be right.

The change in relationship between Station Casinos and Clique Hospitality is going to mean a number of restaurants will be rebranded or replaced.

If the rumors are true, Hearthstone Kitchen & Cellar, Salute Trattoria Italiana and Libre Mexican Cantina will soon be out at Red Rock resort.

At Green Valley Ranch, Bottiglia and Borracha Mexican Cantina will be getting a swan song as well.

Bottiglia

It sounds like Bottiglia is one of the restaurants about to get whacked.

Clique Hospitality was founded by Andy Masi, founder of Light Group, and his partners Brian Massie and Shane Monaco.

Clique Hospitality is, at its heart, a relatively well-regarded nightlife company. The firm’s expansion into restaurants has been less successful. (Don’t even get us started about our experience at their “restaurant” at Mirage, The Still. It was so disappointing, we couldn’t even bear to write about it.)

Replacements for the outgoing restaurants have yet to be finalized. Red Rock Resorts could seek other partners, or just retool the restaurants and manage them in-house.

An interesting side note is Red Rock Resorts recently bought the Palms resort. We predicted Clique Hospitality would play a key role in rebranding the resort’s restaurants, but that now
seems an unlikely scenario.

Palms recently announced it will open a new 24-hour cafe, Lucky Penny, on July 1. The Bistro Buffet at Palms closes June 30, with a new food hall concept coming in December 2017. In the meantime, a temporary offering, Social Table, will operate in the hotel’s former Hooter’s space. Clique is nowhere to be found in plans for the Palms.

Clique Hospitality

What doesn’t kill us can still be fairly awkward.

The falling out with Red Rock Resorts means a hefty chunk of Clique’s restaurant portfolio could be wiped out by the end of the year.

We quite enjoyed Clique Bar & Lounge at Cosmopolitan, so here’s hoping Clique Hospitality will continue to seek out nightlife opportunities around town with other resort partners.

Update (6/15/17): According to Lori Nelson, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Station Casinos, the rumors in our story are unfounded. She states, “The rumors in your blog about the restaurants at Red Rock Resort and Green Valley Ranch Resort are false. We value and enjoy a great relationship with Andy Masi and Clique Hospitality.”

Thanks to the folks at Station for taking the time to reach out.

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Caesars Entertainment Explores Restaurants From Jennifer Lopez and “Deadliest Catch”

Caesars Entertainment, the casino giant that operates 10 resorts on or near the Las Vegas Strip, loves it some surveys.

A recent survey provides a gold mine of information about restaurant partnerships being explored by Caesars, including Jennifer Lopez and the reality series, “Deadly Catch.”

The first question mentions a potential new restaurant created by a celebrity or performer, and asks customers which celebrity’s dishes the restaurant should feature.

Caesars survey

Just a random list of celebrities, right? Have you learned nothing from this blog?

If you’ve seen enough of these surveys, you know that while Caesars appears to be fishing, they’re actually leading survey-takers down a path. That path leads to Jennifer Lopez.

How do we know? Ponder this question: Which celebrity, out of all the celebrities listed, has a super successful residency at Planet Hollywood, a Caesars Entertainment resort?

Hey, we can make up leading questions, too.

Answer: Jennifer Lopez.

Jennifer Lopez

We’re fairly sure Jennifer Lopez would spend about as much time cooking in her Las Vegas restaurant as Guy Fieri does in his.

While Lopez has no culinary training we know of, Caesars Entertainment has had a lot of success creating restaurants with folks like Gordon Ramsay, Guy Fieri and Giada De Laurentiis. Jennifer Lopez would seem a good fit for a restaurant offering, although we’d love to see what hottie Chrissy Teigen or golfer Phil Mickelson might bring to the table. Literally.

Next on the survey is an intriguing question about a buffet inspired by a TV show.

Caesars survey

Just some random shows, right? Ah, now you’re getting it.

While this blog loves it some Pioneer Woman, Caesars is actually hoping our gaze lands upon “Deadliest Catch.”

How do we know?

Caesars survey

You’re getting the hang of this. You should start a Las Vegas blog. The hours are awful, but the groupies.

That’s right, Caesars Entertainment is considering a buffet inspired by one of the best reality shows of all time, “Deadliest Catch.”

The answer to the question, of course, is “crab.”

Rio buffet crab legs

Fun fact: The Rio’s buffet serves up 1,200 pounds of crab legs every day.

While we can’t know which resorts might be getting a Jennifer Lopez restaurant or a “Deadliest Catch” buffet, we figure it’s about time for a rebrand of the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood.

What conclusions do you draw from this survey? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment.

 

 

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