Vetri Cucina cooks up winning combinations
Every so often a restaurant comes around that is so good immediately, it leaves you wondering why it took so long to get there. This is the type of restaurant that elevates an entire culinary scene. It’s the type of restaurant that thrives on word of mouth from both locals and tourists. And it’s the type of restaurant patrons return to again and again because the experience is so fresh, unexpected and exciting. Vetri Cucina in Vegas is one such restaurant.
Marc Vetri, the celebrity chef from Philadelphia, has taken the concept that first earned him acclaim and expanded it here. What is a 30-seat place in Philadelphia is 75 seats at the Palms. As guests walk in, they are greeted by famed Las Vegas barman David Cooper who holds down “Coop’s Corner” with cocktails like the Bergamotto Spritz, a classy combination of Italian Bergamotto liqueur, grapefruit, prosecco and lemon peel, and the Negroni Sbagliato, featuring Campari, Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth and Prosecco Superiore.
Past the bar, the open space of the dining room features stunning views of the city from 56 stories up. The food has sometimes been called “rustic” but this is real-deal, thoughtful, high-end Italian fare.
The menu changes regularly, but one appetizer that should move from the specials to the everyday offerings is the tortellini pie. Tortellini, meatballs, a thick bolognaise and béchamel sauce are expertly pocketed inside of a golden pastry crust. The pie is baked and finished with aged balsamic vinegar, adding some sweetness to this small wonder. The sweet onion crepe contains a large portion of caramelized onions, rolled up inside a thin crepe and sliced to showcase the interior. It sits atop a white truffle fonduta creating a luxurious bite.
Nosh Vetri Cucina
The pasta section is hit after hit. Almond tortellini with truffle butter is expertly crafted and has a comforting taste to it. Thick chestnut fettuccine noodles hold their own against the assertive wild boar ragu. Another worthy dish is the mafaldini, a ribbon-liked ridged noodle, here served with wild duck ragu and olives.
The most interesting pasta may be the squash rotolo. Think of it as a crispy pasta wheel rolled with layers and layers of noodles and filling that includes Gorgonzola fonduta and ginger. One might think these strong tastes would antagonize each other, but they work in glorious harmony. If you need more protein, go for the whole roasted baby goat, which tastes like a fantastically barbecued piece of meat.
Desserts show just as much thoughtfulness as the rest of the menu. Budino, a pudding of sorts, separates itself from other iterations by using polenta as the major component. It’s finished with gianduja (chocolate and hazelnut) mousse and candied hazelnuts. Bombolini, little fried donuts, are served with a huckleberry jam so tasty that Vetri should bottle it as a breakfast spread. And the Sicilian pistachio flan is more like a small cake. Accompanied by a milk chocolate gelato, it’s thoughtfully composed and entirely delicious.
Welcome to Las Vegas, Vetri. The city has been waiting for you.
Palms, opens at 5:30 p.m. daily. 702.944.5900; on Jan. 23, Vetri Cucina hosts Joe Beef chefs Frederic Morin and David McMillan for a $150 dinner celebrating their latest cookbook release. Call for reservations.