Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 | 6:28 p.m.
It’s set to be a fantastic, first-ever, one-of-a-kind, four-day food-and-wine extravaganza with Italy’s finest culinary kings and queens. Our celebrity chefs Mario Batali and Wolfgang Puck will host them as part of the Venetian’s third-annual Winter in Venice holiday festival, and “Cake Boss” star Buddy Valastro is joining the all-star and landmark collection of chefs.
The colorful events and sumptuous experiences during the weekend celebration are a salute to Italian gastronomy. It gets underway Dec. 5 when Wolf hosts and cooks a spectacular dinner of traditional Tuscan dishes at his award-winning Cut steakhouse in Palazzo with Italian butcher Dario Cecchini.
Dario’s restaurant and antica are revered throughout the gastronomic world as the holy grail of butcher shops, and it’s his first visit to Las Vegas. Both legends are planning to tell guests intimate stories and secrets from their amazing cooking careers.
I’m serving as an emcee throughout the events, with a portion of ticket sales benefiting our beloved charity Keep Memory Alive that supports the work of our downtown Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
There are two extraordinary dinners: the Grand Banquet on Dec. 6 under the Venetian’s indoor lobby entrance Grand Colonnade with 200 well-heeled high rollers seated at one long table. This will be a family-style Italian feast using recipes prepared by Mario and Dario, who I always see every year on my Tuscan summer escape.
“It’s a pairing of new and old Italy,” said Mario. “The banquet will be Tuscan-style, on a long table in the hotel's iconic Grand Colonnade, and will include such fare as veal carpaccio, 24-month Galardi prosciutto, risotto with white truffle and a porchetta created by Dario that will be the porchetta to end all porchettas. The risotto with white truffles will be the sole exception to family-style service; each portion will be served French-style by a team of elegant costumed attendants.
“This format will conjure meals eaten in Italy, where banquets are spread out literally in the middle of a street. Though something you often find in a Tuscan or Umbrian village, it is a novelty in this country, especially in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip."
That’s followed by the Bella Notte dinner I’ll host at the Venetian’s Doges Palace on Dec. 7. We will honor influential Italian-Americans who have made a significant impact on the culture in the U.S., and I’m keep that list of honorees tucked up my sleeve for now so that you’ll enjoy the surprises we’ve planned.
For three hours on Dec. 7, there is a large series of “How to Italian” demonstrations in a marketplace set up by the Palazzo’s waterfall atrium. Guests will learn how to make authentic and perfect Neapolitan pizzas with Roberto Caporuscio, owner of three top-rated ristorantes. In addition to his legendary Pizzeria Starita a Materdei in Naples, he is the U.S. president of the Associazone Pizzauoli Napoletani.
Dario will share how to select the best cuts of meat, and Mario will demonstrate the process of making Italian-style cured and preserved meats in an Artisanal Salumi class. Francine Segan, Terry Mirri, Varinia Cappelletti, Vivien Reimbelli, Giacomo d’Alessandro, Anthony Giglio and “Stress Free Cooking” host Barbara Selig-Brown will anchor classes in wines, pasta making, olive oils, mozzarella making and desserts of tiramisu and gelatos for the perfect Italian meal.
A highlight will be “Cake Boss” star Buddy, whose new restaurant Buddy V’s Ristorante is at Palazzo, demonstrates how to make the grandest of Italian cakes. He’s taking on the challenge of creating a replica of the Venetian in a cake.
The amazing weekend of Italian food wonders and wines from 11 Italian wineries with Leonardo Locascio will wrap when Mario hosts the farewell Great Venetian Truffle Hunt on Dec. 7 at his three Venetian and Palazzo restaurants B&B, Carnevino and Otto.
Three winners will receive prizes and one then win a one-week trip to Italy. Mario promises to serve truffle creations and wine pairings in each of the restaurants, along with breakfast of bellinis and cappuccinos.
The gastronomy magazine La Cucina and our friends at Southern Wine & Spirits are sponsoring the Italiana Food & Wine Festival. Tickets and more details are available at Venetian.com/WinterinVenice and by calling (702) 414-9000.
The following weekend — Dec. 13-14 — I’ll join star chef Emeril Lagasse to continue the Winter In Venice festivities with a Culinary Clash pitting Venetian and Palazzo chefs and restaurateurs for the Golden Toque Award.
Mario summed up: “This first four-day celebration pays tribute to the best food and wine that Italy has to offer. Very few people have the opportunity to attend an event that so eloquently blends the finest Italian food with the extraordinary vintages from renowned Italian wine producers.”
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.
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With top accommodations, first-rate entertainment, high-end shopping and a slew of acclaimed chefs, the Palazzo has positioned itself as one of the most luxurious resorts on the Strip.
More than 3,000 all-suite rooms start at 740 square feet and are decorated in a modern, yet classic, Italian style. Each room features a sleeping area, with a king or two queens, and a sunken living room area with floor to ceiling windows.
A cathedral ceiling tops the Palazzo casino, while a second 80-foot dome brings natural light to the property's lobby. The 105,000 square foot casino features more than 2,000 slots and 80 table games but lacks the stale smell of cigarettes, as the property is LEED certified with smoking off limits in most of the Palazzo — including 50 percent of the casino floor.
Dining at the Palazzo is among the best of the Strip, starting with Wolfgang Puck's CUT. Chef Simon To serves up authentic Chinese cuisine at Zine, while Sushisamba combines Brazilian and Peruvian flavors with Japanese techniques. At LAVO, club-goers can dine on Mediterranean dishes before heading upstairs to the bath house-inspired nightclub.
In the spirit of Venice, The Venetian is a little piece of romantic Italy right here in Las Vegas. The Venetian is an "all-suite" hotel, with rooms accented with plush linens and Italian marble. The 4,027 suites are divided into two towers: The 36-story Venetian Tower that offers guests a taste of luxurious Las Vegas and the Venezia suites, which guarantee 12 floors of high-end elegance. The top five floors are the hotel's highest level of luxury with its private access, concierge lounge, upgraded features and even a dedicated staff.
The flagship of Venetian nightlife is TAO, an ultra-hip nightclub located inside of TAO Asian Bistro. V Bar is The Venetian's super smooth ultra lounge, made by the owners of New York City's club Lotus and Los Angeles' super swank Sunset Room.
The Venetian features 19 restaurants including Thomas Keller's award-winning French restaurant Bouchon, Mario Batali's B&B Ristorante, Aquaknox for fresh seafood and the 42,000 square foot TAO Asian Bistro. There's also the food court inside the Canal Shoppes for those looking for a quick bite.
Guests can float along The Grand Canal Shops in an authentic Italian gondola ride and pass stores like Burberry and Kenneth Cole along the way. And if you haven't caught a real celeb, on the street in Vegas, you can head over to Madame Tussauds to check out a wax version.