This post is part of a larger series from my trip to Las Vegas in January 2014. Other posts in this series include I'm Going to Vegas and Why I'm Excited, Whirlpool CES 2014 - I Made it to CES!, and CES Post Conference Reflections, and L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon.
It's easy to get suspicious of a restaurant's food quality when it's situated in the middle of a happening area with breathtaking views. These types of places attract people because of the views they offer, not necessarily because of the food. More often than not, these restaurants are overpriced, have mediocre food, and are aimed towards tourists and those that don't know any better.
After suffering through my share of the touristy-type restaurants mentioned above (especially in Italy!), I've learned to be immediately suspicious of any restaurant with a breathtaking view.
I've also learned to do tons of food research before traveling to a destination so that every single meal is worth my time, stomach space, and money.
In Las Vegas, one of the most breathtaking "views" in the city is of the fountains at Bellagio. I love the fountains and could spend hours just watching them.*
There are only a few, select restaurants that have the privilege of facing the fountains. Diners at these places can enjoy their meals while soaking in the phenomenal show outside.
Knowing that a good view often equals mediocre food, it's no surprise that I was suspicious of these restaurants along the fountains.
I'm so happy to report that so far, my experience in Las Vegas has far exceeded my expectations. Our dinner at 2 Michelin-starred Picasso (which faces the fountains) was lovely, and I loved every moment of the fountain experience.
Similarly, my dinner at Scarpetta, a relatively new Italian restaurant in Vegas (one of five worldwide), was excellent, with fantastic Italian favorites in a beautiful space.
Scarpetta is located inside the Cosmopolitan, a relatively new but extremely popular (and hip) casino, opened up in 2010 right next to the Bellagio. The Cosmopolitan has a gorgeous bar (complete with a 3-story tall chandelier!), a collection of excellent restaurants, and a buzzing energy inside the place.
Bryan and I met up with some local friends here because they had heard great things about the restaurant. Furthermore, they knew Bryan loves Italian, and we were looking for something non-steak since my friend would be eating steak again in a few days (and we had just enjoyed another 9-month dry aged Riserva steak just a few days prior at Carnevino).
We started with a beautiful shaved salad of zucchini, summer squash, and radicchio served with shaved Parmesan cheese and toasted hazelnuts. It was light, well balanced (loved the crunch of the hazelnuts!), and had a good level of umami from the salty cheese.
All of their pasta is homemade and is beautifully al dente. The tagliatelle came with winter vegetables, truffle zabagalione & guanciale. It was rich, creamy, and very satisfying.
One of the restaurant's most famous dishes is the simple Spaghetti Tomato & Basil ($24). Frank Bruni from the New York Times was so blown away by Chef Conant's command of the tomato flavor in this dish that he calls it "tomato sorcery" and asserts this dish stacks up again any dish he's had in Italy.
That's a pretty crazy claim.
All the pasta dishes were delicious, but this one was definitely my favorite. The homemade spaghetti is thick and chewy, and the tomato sauce is vibrant, sweet, and oh-so-tomatoey. It's fresh without being too acidic. It's really, really good.
We loved the Short Rib Agnolotti, ($25), which was simply served with brown butter, horseradish and toasted breadcrumb. These are tiny little pockets filled with a rich and savory burst of ultra tender short ribs. We were surprised at the reasonably generous portion size, especially at a nicer restaurant like this. Again, we loved the pasta texture as well as the flavorful filling.
This beautiful duck breast was cooked a perfect medium rare, and it was delicious. It came with roasted baby carrots, purple cauliflower, butternut squash puree, and a savory duck jus.
The Fennel Dusted Black Cod was also excellent, and was served with mantecato (a creamy whipped salt cod mousse), intensely concentrated tomatoes, and roasted fennel.
We ordered two sides dishes. The Mushrooms came with a mix of trumpet royale, beech, and Shitake mushrooms topped with shaved Pecorino and tossed in Trucioleto vinegar.
We also got a side of Brussels sprouts, which came with pancetta, breadcrumbs, and pecorino. It was solid though nothing particularly groundbreaking.
Our first dessert was the Coconut Panna Cotta, which came with caramelized pineapple and a bright guava “soup”. It was refreshing and a perfect way to cleanse the palate.
The Chocolate Souffle, served with gianduja crumble, cookie dough and a side of spiced hot chocolate, was fantastic. I loved the deep, rich chocolate flavor as well as the warm - almost creamy yet spongy - texture of the souffle. Totally worth the wait.
The meal finally ended with simple Italian cookies as our mignardises.
All throughout dinner, we tried our best to peer out the window to enjoy the fountain show. We weren't sitting at one of the coveted window seats, so it was admittedly a bit harder to enjoy the show. Nevertheless, the food was excellent; the conversation with our friends was good; and overall we had a wonderful time at Scarpetta.
I would definitely recommend this place if you're looking for a place on the Strip with nice views and very good Italian food. It's worth the trip alone just for the fantastic Spaghetti Tomato & Basil.
*In fact, that is just what I did several years ago when we scored a great price on fountain-facing rooms at the Bellagio in dead heat of the desert summer (many discounts abound during this time in Vegas). All night long, I just listened to the music (which is piped into all the rooms via the TV) and watched the shows outside my window.
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