Grotto sits nestled in the heart of the Golden Nugget Las Vegas casino, with one elbow next to the slot machines and the other elbow near the craps pit, and the other other elbow reaching across a walkway to overlook the gorgeous pool. I've wanted to try it for some time and hoped that Grotto knew Italian food better than they know human anatomy.
I didn't make a reservation ahead but since it was early in service - about five pm - I didn't think I'd have a problem and was promptly seated at the table of my choice.
The menu looks wonderful at Grotto, and while perusing it, I was warmly greeted and served with ice water and a basket of bread, accompanied with a small dish of something to dip it in.
"Welcome to Grotto!" said a sprightly fellow, dressed in all the latest restaurant garb (i.e. black).
"What's that?" I asked the assistant server, pointing at the small dish.
"Olive oil," he replied, "infused with signature spices, in the old world fashion."
"But my olives don't squeak."
"Errr... can I offer you something further to drink?" he asked. Clearly, this was a man of deep insight, and a fine judge of character.
I picked a glass of red from the list, based on it having an appropriate sounding name - Villa Pozza - and tried the bread and olive oil. The bread was just what you want, warm, fresh, chewy but not tough, crusty outside, soft inside, scented with yeast and flour. Clearly, the Grotto's bread dough was kneaded with love by a short 60 year old woman, carrying too many pounds, wearing a plain black dress, and with her hair tied back, somewhere in the back of the restaurant. She worried and muttered in Italian as she baked bread daily for Grotto, praying for her long-haired virgin daughter to find a man - soon!!!!
Or maybe it is delivered on a snarling diesel truck driven by a guy named Spots Plume.
|Red wine, fresh bread, well oiled olives. Ah Grotto!|
Sitting back in my chair, sipping my wine, I took in the scene. The pool patio was filled with bathing beauties, and only one or two bathing uglies. Sophisticated big band jazz floated through the air, not too loud. You know how I know it's sophisticated? It used wind instruments. And not like Jackie Moosreiner's wind instrument, either, real ones.
I felt as though I'd been invited to a traditional Napoli family gathering that featured big band jazz. I saw a happy family sitting nearby and knew that if I pushed a chair over there and sat with them, we'd just have a grand time, rocking left and right, elbows linked, drinking toasts and belting out traditional Italian songs!
|These rowdy diners are about to burst into La Montanera at any moment.|
You see, in Italy, they call cheese by its Italiano name, which is Monsterella.
I ordered the Monsterella in Padella, which is seared cheese with garlic, tomato and basil. It arrived and it was absolutely delicious. They didn't overdo the cheese, either, it was just the right amount to satisfy, but still stay on the light side.
The tomato wasn't in slices, but a delicate, chunky, thick, flavorful sauce and let me tell you, it was fantastic. Delicious, and a perfect complement to the fresh cheese, which was cooked until done, not overdone, and not underdone. An overdone cheese is a gooey thing, right? The fresh basil floated through bite after bite of hearty sauce and soft cheese with its hint of caramelization. Completely delightful.
|Monsterella in Padella|
Specifically, I opted for the Cannelloni, described as 'homemade airy light pasta stuffed with chicken & spinach, with béchamel & marinara'. The marinara was a little sweeter than the sauce served with with my appetizer. It was clearly tuned to work with the béchamel and the cannelloni and it did.
Again, it was the perfect serving size, just enough to enjoy without overdoing it. The pasta was cooked just the way it should be, with a bit of give, not tough, not breaking apart. Compliments to the chef, Al Denty. My only (minor) complaint was that the entree could have been a bit hotter.
|Grotto's Canelloni finished with fresh parmesan.|
|My fantastic waiter. Just leave the trolley, and a fork, thank you.|
My experience at Grotto was wonderful. Everything from the service, to the ambiance, to the food was just as it should have been. I felt welcome, and enjoyed my meal immensely. It's a place I will want to return to again and again, to explore the menu (and the dessert trolley). I will update this review with further discoveries!
Golden Nugget, Las Vegas
Sunday - Thursday: 11:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Pizza oven and bar open until midnight
Friday - Saturday: 11:30 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.
Pizza oven and bar open until 1:00 a.m.
Grotto Royal Flusher Restaurant Royal Rating - 4-to-a-Royal