Reading mixed reviews of Mario Batali’s restaurants in Las Vegas, I was curious to try one for myself. Watching Mario Batali on Food Network TV, I’ve previously been impressed by his with his knowledge of Italian cooking. Intelligent and obviously creative, he inspired me to take a leap of faith when I sat down in his casual Italian eatery, Enoteca San Marco, located on the Venetian’s Piazza San Marco, in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.
While Mario often uses ingredients and part of animals I’m not familiar with, I consider myself adventurous and trusting enough to take the plunge. On first glance, the items chosen do not appear to be that risky, although some of the items may not be on my top ten list of ingredients. And that’s where Mario weaves his magic and delivers surprising tasty delights.
The restaurant was just opening for lunch and the place was relatively empty, but filling up quickly. The hostess seated us at a table for two along the railing and our waiter arrived soon afterward. Our waiter introduced himself and placed a cheese course menu in front of us. Curious about whether this was considered an appetizer course or dessert course, as in the case of French restaurants, we inquired. Our waiter explained it was an appetizer and we should select three cheeses, graduated from light in flavor, graduating to medium and finishing with a strong cheese.
Our knowledgeable waiter then guided us to selecting the appropriate wine-a full-bodied red. By this time we had made our choice of entrees: “Bucatini with tomato, shaved pork, and onion.” Bucatini is a thick spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the center. The name comes from buco, meaning “hole” in Italian. Our second entrée was “Reginette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe.”
By this time our cheese course was served with a baguette and a trio of condiments that were deliciously surprising: cherries, peaches, and truffle honey. It paired with the wine brilliantly.
Not long after we were finished licking our fingers, our entrees arrived. At first, I hesitated, waiting for the ubiquitous parmesan cheese and pepper mill to arrive. When it didn’t, I figured Mario must have his food prepared exactly as he would like them to be served, so I took a bite. Perfecto. There was no need for additional seasonings. While some have described his food as “too salty,” to me it was seasoned perfectly.
My companion and I exchanged bites of each other’s entrees and we agreed that both were heavenly. I would have liked to have had a to-go box of each to enjoy later for dinner, but, alas, we cleaned our plates.
The dessert menu was tempting, but we were satiated but not overly-stuffed so we passed.
The bill arrived and it was par for the course of other celebrity chef lunches in Las Vegas. Having enjoyed ourselves stupendously, we gladly paid the bill. Will we return? No doubt about it. While we took a quick peek at the pizzas being served to our neighboring diners, we wouldn’t return for one of those. Too many pizzas out there to make a special trip for one of those. But we would come back to sample every one of the other pastas and perhaps an antipasto and salad next time. And maybe one day, we’ll even save room for dessert.