Zeffirino combines the best of old and new worlds
By Brock Radke
Photos by Peter Harasty
As Resort Themes go, The Venetian’s offers a somewhat regal experience through its grand décor and ornate setting. The culinary equivalent of this feeling—perhaps a food-focused microcosm of this sprawling, elaborate retreat—can be found at one of its steadiest restaurants, Zeffirino.
Zeffirino Belloni opened the first Zeffirino restaurant in 1939 in Genova, Italy. Today, his son Gian Paolo Belloni continues the family traditions and customs with restaurants all over the world, including the Las Vegas version that opened with The Venetian in 1999. More than a decade later, this old-world institution, located in the dramatic Grand Canal Shoppes, still excels in supreme hospitality, an elegant environment and authentic,
From its quaint lower level bar and lounge area, Zeffirino appears to be a much more casual hangout. But the second story thrills, with the balcony views of The Venetian’s indoor canals and an extensive wine selection of more than 600 bottles from large and boutique estates. This is one of the most magnificent fine dining lunchtime destinations on the Strip, where one can indulge in imported salami, prosciutto and other cold cuts and cheeses, and Zeffirino’s classic lasagna all’Emiliana, a decadent version with meat sauce, tomato and rich béchamel.
At dinner, begin with appetizers of Mandara buffalo mozzarella with yellow tomato and basil sprouts, or a seemingly simple but surprisingly ambrosial avocado topped with balsamic vinegar and lobster. Familiar opening dishes like prosciutto with melon or beef carpaccio round things out. Complementing an old-school Caesar salad are a few new-age healthy alternatives like the Insalada Alternativa, with mixed sprouts, toasted almonds, smoked tofu and extra virgin olive oil. Just because it’s Italian food doesn’t mean it has to get heavy.
Other alternatives include pasta dishes such as gluten-free linguine with clams, cherry tomatoes and saffron—certainly no slouch in the flavor department. But it’s hard to skip the old reliables that helped put Zeffirino on the map, such as pasta in pesto cream sauce with potatoes and green beans, or fresh fettuccine sautéed with crabmeat, a half-lobster, shrimp and a kiss of ripe tomato.
Seafood is certainly in the spotlight, too. Pan-seared Mediterranean sea bass or black cod are among the most popular entrées, along with the bright colors and bold tastes of a one-and-a-half-pound lobster braised with white wine, tomato and turmeric served over black rice.
A simple side of pasta with tomato sauce serves as the perfect foil to these light fish dishes. If you brought a larger appetite, don’t miss the luscious osso buco, a tremendous portion of braised veal shank with red wine and mushroom sauce. Filetto alla Ricca Piemontese is an unforgettable dish, filet mignon seared with rum and marsala wine for a slightly sweet-and-sour kick, served with foie gras, fontina cheese, porcini mushroom and truffle. The only thing more impressive than the richness of this dish is the bold Italian red your server will pair with it.
For dessert, keep things light, sweet and creamy with homemade gelato, in particular a perfect hazelnut or pistachio. A true taste of Italy, this finale is just right for the feast you’ve completed. Buon appetito, indeed.
11:30 a.m.-midnight. 702.414.3500