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November 22, 2014

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Chef de cuisine Kieran Toivonen: Creating the Nove Italiano Guest Series at the Palms

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Chef Kieran Toivonen, left, of Nove Italiano at the Palms hosted his first guest-series dinner with chef Luciano Pellegrini.

Chef Kieran Toivonen of Nove Italiano

Chef Kieran Toivonen, left, of Nove Italiano at the Palms hosts guest-series dinners. Chef Luciano Pellegrini is at right. Launch slideshow »

Editor’s Note: While Robin Leach heads to Milan and Switzerland before his traditional summer vacation under the Tuscan sun in Italy — plus the lakes of northern Italy this year — many of our Strip personalities have again stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue today with Nove Italiano at the Palms chef de cuisine Kieran Toivonen.

With so many talented chefs, wine experts and mixologists calling Las Vegas home, I thought that there was so much opportunity for us at Nove Italiano in the Palms to collaborate with the city’s top talent and create our very own Guest Series program, multiple dinners each with its own unique theme.

It’s always a priority of mine to keep things fresh and interesting in the kitchen; while our guests love our classics, they also appreciate when we switch things up. With one Guest Series under our belt and a few more on the way — including the second one Thursday night — Nove is the place to catch some fantastic culinary mashups this summer.

For our debut Guest Series event, we partnered with James Beard Award-winning chef Luciano Pellegrini to prepare an extravagant four-course meal alongside some of Nove specialties. I’ve been a fan of chef Pellegrini since his work at Valentino and was eager to welcome him to the restaurant. While crafting the dinner, chef Pellegrini and I kept two things in mind: Offer a wide variety of dishes and make each guest feel like they are in our home.

To accomplish these goals, chef Pellegrini and I each created our own dish for each course. We served our dishes in an alternating fashion so that each guest received a different creation, either one of mine or one of Pellegrini’s. The event featured open seating at large communal tables, so it was not uncommon for strangers to ask to try each other’s dish. After a few glasses of perfectly paired wine, any hesitations were certainly gone!

My favorite dishes from chef Pellegrini’s menu were the forbidden rice with roasted rabbit and fresh wild mushrooms and veal saltimbocca with corn polenta and pea shoots. Savory and eclectic, these dishes would stand out on any menu. For my menu, I took a lighter approach with entrees like the quail agrodolce and the shrimp with heirloom tomato, Meyer lemon, caper and grilled ciabatta. For dessert, we served chef Pellegrini’s own Dolce Vita gelato — the raspberry was incredible!.

We were able to interact with the guests, which is always a pleasure of mine, and coupled with the great food, and views, it turned out to be an unforgettable evening. I’m proud to say that the first event was a sold-out success.

Now our next installment of the Guest Series is Thursday night, and I’m very happy to be partnering with our guest Francesco Lafranconi of Southern Wine & Spirits. This spirits-focused dinner will be more intimate than the last because LaFranconi and his team will be handcrafting each cocktail. While I can’t tell you just yet what he will be pairing alongside my menu, I can tease you with some of my dishes.

All of our dinners start with a tray-passed cocktail hour in which we will serve crispy artichokes with preserved lemon, a poached shrimp tomato gazpacho and a carne cruda with black truffle. Other menu items will include a melon and prosciutto di Parma salad, a baby vegetable penne fredda, seared diver scallops with fava and corn puree, and of course a Veal scaloppini “alla Bellini.”

If you aren’t able to catch this one, we’re serving cold brews for all of the craft beer lovers at our third dinner Sept. 14. More details to come!

In Las Vegas, you can confidently say that your neighbors are the absolute best in the culinary world. It’s been such a great pleasure to team up with chef Pellegrini and Thursday with Lafranconi to bounce ideas off of each other and share our talents in a way that complements the others’ skills and creates a truly incredible meal.

It’s not too late to make reservations for the last two dinners in the Guest Series — those interested in attending can reserve a space by calling (702) 942-6800. Cheers!

Check out our other guest columns today from Mirage headliner Terry Fator and Ben Harris, Terry’s multitalented opening act. On Thursday, our guest columnists are Rick Harrison of “Pawn Stars” and Sin City Brewing Co. owner Rich Johnson.

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 Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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