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October 21, 2014

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Why did chef Shawn McClain open Five50 Pizza Bar at Aria? ‘I love pizza’

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Leila Navidi

Owner and executive chef Shawn McClain, left, and executive chef Richard Camarota prepare the wood-fired clams with Linguica sausage at Five50 Pizza Bar on Tuesday, July 9, 2013, in Aria at CityCenter in Las Vegas.

Five50 Pizza Bar

Cook Hector Acebal tosses dough for pizza at FIVE50 Pizza Bar on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 inside Aria at CityCenter in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »
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Chef Shawn McLain's Five50 in Aria.

Editor’s Note: As Robin Leach winds down his traditional summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy and heads to the East Coast for a brief visit before returning to the rigors of Vegas DeLuxe, many of our Strip personalities have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue today with chef Shawn McClain of Sage and the new Five50 Pizza Bar, both at Aria.

Hi, everyone! This is Shawn McClain. You may know me as the creator and executive chef of Sage at Aria. What you may not know is that I recently embarked on my first casual concept, Five50 Pizza Bar, also located at Aria. So, you may be asking yourself: What compelled me to dive headfirst into opening a pizzeria?

Well, the short answer is that I love pizza, and so does everyone else. OK, I admit that I have come across a few rare souls, including my 5-year-old daughter, Cameryn, who doesn’t like to indulge in one of the world’s most iconic foods, but I love the history, the dough, the ovens, the aromas and, most of all, the taste. There are few foods that stir such passion and opinion as a freshly baked pizza.

Coming from a fine-dining background didn’t deter me from indulging my creativity and imagination to make this dream come to life. I approached it in a similar manner as I approach the cooking at Sage — by using the best ingredients I can find, entrusting those cooking with me to view their work as a craftsman and an artisan would, and, lastly, putting a creative flair and signature to the food that I’m preparing.

With Five50, we wanted to combine the soul of a classic pizzeria with the energy of a great social scene, making it more than a place to grab a slice — a dynamic and exceptional dining and drinking experience. Inspired by first-class pizzerias of the U.S. and Italy, Five50 delivers a distinctive and creative version of a modern pizzeria to stimulate a sense of nostalgia as well as provide a progressive approach to pizza.

Although the menu is based on pizza, it was important for me to offer additional items that complemented the whole experience. Artisan charcuterie and cheese, seasonal salads and handmade pastas round out the menu. I wanted the items to feel rustic and recognizable, but with a bit of reinterpretation. To name just a few, wood-fired clams get a boost from Linguica sausage, meatballs are treated with a smoked red sauce, and creamy polenta and crispy mushrooms complement a poached farm egg.

The food menu is balanced by the beverage menu, namely beer, where quality trumps quantity. Five50 prides itself on 12 carefully selected American craft drafts, as well as some 30 bottles that represent the best styles the world has to offer.

Lastly, the look and feel of Five50 was a crucial element in bringing the project together. The Rockwell Group’s vision gave us confidence that we had something very special. The space is a modern interpretation of a classic pizzeria and an individual, creative statement. Reclaimed woods, a custom mural designed for Five50, persimmon leather furniture, stamped concrete and brilliant tiling are a few elements that make a richly inviting and warm space.

I hope you have an opportunity to join us in celebrating this new addition to Aria and Las Vegas and savor the tastes and aromas of Five50. I look forward to seeing you in the near future. In the meantime, I’ll keep working on those few who still don’t like pizza, including Cameryn.

Cheers!

Check out our other guest column today from comedy magician and Harrah’s headliner Mac King of “The Mac King Comedy Magic Show,” and Wednesday from chef K.C. Fazel of Tender at Luxor, chef Erick Stecher of SHe by Morton’s and Adam Sperling of Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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