Grand Canal Shoppes
Review by Sarah Lee Marks
Executive Chef Francesco Schintu, Las Vegas Italian Chef of the Year 2005, goes out of his way to change the menu with seasonal specialties from the various regions of Italy. Destined to become "the" hot spot for authentic native Italian cuisine, Schintu imports ingrediants to keep the recipes true to their origins. Having studied under Gian Paolo Belloni, the master of the original Zefferino in Genova, Italy, he is one of the most knowledgable chefs in the Las Vegas, with an extensive appreciation for wine and food pairings. Currently traveling back and forth to Italy to complete his MASTER CHEF certification (think MBA from HARVARD for chefs.) Francesco continues his daily responsibilites at Zefferino's Las Vegas while assisting Zefferino's New York City.
More Information on Zeffirino Ristorante
I have enjoyed every dish I've ever eaten at Zefferino's but my most recent visit topped them all. I let him loose to surprise our table with a small plates tasting, begging him to stop after four dishes, hoping to leave room for a morsel of dessert.
Our first course was a grilled Escolar (fish) appetizer basted with a touch of red wine vinegar, pine nuts and sauteed onions, (14) followed by a nifty triangle of Mozzarella cheese fried to a golden color and accented with basil and the slightest hint of anchovy. (12) The house Chardonnay "Frattorio Azzolino" (35) paired perfectly with these two dishes, offering a clean finish without being too dry. Our third arrival was homemade eggplant stuffed pasta garnished with raisins, picorro cheese and pine nuts that brought out a light citrus flavor in the wine. (15) Chef's pasta dishes are amazing: cocoa Pappardelle (32), homemade Pasta filled with Veal and Parmesan (27), Rosemary ravioli and Risotto parmigiana (32).
Unlike most tasting menus, this was not a spoonful of this or a bite and a half of that, Chef Schintu takes great pains to deliver a true tastings or tapas size portion. The service staff is quick to explain the components of each dish, its preparation and origins. The gondoleer's melodies create a unique ambiance that transports you back to Venice as look out from the window tables.
As our belts begged forgiveness, the fourth course presented a gorgonzola-glazed medallion of filet mignon on sauteed spinach that melted in our mouths.(25) The cheese gave just the right bite to offset the sauteed greens and aged beef. This filet is just one of many chef's specialities entrées to choose among the pan crusted sea bass, lobster, clams, scallops and mussels Aragosta, (58). The wine worked well with every dish, a triumph for the sommelier when dealing with such a varied selection.
Protesting we had no room for dessert, Chef insisted on teasing our table with a cheese board displaying his knowledge of curd from around the globe. Pecorino, Asaigo, Montasio and a variety of goat and Blue cheeses paired with marmalades of red cabbage, tomato, orange spice and fresh blueberries, green grapes or strawberries to name a few. (25) Well known for my chocolate addiction, chef slipped a few traditional Italian cookies under my nose before we left the table.
Total bill including wine (125 pp) If you can't make dinner try the amazing Sunday brunch (45), reservations are required.
Sarah Lee Marks © 2006